I'd like to have been able to start off this post by saying "And now for something completely different!" from the previous one. But it's really just slightly different--instead of a '50s-era British spy series that can in hindsight seem stodgier than Bond, I turn now to one of the 21st century's more notable attempts to update 007--the XXX series.
Four years ago I considered the prospect of Xander Cage's returning to the screen, and declared the then development hell-trapped film a longshot.
Of course, the film did get made, and is now about a month away from release. And on seeing the trailer, it looks that, unlike a belated revival of another spy film franchise (2014's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), the filmmakers not only stuck with the star and the version of the series associated with him (we still have Vin Diesel in extreme sports-themed action), but laid out the cash to keep it from looking cheap.1 At the very least, XXX3 looks like a satisfactory follow-up to the preceding film.
I might add, too, that popular taste may be swinging away from the gritty to the flamboyant in its spy thrillers, if successes like Kingsman and Spy, and the performance of the recent James Bond and Mission: Impossible brands are anything to go by.
Still, the studio didn't exactly rush to get XXX3 made--apparently waiting until after the explosive grosses of not just the colossal hit Fast and Furious 6, but the billion-dollar take of Furious 7 before pushing on with all steam ahead. (Hollywood was actually quicker to get the Riddick movie out, maybe because it felt safe taking the low-cost route with another Pitch Black rather than a proper follow-up to Chronicles.) And even so, a January release date doesn't scream confidence for anything but Oscar contenders and Navy SEAL-themed shoot 'em ups clearly pitched at one side of the country's political divide--with XXX3 neither of those things. (Certainly it's a strong contrast with the release of the first film back in the summer of 2002, before much of this film's target audience was even born; or even the borderline summer release of the riskier follow-up on the last weekend in April 2005.)
All the same, I'm less confident than before in my assessment of this movie's chances, and left wondering--Will this late gamble on the audience's desire to see Xander Cage return prove wrong-headed, prove to have been a valid way of extracting a little last profit from another old name, or pay off big, like James Bond instead of Jack Ryan? What do you think?
1. Peter Hartlaub's favorable review of Shadow Recruit remarked the "thrifty set pieces and smaller ambitions" of a movie where "bank transactions and tense conversations push the action forward."
My Posts on William Haggard
Just Out . . . (The Many Lives and Deaths of James Bond, 2nd edition)
The Post-Ian Fleming James Bond Novels
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)
My Posts on James Bond
The Return of Xander Cage?