02 November 2016 6895 Views

XXX 3 Return of Xander Cage Vin Diesel is back in the least called for sequel and most pointless trailer Ever

by James Murphy

XXX2 is here! Or is it XXX3? Do we care? Should we even try to do so? Well, the marketing campaign seems to indicate that we should do. As though some cultural icon had been resurrected and one and all should be on alert by Cinemas for the release. But something’s just not quite ‘right’ here..

At first glance, this could be Fast and Furious 10 or something. Just not as good. Lacks the wit, literary sensitivity, romanticism and political articulacy to be in that franchise. No, this is a VERY belated sequel come three-quel to 2002’s XXX.

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That’s right. 2002. Star Wars was still in the prequel era (Attack of the Clones). Pierce Brosnan was still James Bond (Die Another Day..both we and he expected his return; only for a reboot to arrive c/o Daniel Craig in 2006’s Casino Royale).

Mission:Impossible was still mistakenly a Tom Cruise vanity vehicle that had not quite found its fun feet. Jason Bourne had just been..bo(u)rn(e) as a series. Ben Affleck was busy trying to be Jack Ryan before either he or Christian Bale had taken on the Batman mantle for that then pre Dark Knight, pre DC/Marvel boom dormant brand of the super-hero movie.

Robert Downey Junior was still on the naughty step of Hollywood, waiting for redemption both creatively and commercially c/o Iron Man. Harrison Ford was in a weird wilderness period of B Movies and when he should have got his ass moving and made a Han Solo or Indiana Jones film, gave us the likes of K19: Widowmaker (featuring a pre Taken Liam Neeson). Heck: Tony Blair was still Prime Minister in the UK and Saddam was still running Iraq. The era of Obama seemed an age away; the war on terror had just kicked off and its cultural legacy was yet to be felt on Cinema at large.

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Where am I going with this? What’s my point? Well, I’m saying that 14 years is a ruddy long time to wait for ANY sequel. You can just about pull it off when it’s a beloved franchise or series with a few sequels under its belt already and the brand is apt for resurrection or rebooted reinvention. Even if people loathe the ultimate result: your belated Godfathers, Indiana Joneses and so on..they earned the absence and the inevitably disappointing fanfare of return.

The politics of an era also to some extent shapes the tone of Cinema. 2002 was a Hollywood that had been taken unawares by 9/11 but had to release those movies which had been in production before that catastrophic tragedy. There were some knee-jerk reactions (no True Lies 2; a delay in Die Hard 4; a change to both Spider-Man and Men in Black 2’s location shots).

There were also some shouts that action was no longer appropriate and so on. That of course died down and an entire sub-genre was born of post 9/11 quasi political philosophy classes, disguised as action movie scripts. Most of the franchises I cited at the start: all shaped or rather RE-shaped, by the geo-political landscape and its social /cultural ethos of suspicion, fear, panic and yet an unrelenting resolve to distinguish right from wrong amidst a moral miasma.

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XXX was NOT one of those series. It was a perfectly adequate, one off star vehicle for Vin Diesel. Now, much as we love Vin (and we do, really), His Xander Cage character was of its time. A pre-Hipster, shaven headed, quasi-gangster; designed as an anti-James Bond gimmick and packaged as a novelty movie. Extreme sports were the then preserve of a secretive elite or a rising underclass and the ‘Internet’ was still in the realms of dot.com boom and bust bubbles and insanely slow dial up delivery service.

Nowadays? Post social media boom? We can ALL be a Xander Cage. Or a Vin Diesel. The chances of the character either fictionally (as in at a parodic level) or credibly (should they be aiming for something ‘dark’ and ‘serious’ as everyone does today) surviving an espionage scenario: zero!

He’d stand out a mile and be bested by the techno guru and geek and ironically beaten in combat by the very brands of Bond like spy to whom he was supposedly an antidote. 14 years on: Xander Cage is an irrelevance. And Vin Diesel simply does not NEED this. It does NOTHING for his career. Fast /Furious is his franchise. There was an attempt at a part 2 (State of the Nation). He did not even bother to turn up for that one, such was his faith in the XXX brand. Ice Cube filled in on supply. Bless.

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So this trailer? Belated beyond redemption. Out of time. Out of step. I could be very surprised on the film’s release, of course. But it’s a fairly safe bet that there is not exactly a huge degree of anticipation for the brand’s renewal. And the trailer? It does little to improve prospects; recycling just about every one line cliched nod to camera possible, including the old ‘don’t know what you’re dealing with here’ chestnut.

Samuel L Jackson turns up. Though sadly NOT as Nick Fury, to recruit Vin Diesel for some Avengers crossover. In a bygone era, this would have gone straight to Video /DVD in Blockbuster stores everywhere. Today? The film MUST have its own quasi viral campaign and be subjected to a Cinema release that might just destroy rather than redeem the product and setback the course of Vin Diesel’s star power by a few years, rather than existing as a fun and disposable guilty pleasure on direct download to supplement our worthier cinematic diet.

I could be wrong, of course. Feel free to judge for yourself..and XXX: Return of Xander Cage MIGHT be reviewed here on its release…the words ‘I told you so’ MIGHT feature..



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