Entertainment

‘XXX’ Is the Latest Movie to Leave America Behind

As films get more 'global,' U.S. audiences are left scratching their heads

Vin Diesel’s engine has run a good long time on just a few characters. Think about it: There’s the anti-hero Dominic Toretto in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, the space mercenary Riddick in the “Riddick” films, and the talking tree named Groot that can only say his own name from the “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

So it should come as no surprise that his Xander Cage character, of the “XXX” movies, returns this weekend after a hiatus so long that Ice Cube took over the franchise at one point in 2005. What is surprising about Diesel’s latest, however, is that it was already released a week ago in India.

The growing demand for spectacle-driven Hollywood films in India simply cannot be ignored.

What does this mean? In short, the country is now a priority market, a fact strongly reflected in not just the early release of “XXX: The Return of Xander Cage,” but also the promotional campaign designed around the film and the content of the action flick itself.

It also means the growing awareness of and demand for spectacle-driven Hollywood films in India has now inflated enough that it simply can’t be ignored.

“We have to understand a few market facts that have come up in recent times,” said Rudrarup Datta, senior vice-president of marketing for Viacom18 Motion Pictures, according to Life Mint. “The dubbed version of a Hollywood film, which used to average about 20 percent of its total box office earnings, today makes up 30-40 and in some cases, even 50 percent of it. The contribution of Hindi is going up, because even audiences in small towns or those for whom English is not a primary language want to enjoy Hollywood films … Plus the penetration of multiplexes with 3D facilities is increasing.”

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Viacom represents Hollywood studio Paramount Pictures (producers of “XXX”) in India and is bringing the action comedy “Baywatch,” starring Indian actress Priyanka Chopra (and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), to the country in just a few short months.

To show it means business with this latest effort, Viacom first had a special trailer created for the new “XXX,” focusing only on scenes involving Indian actress and model Deeepika Padukone from the film. It also launched it on a top-rated reality show and high-reach platform on its flagship Hindi channel, Colors. For his part, Diesel traveled to India last week to participate in a premiere and a fan-event.

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This makes Diesel the only major Hollywood star to visit the country for promotions, aside from Tom Cruise and Jackie Chan.

Ultimately, we’re talking about Hollywood’s intent on internationalizing cinema — a project that has been well underway for some time, with India’s “Bollywood” a direct byproduct. One need not look further than December’s blockbuster “Star Wars” film, “Rogue One,” to see proof of how studios target specific markets, either via casting, marketing, or both.

The cast was as sprawling as it was diverse: British Oscar-nominated actress Felicity Jones, Oscar winner Forrest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, and Wen Jiang. It reeks of a political correctness so overt as to suggest a sanitization of the overall product. That might be the goal to stave off any possibility of ever offending or excluding anyone.

The latest “XXX” includes a cast just as diverse (with “Rogue One” actor Donnie Yen popping up again), and an international setting, as well.

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For further proof of filmmakers going the extra mile to keep international appeal in mind, look at Pixar’s “Inside Out.” In the American version of the film, the little girl Riley hates the taste of broccoli — whereas Japanese audiences saw the character refuse to eat her green bell peppers.

Then there was”Iron Man 3.” It was a co-production between Marvel Studios and the China-based DMG Entertainment, so the Chinese version of the superhero movie included material that wasn’t in the U.S. version. The character Dr. Wu (Wang Xueqi), introduced at the beginning, gets additional scenes in the Chinese release. Additionally, Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, who plays Dr. Wu’s nurse, is introduced while a new scene featuring Iron Man with middle-school students can be seen in a news report.

There’s even product placement from Gu Li Duo, a popular milk brand in China. Overall, about four minutes of footage was added to the Chinese version of the Marvel film.

Other films that have included separate cuts and characters for international releases include major franchises like the “Transformers” series.

These are just a few examples of how Hollywood is catering to overseas markets — “XXX” is only the latest. Will this growing effort to appeal globally infiltrate every narrative, thereby sanitizing the content? Only time will tell. But with films like “XXX” showing an interest in appealing to the biggest audience possible, they’re potentially leaving American audiences in the dust — not to mention any appealing and artistically sound stories there as well.

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