Leaping from the small screen to the big, “The X-Files” proves to be one of the summer’s best visual effects films – as well as one of the biggest, sporting over 200 effects shots. Mat Beck, who supervised the film’s f/x, also oversaw the effects for 1997’s “Volcano,” as well as many episodes of “The X-Files” television series. (See review, page 50.)
Early on, the film introduces its eerie alien antagonist – a mysterious black liquid that oozes toward its human prey. The computer-generated ooze moved realistically along the ground and up its victims’ legs, with shadows and textures accurately portrayed. Although this effect was seen frequently during the run of the television show, it never looked as convincing as it does in the film.
And it’s not all about slow-moving goop. At the other end of the f/x spectrum is the bombing of a government office building. Although some shots of the explosion contained miniature pyrotechnic elements that looked out of scale, other shots are very realistic. The best of the bunch is a wide, long take of the building as it’s engulfed by flames and smoke – created with a highly elaborate miniature that’s digitally composited into live-action footage.
The sequence ends with a brilliant shot that seamlessly combines real footage of FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) with the gutted miniature building.
The action eventually moves to Antarctica, where an underground labyrinth of hallways and corridors holds thousands of humans in frozen stasis. The shots of Mulder discovering the massive structure were realized with composites of Duchovny’s performance in front of a greenscreen, which was later replaced with highly detailed miniature and computer-generated backgrounds.
What sets the composite shots apart from other shots of that type is the constantly moving camera and terrific compositing and matchmoving.
The film also contains a great deal of successful invisible effects, highlighted by the seamless compositing work that placed the actors in the frozen wasteland of Antarctica.