The summer movie season kicks off early this year with the debut of what might be the biggest comic book movie yet, "The Avengers." Combining the popularity of some of Marvel's best known heroes, and a cast that has already successfully carried each character for at least one film, it's no surprise that the critical consensus on this one is that "The Avengers" might be the best superhero movie ever. Even with the success of "The Avengers" anticipated to reach truly heroic heights, the next movie in this slideshow could be the defining blockbuster of the summer...
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The Dark Knight Rises
Filmgoers most years are usually lucky to get one decent comic book adaption out of the summer season. And despite how good "The Avengers" is likely to be, "The Dark Knight Rises," following two wildly successful Batman movies by Christopher Nolan, is in a class all its own. The final installment of Nolan's Batman series pits the caped crusader against two villains: Bane and Catwoman. The story picks up eight years after the events of "The Dark Knight." Given the the years of anticipation building toward the series climax, it's a sure bet that the theaters are going to be packed in to catch this one.
"Battleship" certainly isn't the first game to be adapted from a board game. (Who could, after all, forget the 1985 comedy "Clue?") But "Battleship" could be the most convoluted departure from its inspiration, pitting not navy against navy, but rather aliens against human. And what does a naval war-themed guessing game have to do with interplanetary warfare? Good question. Despite its inartful ties to its source material, "Battleship" has already proven successful at the box office. Released international one month before its U.S. premiere, "Battleship" has already surpassed the $100 million mark. And that's still three weeks before it finally docks in the United States.
"The Dictator" started the publicity tour early when a manufactured spat between star Sasha Baron Cohen and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bubbled up ahead of this year's Oscars. Baron Cohen showed up to the Oscars in character and holding an urn that allegedly carried the ashes of Kim Jong-Il. With the off-screen antics of the title character already grabbing attention, the film, loosely based on a novel written by Saddam Hussein called "Zabibah and the King," is bound to draw in the crowds when it's released in May.
The Amazing Spider-Man
In case you haven't noticed by now, this summer, like the past few, will be heavy on superhero movies. "The Amazing Spider-Man," a reboot of the earlier successful Spider-Man films released last decade, may not have laid the same foundation with its cast in the comic book's signature roles. That doesn't mean, however, that it won't be able to hold its own with audiences. Taking Peter Parker back to his high school roots and into a darker world than the character experienced in the Sam Raimi films, "The Amazing Spider-Man" will break new ground on this well known character. With audiences expected to turn out in droves for this one, a sequel is already being planned to open sometime in 2014.
Set toward the end of the 21st century, Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" follows the crew of the eponymous spaceship on their mission to uncover the origins of the human race. Originally conceived as a prequel to the "Alien" series, "Prometheus" is told in a similar vein as "Alien," particularly in terms of the style of the environment and technology, but is meant to stand on its own. Sci-fi film fans will not likely want to miss Scott's return to the genre, which lands in theaters in June.
"Brave" marks Pixar's 13th feature film and the only one due out for release this year. The film follows a reluctant princess, the first-ever female protagonist to helm a Pixar feature, through 10th-century Scotland as she tries to undo a curse she inadvertently brought upon her kingdom. "Brave" makes a darker turn for Pixar and in the trailer appears to be its most violent and action-packed picture since "The Incredibles."
Snow White and the Huntsman
If the first Snow White movie ("Mirror, Mirror," with Julia Roberts) released this year was to flowery for you, the second "Snow White and the Huntsman," may be more your speed. Though the number of dwarfs in Snow White's entourage may not have changed, this version comes complete with extended battle sequences, immersive special effects, and plenty of frightening near-death experiences. Ultimately, though, this dark and violent reimagining of the classic Grimms fairy tale doesn't really work on a conceptual level because it's still a tale about Snow White, a name that represents everything this movie is trying so hard not to be.
A "Total Recall" reboot with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mars and the cheesy 1990s cyberpunk vibe taken out and a heavy political undercurrent thrown into the plot? Not exactly an improvement on the first film. Given its cast and its $200 million estimated budget, "Total Recall" may have been a decent Bourne-esque (and there's another entry in that series out this summer) spy thriller if it went by any other name. But with that added baggage, this movie may have a hard time breaking through to the same action junkies that grew up on the original.
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No, there won't be a plot. Yes, the dialogue will be clunky. And maybe there will be enough time between brawls, fire fights and explosions to take a trip to the restroom somewhere in the movie. "The Expendables 2" will (once again) reunite all the major action movie stars from the last three decades and then some, with Sylvester Stallone leading the helm. When it comes to a summer action blockbuster, what more do you need than that?
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