xXx: Return of Xander Cage - Review

http://invisiblekidreviews.blogspot.de/2017/01/xxx-return-of-xander-cage-review.html


Xander Cage is back.
After roughly 15 years Vin Diesel finally returns to a franchise that started with him way back in 2002 with xXx.
Its sequel xXx: State of the Union sadly completely missed the mark and went into a vastly new and much sillier and over-the-top direction for the franchise that fans and critics alike disliked heavily.
Now it's up to Vin Diesel to make up for that with a third entry that has what it takes to show us how a xXx sequel is done properly. In addition with Asian action stars Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa, xXx: Return of Xander Cage already sounds like a recipe for success...or does it?




The plot:
Extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) comes out of self-imposed exile, thought to be long dead, and is set on a collision course with deadly alpha warrior Xiang (Donnie Yen) and his team in a race to recover a sinister and seemingly unstoppable weapon known as Pandora's Box. Recruiting an all-new group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself enmeshed in a deadly conspiracy that points to collusion at the highest levels of world governments..
Source: IMDb




Even though actionstar Vin Diesel very obviously returned as Xander Cage for this third installment in the franchise (as you can tell by its obvious title), xXx: Return of Xander Cage sadly is anything but a return to form for the franchise after the already heavily goofy and lackluster second entry , xXx: State of the Union.
Instead, Return of Xander Cage in a misguided attempt to "top what has come before" appears at least just as goofy and silly as the last xXx movie with Ice Cube.
Fans hoping for Vin Diesel to return and thus safe the franchise from devolving into obscurity territory will definitely be left disappointed because even though Return of Xander Cage cranks everything up to 11 in terms of stunts and outlandish plots, it constantly has a hard time to keep you invested with what is happening on screen. 

If this is the future of this franchise, I dont want it.

To be fair, it has to be admitted that the very first xXx movie from 2002 had a similarly cheesy and quite a bit outlandish plot. Basically being a parody of a James Bond plot with a slight serious edge to it, Return of Xander Cage completely throws that seriousness out of the window in favor of a complete nonsensical, overblown and highly unrealistic story with a fitting presentation to boot.
This time, the story revolves around Xander Cage who apparently faked his death to go into hiding and work under the radar of the government. But now he is taken back into action due to a threat of ex-xXx program agents who plan to steal a laptop-esque device called "Pandora's Box" - a device that can shut down satellites and have them crush down onto Earth.
For most people it won't take long to realize that the story of Return of Xander Cage could easily be something that a puberty plagued 13-year-old would've come up with. The really mind boggling thing about this though is that the main reason for that is not exactly the story of the movie itself but precisely how it is presented and how painfully bad and over-the-top the characters and dialogue in the movie are written.

"Making satellites fall out of the sky?...Really?"

Looking back at the original xXx movie, despite its admittedly also "out there" plot, the movie had a firm grasp of realism and seriousness that made the entire story of the movie grip you. From Xander being pretty much just only a simple minded (yet not stupid) stuntman who got thrown into the mission against his will all the way to the villain actually explaining his motivations for his drastic actions, the movie knew exactly when to take itself seriously and when it was time to sprinkle some comedy into it.
Now compared to this newest movie, Return of Xander Cage feels like a straight up parody of the first movie. With a villain plan that is barely explained in detail, absolutely unrealistic almost comic book/cartoon-like action sequences, the lack of realism and seriousness that plagued xXx2 has come back in full swing in this third movie.

Even Ice Cube himself is in this movie...yay?

The biggest downer though is that the movie apparently completely misunderstood why fans wanted a return of Xander Cage in the first place and most notably - who Xander Cage really is.
Here, the Xander Cage we knew in love from the first movie is completely gone and actually feels like an entirely different character. Whereas in the first movie he struggled with the James Bond-esque clichees and basically gave them the finger and instead solved problems with his unique stunt-oriented methods instead of high-tech gadgets (most of the time), in Return of Xander Cage, the exact opposite is the norm.
Suddenly Xander Cage is consistently hailed and praised as "this legendary super agent of the government" and throughout every scene always has to showcase what a skilled super agent he is complete with insider knowledge that comes out of nowhere, connections to various government operatives and a painfully unsympathetic macho attitude (he sleeps with about 6 woman simultaneously within the first 15 min of the movie - no joke).
Long story short, most of the charme of the original is just flatout gone in Return of Xander Cage, while the movie just made a complete mockery out of itself and overall feels more like a parody of Mission Impossible and Fast & Furious and little else.  

Return of Xander Cage turned Xander into a full-on unlikable macho idiot.

Talking about Mission Impossible, it is also quite a shift that the movie doesn't primarily focus on Xander Cage anymore but rather on his entirely new team of operatives.
While it can be admittedly said, that even though those "operatives" are just as silly and over-the-top as Xander, they definitely are more entertaining and interesting to watch than Xander himself (who walks from scene to scene constantly referencing scenes from the first movie over and over again anyway). Especially characters like Toni Collette as Xander's new supervisor or Ruby Rose as elite sniper Adele Wolff definitely have some potential, yet this potential is quickly buried under just loads of "I want to be so badass"-quotes that end up being more desperate than cool in the longrun for any viewer with a brain.
Aside from Adele Wolff, Xander's entire team though is just nothing but one big question mark, since aside from recruiting a sniper for backup, absolutely NONE of the other team members make sense. They have zero talents or benefits to the mission and are simply along for the ride in a movie that already makes no sense whatsoever. To give you a clear taste of it: Xander recruited some big tall truckdriver guy because...?....and also he recruited a DJ he is friends with for the mission because...?

"So please explain to me one more time: why did you recruit a DJ?"

A big somewhat little saving grace for the movie is Donnie Yen as antagonist Xiang.
Though his character is written paper thin and Donnie is not given too much to work with in the movie in terms of acting, there are more than enough scenes for him to showcase his martial arts skills which in the end is what you hire him for anyway. Donnie Yen definitely has charisma and it's no wonder why he is such a big star in China, yet one would wish that he would choose his future movie projects more carefully to avoid being shoved aside into too many disposable garbage movies (like this one).
One actor who is absolutey wasted however is Tony Jaa, who became popular due to his stellar stuntwork in the two The Raid movies. Having Tony Jaa and Donnie Yen both in the same movie sounds initially like a match made in heaven, yet sadly Tony Jaa is reduced to some wacky unfunny comedic relief in the movie with barely any notable stunts to do.

Also, Samuel Jackson is in the movie...for about 7 min - no joke (#paycheckmovie).

You got a serious problem when not even Donnie Yen's stunts can save your movie.

And not even the action in Return of Xander Cage manages to entertain, which is probably the biggest flaw of this entire film. Let's just put it like this: when the main premise of the entire franchise is that a STUNTMAN is being forced to work as a secret agent for the government, and you STILL feel the need to put CGI into almost every action scene, then there's something seriously going wrong.
Case in point, going hand in hand with the now absolutely bonkers unrealistic gadgets and stunts in the movie, Return of Xander Cage features and overabundance of CGI in its action scenes, which just pull out the teeth of the movie's main selling point.
From motocross bikes that suddenly out of nowhere can transform into jetski-like surf bikes to ride on water over characters just running out guns blazing into the open of a shootout without taking one single bullet, all the way to a laughably lame CGI-jump of Xander out of an exploding plane. It all makes it really hard to keep up that suspension of disbelief, yet worst of all, it makes it hard to be entertained or care at all about the characters who you know will survive anything anyway in some ridiculous way.

Let's throw realism completely out of the window.

Overall, despite having Vin Diesel return as Xander Cage to supposedly breathe new life into the franchise, Return of Xander Cage sadly feels nothing like the solid first xXx movie from 2002 but instead like a straight continuation of the over-the-top goofy, boring and just dumb direction of the panned xXx: State of the Union.
The entire movie feels like a mix of the unrealistic action of Fast & Furious mixed together with some parody version of Mission Impossible. Furthermore it is heavily dragged down by portraying Xander Cage as some uber-macho super agent who feels way too sure of himself, along with a nonsensical team of operatives who constantly try way too hard to be "badass" and "cool", in a movie that straight up feels like a 13-year-old's fan fiction.
The saddest thing about it is that not even Donnie Yen or Tony Jaa can manage to hold up the movie, since their performances tend to just get buried underneath a pile of lame CGI-heavy and overly unrealistic action scenes that fail to invest or amaze anybody.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a heavily disappointing movie that only goes to show that there is no promising future for this franchise even with Vin Diesel involved.
If you are curious but don't want to go to the theater for it, just watch the trailers for the movie, since they already give away every major scene and the "highlights" of the entire movie anyway.



Final Verdict: 3 out of 10

 

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