X-Men X-Pansion

Of all the superhero teams out there the X-Men were one of the first, in comic book form and on the silver-screen. Although in the beginning (of the comic books) the line-up simply consisted of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Angel and Beast, this evolving team constantly added characters to their ranks such as Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Storm. One of these line-ups happened to appear in a film in 2000 (check), and from then on the X-Men franchise has grown into seven films; and it isn’t about to stop any time soon.

Apocalypse

Before the last film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, was released, returning director Bryan Singer had already announced that the follow-up to this film would be released in 2016 and would be titled X-Men: Apocalypse. For any fans of the comic books the super-villain Apocalypse, or En Sabah Nur, needs no introduction, for anyone unfamiliar he is regarded as the first ever mutant; a hint to this was given in the Days of Future Past end credits sequence, when we saw him as a child building the pyramids of Egypt. There are many villains in the Marvel universe, some are much more dangerous than others, and two of the most powerful are Apocalypse and Thanos. Seen as The Avengers will eventually be battling the latter in 2018, it only seems right that the other super-powered team on the big screen should clash with a character just as horrific.

The film will be set in 1983, 10 years after Days of Future Past, and will see James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters and Hugh Jackman reprise their roles once again; and will also feature young versions of Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler and Jean Grey, along with a cameo from Channing Tatum as Gambit, before his 2016 solo film.

The title may very well give something away about the plot of the film, perhaps this is going to once again alter history and be the end of the X-Men due to this foe. Apocalypse is definitely up to the challenge, he was already powerful, but that power increased when he merged himself with celestial energy. Along with being able to regenerate himself, mimic other powers and control his molecular structure so that he can be as malleable or tough as he likes, he is also telekinetic, telepathic and a genius in the sciences. So the team will definitely have their work cut out for them this time.

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Television Series

It appears that with the acclaim that the X-Men franchise has had, 20th Century Fox are trying to take the heroes to the small screen; with their own television series.

Not much is known about what the series will depict at the moment as Fox are still trying to buy the rights from Marvel; Fox own the film rights to X-Men, but not the comic book rights. With Marvel having so much on their plate the moment, with TV shows Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter coming later this year, plus Daredevil, AKA Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders all in the works they might not feel that another superhero team on TV is needed. However it would be great to be able to sit in front of the TV each week and see the team battle a new enemy, which could also tie into the films and introduce many more X-Men.

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Although the X-Men franchise took a slight swerve at times, it appears that it is safely back on track now.

Ex Machina

Alex Garland delivers an unforgettable sci-fi film in his directorial début; which will not only entertain but also have you questioning your moral choices.

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Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander lead the cast in this account of meetings between human and A. I. (Artificial Intelligence). Caleb (Gleeson) works as a computer coder and has just won first prize in a competition at his company, and will get to spend five days on the estate of the company’s owner Nathan (Isaac), something not many people get to witness. However after arriving at the simplistic yet futuristic house of his boss, Nathan reveals that the real purpose for Caleb being here is so that he can test his new A. I., Ava (Vikander). The Turing Test is set up to determine whether a human can be engaging with an A. I. and come to the conclusion that they are actually conversing with another human, if they believe that they are then the test is a success. This is usually done with a wall between the human and A. I. however, what Nathan wants to find out is whether the test can be successful after Caleb has had numerous encounters with Ava, and believe that she does in fact have a living consciousness inside her. As Nathan says, they will be writing history.

Caleb gets to know Ava more and more, her human-like personality and the way she talks makes him get lost in what it is he is really trying to find out, and his mission turns in to aiding Ava with what she desires most…freedom.

Just like horror films, sci-fi films can sometimes be hit and miss, as you are never sure if you are going to get a good one or not. Ex Machina just goes to show that you don’t need huge effects and amazing spaceships to make a truly great sci-fi, all it takes is a simple location, some convincing portrayals and a gripping script. Speaking of the script, it was just the right amount of science. In a film of this nature there is always the chance of losing a viewer, or at least confusing them, in the explanation of the science behind it. Ex Machina gives you just the right amount, by explaining itself, but in terms which the majority, if not all, of the audience can understand.

As you watch Caleb and Ava converse every day and get to know each other better, you begin to put yourself in Caleb’s shoes, questioning to yourself what you would do in this situation; stay true to your intellect and simply do the job you were put there for, or sympathise with Ava and decide what is morally right. Is it right to keep an A. I. which is so lifelike and appears to feel real emotions locked up, is it just a machine or a life-form, where do you draw the line between A. I. and human. These are the questions that ExMachina has you questioning as you watch.

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Domhnall Gleeson’s convincing American accent and depiction of the, in some ways, typical 20-something year old man help the audience to side with him, as they may see something of themselves in the choices he makes. Whereas Gleeson’s character has a slight scientific view to the situation, it is sometimes clouded in sympathy towards Ava. That is why the only other main human figure in the film is, in some ways, the opposite. Oscar Isaac’s role as the incredibly smart, yet comedic and laid-back avid dance floor fanatic Nathan, clashes with Gleeson’s character on many occasions as he attempts to show him the reality of the situation; who is human and who is not. Alicia Vikander steals the show in Ex Machina though as the A. I. unit which you just can’t help feel remorse for. Although some incredible effects are used to give her appearance, it is Vikander’s pure talents that convince the viewer of what she is, her android type movements mixed with her cheerful, and at times, sombre persona convince the audience that they are genuinely witnessing a being in need of help.

Ex Machina is every bit the meaning of the genre ‘ science fiction’, and has gained its place next to such greats as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and Prometheus.