Former X-Files star David Duchovny has moved on from the role that introduced him to American audiences and found one (in my opinion) just as interesting: womanizing novelist Hank Moody on Showtime’s Californication. But while the last onscreen adventure of Mulder and Scully — 2008’s disappointing The X-Files: I Want to Believe — wasn’t exactly a glorious, graceful, or memorable exit for the characters, Duchovny thinks there is still a chance that X-Files fans will get a third film…at some point.
Duchovny told Collider that he would love to do a third X-Files movie, and suggested that “we’re all game for it.” Whether that means he’s discussed the subject with Gillian Anderson or is just speaking in generalities isn’t clear, but either way it sounds like the door hasn’t been closed on future X-Files installments, at least from the creative side of the equation. Whether Fox has any interest in sending the alien-hunting franchise back into theaters is an entirely different question, and Duchovny says he’s surprised that the studio hasn’t tried harder to keep the X-Files films alive and kicking.
I’m kind of perplexed that Fox isn’t more [enthusiastic]. Here’s a homegrown property that you don’t have to go buy, like fuckin’ Green Lantern or something, to make it. Here you’ve got an actual action franchise that’s your own. It’s weird to me, but I’m not an executive.
I Want to Believe opened in theaters on July 25, 2008…one week after the opening of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, a movie that went on to gross a billion dollars worldwide. You don’t have to be an FBI profiler to piece together what killed I Want to Believe‘s box office hopes. With a budget of around $30 million, I Want to Believe did at least double its budget, with a worldwide box office of $68.1 million according to IMDb Pro. That’s certainly not an outright failure, but consider that the first X-Files movie, Fight the Future, opened ten years earlier with a budget of $66 million and went on to bring in a worldwide total of $187 million.
Duchovny points to the smaller, less ambitious nature of the second X-Files film as part of the problem. With a story involving a pedophile priest claiming to have psychic visions, it felt very much like a mediocre, over-long X-Files TV episode, rather than a grander X-Files movie in the vein of the first film. That being the case, dropping it into prime summer moviegoing real estate seemed to be dooming it before it even opened. As Duchovny puts it:
The last one we made was a dark, contemplative, small $25 million film. It was basically an independent film. When you come out against Batman, it’s not going to happen. You’re not going to be sold as an independent film, and you’re not going to compete against Batman with $25 million.
Is there still a potential to resurrect The X-Files as a serious summer film contender? If so, it’s going to have to mean a bigger budget, a bigger scope…pretty much bigger everything. You also have to consider that The X-Files wrapped its TV run a full decade ago. There’s an entire generation of young moviegoers who’ve probably never even seen or heard of The X-Files. To genuinely reinvigorate the franchise, Chris Carter and the rest would have to figure out how to reintroduce the concept and characters in a way that grabs the attention of the younger crowd who don’t know Mulder and Scully from Statler and Waldorf. Another watered-down, artificially inflated TV episode isn’t going to cut it.
Still, it shouldn’t be surprising that Duchovny, best known for playing a character who very much wanted to believe, still hasn’t given up hope on the franchise.
One of the greatnesses of the show was its open-endedness. It was about possibility. It wasn’t about closure. It just couldn’t be. There is no such thing as that story ever ending. Those characters are forever searching. That’s what they do. Even if we’re not watching them, they’re out there, in some dimension. Mulder and Scully are still doing their thing ‘cause that’s their nature.
Now let’s just hope that Fox doesn’t decide that it’s time for a reboot…