xXx: The Return of Xander Cage Ultra HD Review

xxx-3-return-xander-cage-trailer-preview

Ralph Potts reviews the third installment in the xXx film franchise, that sees the return of Vin Diesel as superspy Xander Cage, who is recruited back into action against a group of lethal mercenaries which pose a global threat, that requires his particular brand of justice.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

89

Details:

Studio and Year: Paramount – 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 106 minutes
Genre: Action

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, French/Spanish/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Vin Diesel, Toni Collette, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Music by: Brian Tyler & Robert Lydecker
Written by: Scott Frazier
Region Code: A

Release Date: May 16, 2017

“There Are No More Patriots, Just Rebels and Tyrants”



My Take:

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage finds extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) coming out of self-imposed exile and on a collision course with deadly alpha warrior Xiang 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.

It’s been quite a while since I have seen the original xXx, but my recollection of it is more or less, a typical, over the top action film, that brings nothing new or interesting to the genre. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage follows in the same vein. A paper-thin plot, lots of campy dialog, and an over-abundance of action set pieces that push the boundaries of plausibility to eye rolling levels. I don’t know, I mean, if you enjoyed the first two installments in the series, my guess would be that this one would be to your liking. It certainly doesn’t take itself seriously, and by design appears to intend to be ostentatious. Personally, I prefer popcorn action to have a bit more depth to the story and characters, to go along with the mindless entertainment.

The film sports an international cast that, by all rights, lends plenty of credibility to the genre. Unfortunately, they get caught up in the unending flow of blasé action, and wink and nod interplay, that feels like a rerun. The production elements and stunt work is excellent. I hoped to find xXx: The Return of Xander Cage more enjoyable, but when all was said and done, it didn’t bring enough to the table.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for extended sequences of gunplay and violent action, and for sexual material and language.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

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Dolby Atmos Rating: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Level of immersion:
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Ultra HD Blu-ray has finally been released and eager enthusiasts are ready and willing to see what it has to offer. For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Paramount Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound that has an average bitrate of 4 Mbps.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage garnered a solid report from me on its video quality in 1080p. Its use of color grading intentionally left certain elements appearing less visually enticing and that trend continues in its presentation in Ultra HD, which was rendered from a 3.4K source/2K DI and up-converted to 4K. Color reproduction is consistent, with primaries like blue, red, and green appearing richer, even a bit more delineated. Secondary hues look great as well, especially in the sequences that take place on the streets of Detroit. The increase in resolution isn’t always on display, but at times, the detection of minutia, even in wide angle shots, is appreciable. Close-ups tend to offer better refinement and deeper resolvable texture on surfaces and physical features compared to the Blu-ray. The improvements are distinguishable, but not overtly noteworthy.

The same is true when comparing the video’s dynamic range. Exterior sequences offer the slightest hint of added punch, especially that take place in the light of day, such as the post chase beach scene in the Philippines, where the sun reflects off of objects etc. The darkened highlights in the low-lit environs, like the CIA Headquarters meeting room, interior of the C130, and the shadowy confines of the Philippines ruins, have appreciable dimension and resolvable detail. The encounter between the Russians, and Xander and company after they invade the party is one of the film’s highlights from and HDR perspective. The explosions and gunfire exchanges pop quite nicely. Fleshtones are a bit on the bronzy side but don’t appear unnatural. Viewing xXx: The Return of Xander Cage in Ultra HD wasn’t an eye-opening experience however, I think its subtle improvements makes it worth considering for UHD fans.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be an entertaining listening experience that made steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a mix of atmospherics, discrete effects and music. This is done to very good effect and creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. I noticed that the front overhead channels were used for adding depth to the sounds stage while the rear overhead channels contained more discrete sound objects/effects. In addition to things like overhead pans where sounds move through the soundstage and weapon fire emanates from one point and hits its mark in another, there are several key sequences that bring everything together.

This includes the Russian incursion beginning in chapter 7, followed by the motorcycle chase sequence, and the extended firefight in Detroit. These sequences, among various others over the course of the film, place you inside the action as sounds rotate and revolve around the soundstage from both above and at ear level, making for an involving surround sound display. I enjoyed the balance of atmosphere and discrete object placement. Dolby Atmos is simply the best game in town, adding a complimentary element that elevated the experience watching the film.

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

 

Audio: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialog Reproduction:

 

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 26 Mbps and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound that has an average bitrate of 4 Mbps.

This film looks great on Blu-ray and features excellent video quality that exhibits high level detail, stable sharpness and revealing definition. Close ups are noticeably refined and revealing of the subtlest details within facial features and objects within the frame. Mid-level camera pans are equally enriching and offer excellent depth and dimension. When called for, colors are appreciably delineated with natural rendering and punchy primaries that stand out among the spectrum of secondary hues. Fleshtones are a bit on the bronzy side but don’t appear unnatural. Contrast is boldly applied without overstatement as it enlivens colors and drives brightly lit scenes without whitewashing detail. Blacks are gradational and deep which emboldens sequences containing a mix of light and dark elements. Detail in uneven light and darkened environments reveal visible shapes and structure that enhances depth perception. This is a solid presentation that looked terrific on my big screen.

The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD surround mix does a great job presenting the track’s recorded elements. This soundtrack runs the gamut between passages of spoken dialog and music to engaging sequences that deliver enriching surround sound. Dialog rendering is terrific as it holds sway over the front soundstage. Dynamic range is excellent as the active elements within the surround mix resound with superior clarity and palpable deep bass transients. The music score is carefully integrated into the sound design and is wonderfully transparent and three dimensional. Clarity is first rate which brings out the finely articulated nuance of background elements within the mix. Surround use is prevalent and achieves a high level of envelopment that is appreciably involving as effects are seamlessly blended to create a stable and detail rich sound field. Despite not being crazy about the film itself, I had a great time with this soundtrack and appreciated the attention to detail that went into its design.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: xXx: The Return of Xander Cage Ultra HD Blu-ray
    Disc 2: xXx: The Return of Xander Cage[/i] Blu-ray
  • Third Time’s the Charm: Xander Returns – 8 minute featurette
  • Rebels, Tyrants, & Ghosts: The Cast – 20 minute featurette
  • Opening Pandaor’s Box: On Location – 16 minute featurette
  • I Live for this Sh#t!: Stunts – 15 minute featurette
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

As the third film the xXx film franchise xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is an uninspired sequel that if taken with a grain of salt, or three, has something to offer, especially for fans of the previous films. It comes to Blu-ray from Paramount Home Entertainment is this Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo pack that features solid Ultra HD video, reference quality high definition audio/video, including an entertaining Dolby Atmos immersive surround mix and a fair supplemental package that looks behind the scenes. Unless you’re already a fan, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is tough to recommend as blind buy however, if you’re anxious to see and hear what it has to offer toss it in your rental queue and take it for a ride on Blu-ray.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package