Since its release on May 4, the comic book movie The Avengers is closing in on a $400-million domestic gross in just two weeks. Globally, it has already surpassed $1 billion.
So if you're wondering why this summer's movies seem top-loaded with comic book heroes, sci-fi heavyweights and fantasy genre flicks, the answer is -- potential for a $1-billion worldwide gross, dude.
And that's OK. After all, the summer is the time we are especially susceptible to escapist fare. Hence, this summer, we can expect:
Earth's Other Greatest Heroes
Eight years passed before Warner Bros rebooted the Batman franchise under the sturdy guidance of Christopher Nolan. But it's only been five years since the last Spider-Man movie, which makes The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3) a bit of a risk assuming loyalists to the original trilogy's director Sam Raimi might avoid it. On the other hand, this reboot by director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) looks like it will be a whole different kind of fun, with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spidey, Emma Stone as Peter's alternate squeeze Gwen Stacy, Rhys Ifans as The Lizard, and a whole new plot thread surrounding the absence of Parker's parents. Oh, and this time, Spider-Man's webs are mechanical, not organic.
As for Nolan, he not only resuscitated the Batman franchise after Joel Schumacher left it for dead, he brought a mordant intelligence to the comic book movie, especially in his blockbuster second instalment The Dark Knight (2008). Hence, The Dark Knight Rises (July 20) is reason for anticipation as the Caped Crusader faces his most powerful nemesis Bane (Tom Hardy) and mixes it up with Anne Hathaway's slinky Catwoman.
Science Fiction Triple Feature
Will Smith rejoins the summer movie circus in the reliable franchise entry Men in Black 3 (May 25), featuring a time travel plot, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin as a much younger Tommy Lee Jones.
If Ridley Scott's much-anticipated Prometheus (June 8) is not a prequel to Alien -- and this is a dubious claim -- it is sufficient that it's a Ridley Scott extraterrestrial movie featuring a Sigourney Weaver-esque heroine (Noomi Rapace) and a possibly sinister android (Michael Fassbender).
Finally, Colin Farrell brings a lean physique and authentic acting chops to a remake of Total Recall (Aug. 3), which originally starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as Quaid, a working joe who tries to take a mind-implanted vacation as a spy, only to discover he really is a spy. Maybe.
Action in Action
Eschewing the campy humour of this spring's Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1) gives us the storybook heroine (Kristen Stewart) as a kick-ass warrior princess taking arms against an evil queen (Charlize Theron) with the aid of the titular bucolic dude (Chris Hemsworth).
GI Joe: Retaliation (June 29) beefs up the action franchise with Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis taking over as the beefy human action figures fighting against a takeover of the U.S.
Oliver Stone brings a tale of peaceable pot growers obliged to fight a takeover by a ruthless Mexican drug cartel in Savages (July 6) starring Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively and Aaron Johnson.
The Bourne Legacy (Aug. 3) attempts to carry on the amnesiac superspy thing without Matt Damon's Jason Bourne. Jeremy Renner steps in as a Bourne-like agent with issues regarding his duplicitous espionage overlords.
Sylvester Stallone teams with fellow '80s action icons Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis (and Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris) for another shoot-y, punchy, blow-up-y time at the movies in The Expendables 2 (Aug. 17).
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (June 8) finds our Manhattan zoo escapees (voiced as usual by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett-Smith) joining a European circus.
Pixar brings a lush Scottish fantasy with Brave (June 22), a flat-out fairy tale fantasy about a princess (Kelly Macdonald) with heroic aspirations.
Ice Age: Continental Drift (July 13) sees another set of animal cartoon heroes (voiced by Ray Romano, Denis Leary and John Leguizamo) encountering sea monsters and pirates when they find themselves adrift on an iceberg.
Expect a touch of gothic horror with your kiddie fare with ParaNorman (Aug. 17), the story of a bullied boy who sees dead people, and rises up to the challenge when a supernatural menace threatens his town.
Exploitation for the Nation
Yes, the DD in the title Piranha 3DD (June 1) is a reference to cup size, yet this looks like a not-particularly Russ Meyer-esque sequel to the 2009 guilty pleasure that was Piranha 3D.
It turns out the Great Emancipator wasn't about to let bloodsuckers run around free, as you'll see in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22) starring Benjamin Walker and directed by Timur Bekmambetov.
David Cronenberg repackages tween dreamboat Robert Pattinson as the adult lead of Cosmopolis (June 8), a futuristic fable in which Pattinson plays a money prophet whose world crumbles around him when his economic forecast goes horribly wrong. Trust Cronenberg to invent a new genre: Financial Horror.
Tom Cruise likes to do the Box Office Sure Thing when he can (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), but he is not above the inherent risk of a movie musical such as Rock of Ages (June 15), a recreation of L.A.'s wild and woolly rock scene circa 1987.
Katy Perry: Part of Me (July 5) offers up the pop diva in the same 3-D concert/hagiography format as last year's Justin Bieber cinematic landmark.
In Ted (July 13), Mark Wahlberg is a grown man who still can't survive without his teddy bear, even when that stuffed toy (voiced by director Seth MacFarlane) is a rude, crude, toking party animal.
Poor Ben Stiller. He released his knee-slapper comedy Zoolander a few weeks after 9/11. Now he stars in a comedy about zealous Neighbourhood Watch volunteers. To distance it from the wrenching Trayvon Martin incident in Florida, the studio has changed the title from Neighborhood Watch to The Watch (July 25), although the plot -- four volunteers discovers their neighbours are being taken over by aliens -- is about as far removed from reality as it gets. Co-starring are Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill.
Will Ferrell is an incompetent incumbent congressman who faces a challenge by Zach Galifianakis's innocent political neophyte in the satiric comedy The Campaign (Aug. 10).