xxx 3 character posters

How long has it been since you’ve watched the original xXx? Released in 2002 near the dawn of Vin Diesel‘s career as one of our strangest (and most strangely lovable) action stars, it was very much a product of its time, combining ’80s action, ’90s style, and two youthful middle fingers to the James Bond franchise. It was terrible. But it remains a fascinating artifact, a film from a time of great transition that will be studied by action movie scholars as a key moment in…something. We’ll figure out that something at a later date.

My point is that the modern action movie has changed a lot in the past decade and what was pretty rad to the cool kids back in the early ’00s doesn’t fly these days. What’s most interesting about this batch of new character posters for xXx: Return of Xander Cage is that they show off a franchise that may very well have grown with the times.

First of all, Vin Diesel’s character poster is literally one out of a dozen, placing the clean-shaven, marble-mouthed, extreme sports-loving super spy in a line-up that includes recognizable actors from all over the world. Like Samuel L. Jackson in the original film, the great Toni Collette is probably here to pick up a quick paycheck, but there’s an undeniable thrill to see one of our finest actresses getting a chance to cut loose in something truly silly. And then there’s Deepika Padukone, an Indian start in her first major Hollywood role, as the film’s love interest. The role of “wonderful and frequently underutilized character actor” goes to Rory McCann, better known as The Hound from Game of Thrones.

But keep on looking. You also have the Chinese martial artist and actor Donnie Yen, Thai martial artist and actor Tony Jaa, Australian model Ruby Rose, and Brazilian athlete Neymar Jr. Welcome to the action movie circa 2016, where an ensemble is more important than a sole leading man and an international appeal is vital to the bottom line. It looks like everyone who worked on Return of Xander Cage looked to Diesel’s other big franchise, the Fast and Furious movies, and realized why people had embraced them: a diverse cast of friendly people going on a grand adventure has replaced the wisecracking lone wolf. Just look to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, where an internationally appealing cast of characters takes on the Empire. Just look back at Spectre, which gave James Bond a support team that actually provides adequate back-up in many of the film’s key action scenes.

Anyway, xXx: Return of Xander Cage is directed by D.J. Caruso and opens on January 20, 2017. The first trailer looks appropriately bombastic. The character posters look appropriately modern. Welcome to the new world of Hollywood blockbusters, Mr. Cage.

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