So last night my wife and I watched X-Files: I Want To Believe. This was the second X-Files movie, the one that came out six years after the original series sputtered to an end and eight years after the show was actually about Mulder and Scully. If you’ve never seen the movie, only the reviews, let me say that every single bad thing you’ve heard about the film is true. The script feels slapped together, includes many pointless platitudes, and has a b-plot whose only relationship to the main story is to make the movie long enough to be a movie. It’s poorly directed, pulling lack luster performances even from actors that I know are better. There’s really no detail of the movie that isn’t a complete mess. But the worst crime of all?
It’s completely unnecessary.
Not just unnecessary because it attempted to breath life into a franchise six years dead. Unnecessary because it didn’t do anything with that franchise. Characters reemerge the way we remember them, just no longer working for the FBI. They flail around for awhile, going through all the motions of the TV series (Mulder is Certain, Scully has a crisis of faith). Then the movie ends. In between…what? There are scenes, things happen, but nothing really happens.
We’re story tellers. We’re asking people to spend several hours of their lives with us. For a movie maker it might be just 2 hours. For a TV show it might be 26 hours a year. For a novel it could be anywhere from 5 to 35 hours, depending on the length and the reader. Audiobooks can run up to 50 hours. These are not insignificant amounts of time we’re asking people to give us. Somehow, I think that the biggest crime we, as creators, can commit is to be unnecessary. To waste that time.
Some people might call this aboutness, some might call it dynamic characters, but in the end it’s all about believing that the story matters in some way to its characters. Only then will it matter to the reader, or watcher, or listener.
So. Be necessary.