Now that I truly have thought about it - I'm gonna have to agree with Ebert. I think that this movie (unlike the first and like the rest of the series) will grow on me each and every time I watch it and I think it is honestly an amazing movie.
What is frustrating about Chris Carter is that he never makes his stories simple or obvious - instead he hides them behind visual clues and offhand remarks and underneath layer upon layer of complexity. It's so simple, so thrilling , and fundamentally frustrating because I have to take the time to figure it out. When I do, it's so much more rewarding. It never inspires love at first sight - which of course translates in to killer box office weekends. Instead, it will reward the fans that have been patient and are dedicated enough to see it again, and again, and again.
Re-watching old episodes makes me appreciate this series more and more. The x-files is one of only two tv series I can do that with. Each time I watch an episode I discover something new, some other tiny visual clue that unwraps another layer of story for me. That's what this movie does. Yes, that kind of story telling probably lends itself better to three act 42:45 minute segments, but isn't that what Carter does best? But it certainly doesn't ruin the movie experience for me either.
The characters themselves drive this story, it's a movie about Mulder and Scully, and deep down inside - Scully's story to tell. Mulder may appear on the surface to be the main character of the show, but he's not. Carter's love affair with the Scully character is obvious in this movie and Anderson's acting can more than handle the challenge. I am already in love with the character and Scully's angry and desperate confrontation with Father Joe made me only fall harder. She doesn't give up, even when she says she will. Her search for the truth through the series and through this movie is at times even more powerful and consuming than Mulder's. She does not bother with the (in her mind) unanswerable questions of paranormal, but instead deals with the fundamental questions of life, morality, mortality, and truth. She is shaken to her core time and time again, yet she is steadfast - with Mulder, with her faith, and with (ultimately) the truth.
I suppose it's easy for me to call the reviewers who harped on the movie small-minded, but perhaps it would not be so petty for me to call them unimaginative. I want to Believe
is a thriller at its heart, allowing words and landscapes to tell the story, not relying on fancy bat mobiles or tons of gushing blood. It takes imagination to make this movie wonderful - you have to believe in it and in the characters. The story is not handed to you on a silver platter, instead Chris Carter presents to us a painting, so full of visual clues and clever tricks of light that we can sit and stare all day and still not see it. Frustrating? Yes, beyond belief. Better? Without a doubt.
But, I don't want my story to be easy, like a cheap date. Instead I want to be doing exactly what I am now ... still thinking about it 5 days later.
Link to Ebert's Review: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080723/REVIEWS/1651704/1023