Is it a conspiracy? “The X-Files” went off the air in 2002 and the spooky brand name won’t be seeing the light of day anytime soon after that forgettable feature-film revival in 2008. But here in early 2011 it feels like the truth is still out there — and we’re not just talking about the flashlights and lab coats inherited by Fox’s “Fringe.” Hollywood has a half-dozen movies hitting theaters — all within a 42-day release window — that might be filed under X, in one way or another. Consider:
“I Am Number Four” (Feb. 18): Sure, “Smallville” and “Twilight” inform the tone and character vibes of this movie, but the subplots of secret alien wars on earth, discredited conspiracy theorists and extraterrestrial abductionwere written with the basic alphabet of the old Fox series. Don’t trust us, just listen to supporting character Sam (played by Callan McAuliffe), who moans to a new friend: “My entire childhood was an episode of ‘The X-Files.'”
“Adjustment Bureau” (March 4): The mysterious puppet-masters of this well-reviewed sci-fi/thriller quietly tend to the course of human history and have a penchant for JFK-era fashion and cryptic double-talk — which reminds us of celestial versions of the Cigarette Smoking Man and other shadowy figures from Chris Carter’s sci-fi epic. But really it’s the sexual tension and brainy dialogue between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt that takes us back to the best part of the “X-Files” — the crackling verve of those oh-so-special agents named Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson).
“Battle: Los Angeles” (March 11): This movie looks like a mash-up of “Black Hawk Down,” “Predator 2” and “Independence Day,” but it has a real-world heritage that Fox Mulder would admire — in February 1942 the U.S. military opened fire on UFOs above L.A. (by some police reports, there were 200 ships in the sky) without hitting anything. That event informed this modern-day invasion flick, and Sony even assembled a UFO panel of experts to amp up the connection.
“Paul” (March 18): The loony duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz”) star in this road-trip spoof (which they also wrote) about a pair of British genre fans who tour the UFO landmarks of America and meet the title character, a bulb-headed alien (voiced by the unavoidable Seth Rogen) who informs his new pals that he deserves credit for a certain Fox series: “Mulder,” Paul confides, “was my idea!”
“Limitless” (March 18): The idea behind this Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro bio-thriller is a drug that takes the human brain to new heights of velocity and insight — but also leads to some nasty side effects and the attention of dark and powerful forces. Sounds like it could have been a 10th-season episode of “X-Files” — which in its nine actual seasons had plenty of heightened humans, pharmacological misadventure and laboratory morality lessons.
“Source Code” (April 2): What if you took the do-it-again gimmick of “Groundhog Day” and superimposed it over a high-stress sci-fi plot where a bomber is on a path to destruction — and only one person in the blast radius can sense the time-loop repetition? You get “Source Code,” the new bomb-on-a-train thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, or you get “Monday,” the 1999 episode of “The X-Files” in which the explosives are part of bank robbery gone bad. Jake, we feel for you — a lot of us “X-Files” fans are having deja vu lately as well.
– Geoff Boucher
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