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It features series protagonists Fox Mulder and Dana Scully long after they abandoned the FBI and the X-Files; Scully is a doctor at a Catholic hospital concerned about the treatment options offered to a dying boy, and Mulder, still on the lam, lives as a hermit under Scully's protection, doing little more than collecting paper clippings. They are offered a chance at redemption, however, when the FBI requests their help in finding an old comrade, who has herself gone missing while investigating a series of mysterious disappearances. They are aided by an ex-priest and convicted pedophile named Father Joe, who claims to receive psychic visions of the victims directly from God, and about whom the agents have conflicting feelings.
The film is a stand-alone work in the tradition of the show's Monster of the Week episodes, and does not revisit the series' famous -- and still unresolved -- Myth Arc. At the box office, it was met with a thundering "meh" and received generally mediocre scores from film critics. Franchise creator Chris Carter had stated his intent to wrap up all dangling plotlines in a third film (to coincide with the supposed end of the world in 2012), but since I Want to Believe went out with a whimper, the series' future is uncertain.
This film contains examples of:
- Aborted Arc: Scully and Mulder both appear to be completely unconcerned about the supposedly inevitable extraterrestrial colonization of Earth coming in four years. It's not even mentioned.
- Beard of Sorrow: Mulder's grown one.
- Blatant Lies:
Skinner: It's Mulder. He wouldn't do anything crazy.
- Continuity Nod: Several little ones.
- Did Not Do the Research: Scully immediately jumps to the conclusion that the women have been kidnapped for their organs after Mulder tells her both victims had AB- blood.
- Distressed Dude: Scully had the Distress Ball in the first movie, so it's Mulder's turn now.
- Foiler Footage: During production, several fake screenshots of the movie were released (including a picture of a werewolf) to throw people off.
- Franchise Killer: Suspected of being one, although after a ten year gap could be considered more of a failed attempt at resurrection.
- Gondor Calls for Aid: Hey, it's Skinner!
- He Is Not My Husband
- Hidden in Plain Sight: Mulder's in hiding from a death sentence. Surely no one will ever think to look for him at Scully's house!
- Handwaved by the suggestion that the FBI is just glad to have him out of their hair, although given why he's under a death sentence that doesn't really explain much.
- Irish Priest
- Last-Name Basis: Despite the obvious Relationship Upgrade, you won't hear Mulder or Scully call each other "Dana" or "Fox" even once.
- Littlest Cancer Patient
- Losing Your Head
- Pedophile Priest: Father Joe
- Playing Against Type: Comedian Billy Connolly plays the aforementioned Pedophile Priest Father Joe.
- Never Trust a Trailer:
- Despite rumor and the domestic trailer portraying the movie (correctly) as an upgraded Monster of the Week, the international trailer went out of its way to make it look like a movie about aliens.
- One trailer implied that Mulder and Scully had gone their separate ways after the end of the series and were reuniting, much to the outrage of fans. Luckily, that's disproven within the first few minutes of the movie.
- Refusal of the Call
Scully: I'm done chasing monsters in the dark.
- Relationship Reveal: Mulder and Scully. (It was strongly implied that they'd gotten together in the last few years of the show, but it took until this movie for the writers to finally stop trying to be coy about it.)
- Second Act Breakup: It does seem to be fixed by the end, though.
- Surgeons Can Do Autopsies If They Want: Scully, a forensic pathologist during the show, is now working in the field of pediatric neurosurgery. Although enough time has passed that she might have returned to school or something, it's not explained or even alluded to.
- Tears of Blood: Happens to Father Joe during his psychic visions.
- Violently Protective Girlfriend: Scully knocks a man unconscious with a piece of firewood to stop him from killing Mulder.