Audiences assemble! -- Gazette.Net


With great power, comes great responsibility.

And with each passing summer movie season, come hordes of heroes and horrors, extraterrestrials, Expendables, feisty fairy tale archetypes and, of course, Johnny Depp doing ... something.

Notably, 2012 seems to have staked its claim to being the year of comic book adapted exuberance. To be sure, since the dawn of Bryan Singer’s groundbreaking “X-Men” back in 2000, not a summer month has passed without a webslinger, Wolverine or Wayne Manor gracing the silver screen. But on the heels of the phenomenal success of “The Hunger Games” only two short months ago, the steady rumblings of cinematic ground being broken, yet again, definitely can be felt.

In short: Hulk smash.

‘The Avengers’Opening Friday, the first fanboy free-for-all out of the gate is one of the most hotly anticipated, and for good reason. It’s the end-result of a long-gestating Marvel mad-science experiment that began with the Robert Downey Jr.-fueled “Iron Man” in 2008 and introduced, in rapid and successful succession, “The Incredible Hulk,” “THOR,” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Directed by geek-guru Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), this unprecedented cinematic superhero team-up is sure to be a “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here” hit, bringing the boys Downey is Iron Man, Mark Ruffalo is Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Chris Hemsworth is Thor, Chris Evans is Cap, Jeremy Renner is Hawkeye and Sam Jackson is Nick Fury — and girl (Scarlett Johansson is Black Widow) under one roof. Early word has been mighty as 3D and IMAX screens ready for the battle royale. Rated PG-13. Opens May 4.

‘Men in Black 3’

Yes, it all started out as a comic book. Introduced first under the Aircel banner in 1990, the covert, alien combating company men made their way to Malibu — the publishing house, not the California burg — which was ultimately purchased by Marvel Comics in 1994. Barry Sonnenfeld’s 1997 film, produced by Steven Spielberg, orchestrated the odd-couple pairing of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, who donned “the last suit you’ll ever wear,” once again in the somewhat less stellar 2002 sequel, “Men in Black II.” It’s taken a decade to get the threequel off the ground, but Sonnenfeld, Spielberg, Smith, Jones and the boys are back in town, with a plot that follows Will’s Agent J on a quest through time to thwart the assassination of his stoic partner. Josh Brolin stars as the 60s-era Agent K , and what may be even more impressive than the ET-effects by Rick Baker is his pitch-perfect aping of the film’s elder spaceman. Rated PG-13. Opens May 25.

‘The Amazing Spider-Man’

Much like bookish alter-ego Peter Parker, “The Amazing Spider-Man” likely feels it has the most to prove this summer. Hundreds of millions of budget dollars can purchase great power, but responsibility to fans has no price tag. After a third sequel to the Sam Raimi-helmed Spidey movie series stalled and dissolved, Sony Pictures didn’t waste any time (or web fluid) before moving forward with a complete franchise overhaul. The fortuitously named Mark Webb (“500 Days of Summer”) was snagged as director, with script work by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves. Up-and-comer Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) spins his own tormented take on the wall-crawler, while facing off against Rhys Ifans as reptilian roughian The Lizard and Emma Stone as a new, old love interest Gwen Stacy. Rated PG-13. Opens July 3.

‘The Dark Knight Rises’

If any pulp-inspired pugilist is going to rival “The Avengers” for bragging rights this year, it will undoubtedly be Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to one of the biggest box office champs of all time, “The Dark Knight.” Featuring Christian Bale reprising his role as Batman and a bone-chilling turn by Heath Ledger as the iconic villain The Joker — which earned the late actor a posthumous Oscar — the film transcended fan circles and grossed north of $500 million domestically, and more than $1 billion worldwide. For avid followers, July 20 cannot come soon enough. Supposedly Nolan’s final bout with the Bat film franchise, “Rises” will combine canon characters both classic and contemporary, throwing Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and the vicious Bane (Tom Hardy) into the fray. Comic fans will recognize the latter as the villain who infamously “broke the Bat.” One thing is certain: He’ll have a hand in breaking box office records. Rated PG-13. Opens July 20.