‘xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage’ Trailer: Vin Diesel Is Back to Save the World

Today sees the release of the trailer for xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. The Paramount/Viacom VIAB -0.13% Inc. release, set for January of 2017, is a third installment in the xXx franchise, one that initially positioned Vin Diesel as a 2000’s-era answer to James Bond. The plan didn’t quite work for Sony , although it did make a solid profit ($277 million worldwide on a $70m budget) and eventually spawned an underrated Diesel-free sequel xXx: State of the Union (starring Ice Cube) which bombed hard ($77m on an $87m budget) in May of 2005. The original is a classic “flop that wasn’t” in that it was perceived as a disappointment.  Fifteen years later, can Vin Diesel make Xander Cage the “next James Bond” the second time out?

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xXx opened on a wave of hype, pitched as the next great action franchise and Vin Diesel’s follow-up to The Fast and the Furious a year prior. It was the first time I could remember a film being written off as a disappointment for opening to over $45 million, never mind that it legged it to $142m domestic (them August legs) and had a bigger opening than any 007 movie ever at that time. Die Another Day would snag a $47m debut in November of 2002 before earning a record-high $160m domestic and $434m. Both films were arguably as successful as Sony could have imagined, but even the 007 franchise got a hard reboot after besting franchise-best records. But then 2002 was a weird year for onscreen espionage.

As I’ve discussed before, the crown for the “next 007” ended up going to the underdog of the pack, namely Universal’s troubled and uncertain Matt Damonaction vehicle The Bourne Identity. That Doug Liman film was a blast of fresh air, a grim and grounded, but still entertaining and empathetic, take on espionage that blended rough-and-tumble action with post-9/11 moral doubt. The $60 million release opened with $27m on June of 2002 and legged it to $122m domestic and $214m worldwide. So, believe it or not, The Bourne Identity made less money (on a slightly lower budget) than xXx and only a little more than Ben Affleck’s Jack Ryan reboot The Sum of All Fears ($193m on a $68m budget for Paramount).

xXxxXx didn’t end up being Vin Diesel’s franchise. The Sum of All Fears was a one-and-done reboot. Even 007 went back to the drawing board. But Jason Bourne became the next great franchise hero. Like The Bourne Identity, xXxtried to make a new franchise by taking an old formula and presenting in a wholly new way and/or a new attitude. Both films attempted to become franchises by offering something “new.” And yes, and yeah, you knew this was coming, both franchises are returning to cinemas over the next six months specifically because they are something old and (theoretically) something fondly remembered. Universal is opening Jason Bourne in two weeks. And we’ll be seeing the return of Xander Cage in January of 2017.

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