Of all the mediums for entertainment, film can be one of the most beautifully profound. It can provide explicit social commentary with simple images or color schemes, examine the human condition using special cinematography or editing and communicate the oldest stories on a platform that everyone can experience.
Then there are movies like “xXx: Return of Xander Cage.”
Directed by D. J. Caruso, fans of the franchise or action genre will be pleased to see Vin Diesel (“The Fast and the Furious”) back as Xander Cage alongside Samuel L. Jackson (“The Avengers”) and Donnie Yen (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”).
The latest mission for Xander Cage, the extreme sports enthusiast turned super spy, is to retrieve a device capable of controlling satellites to crash into Earth.
Everything else that ensues is a combination of high-octane stunts, fast-paced fight scenes and utter mayhem.
Despite that energetic combination, the film likely will not win any new fans or help its audience achieve any sort of radical epiphanies about life.
One look at the trailer and viewers know exactly what to expect: questionably large explosions, unreasonable problem solving, and the objectification of women. The focus is not on the plot or character development: it is on how many ways something can be blown up or punched
by Mr. Diesel.
The film also tests how many one-liners he can make afterwards before audiences walk out of the theater. The film relies on its spectacle and absurdity, but neither make up for its shortcomings.
The premise itself is one that would be better suited for a parody than a serious action movie. The franchise has never sufficiently explained why a superspy that can ski through a jungle or ride a dirt bike around his enemies is superior to someone like James Bond. Such is the case for Vin Diesel’s other action franchise, “The Fast and the Furious.”
This franchise is just as silly, and each movie has to somehow justify its excessive use of automobiles in every situation.
Both franchises share the same creator, and it is no coincidence that both contain as much substance as an empty water bottle.
It is not that the movie was unwatchable – it only barely was – but it is unclear who exactly the movie was for. The first and last time that Vin Diesel starred as Xander Cage on the big screen was over a decade ago, so any waves of enthusiasm for more sequels have since died down.
Extreme sports are not nearly as sensational as the movie makes them out to be. The films definition of ‘awesome’ might be what one would expect from a middle schooler that just learned how to skateboard.
Perhaps this is what enables action movies like “xXx” to survive – it is a predictable display of irrational excuses to see a man who sounds like he gargles gravel before bedtime do the impossible. This type of film is not to be taken seriously and is advertised as such.
Nowhere in the movie did the action stop to reveal something deeper behind the action. In a world where action movies now consist of Marvel Comics’ epic storytelling, the return of Xander Cage may not be a long lived one.
“xXx” is not just the commonly known symbol for when a team runs out of guesses in “Family Feud,” it is the name of a franchise that did not know when to end.
There is plenty of guilty pleasure to be had in the movie’s many quips and stunts, but there is not enough to justify the price of a movie ticket.