Assuming the Mayans were wrong and the world does indeed outlive the year, it’s all the more reason to celebrate with a trip to the movies. Equally tricky to predict is how Hollywood will reciprocate.
On paper, 2012 is shaping up to be a banner year for the box office. The roster of highly anticipated releases boasts best-selling literary adaptations, superhero gatherings, revisionist biopics, zombies, Hobbits and Stooges.
Here are films slated for this year that are generating significant buzz:
• “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises”:
No other releases can compete against the hype created by this dynamic trio of comic book sequels/reboots. “The Dark Knight Rises” (July) finds Batman reappearing to take on Bane (Tom Hardy) and Catwoman (Anne Hathaway). “The Avengers” (May) assembles Marvel Comics’ solo characters — Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) — for a team-up against alien invaders. And the somewhat less promising “The Amazing Spider-Man” (July) pits the new wall crawler (Andrew Garfield) against the Lizard (Rhys Ifans).
• “Django Unchained”:
Quentin Tarantino embraces his love of Western-esque themes by making an actual Western sort of. The filmmaker himself defines “Django Unchained” as a “Southern.” Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are featured in this tale of a bounty-hunting ex-slave who struggles to rescue his wife from a Mississippi plantation (December).
• “The Hunger Games”:
The first installment of Suzanne Collins’ cherished trilogy hits screens with Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”) starring as one of 24 youngsters selected by a dystopian government for a televised spectacle sport: a fight to the death. Gary Ross helms the sci-fi drama, marking his first directorial project since 2003’s “Seabiscuit” (March).
• “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”:
Even though it seemed like “The Return of the King” might never end, Peter Jackson prolongs the epic fantasy series further with this prequel — which is split into two pictures, coming out a year apart. British TV actor Martin Freeman steps into the role of young Bilbo Baggins, who leads a contingent of dwarves on a quest to reclaim a kingdom from a ferocious dragon (December).
• “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”:
Seth Grahame-Smith’s cagey spin on the 16th president’s knack for dispatching the undead is the first of such revisionist horror efforts to hit the multiplex. (His “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” premieres in 2013.) “Wanted” director Timur Bekmambetov tackles the saga that led to Lincoln’s loathing of vampires and their slave-holding brethren (June).
• “The Raven”:
Rivaling Honest Abe in the wacky fictionalized biopic category is “The Raven,” which places author Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack, of course) on the trail of a serial killer whose grisly murders imitate those in his macabre stories. Hopefully, it will have a little (tell-tale) heart to go along with its (imp of the) perverse premise (March).
• “The Three Stooges”:
OK, this movie looks terrible. But the trailer is so excruciatingly unfunny it transforms “The Three Stooges” into a must-see event. Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso portray the stout comic trio of Moe, Larry and Curly, respectively. Another famous set of siblings, the filmmaking Farrelly brothers (“Hall Pass”), cobble together a comedy involving an orphanage, a murder plot and a reality TV series. Woo-woo-woo (April).
• “Jack the Giant Killer”:
Although “Puss in Boots” beat it to the punch, “Jack the Giant Killer” delivers its version of the beanstalk-climbing fairy tale, with Nicholas Hoult (“X-Men: First Class”) taking the title role. Bryan Singer (“Valkyrie,” “Superman Returns”) envisions a world where peace between the kingdoms of men and giants is threatened. With any luck, the giant battles will be better staged than those in “Thor” (June).
• “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax”:
Dreamy Zac Efron and Taylor Swift add their voices to the iconic author’s most environmentally responsible effort. This animated 3-D flick concerns a city that has no trees, and the boy who is willing to find one to impress his dream girl. The reliable Danny DeVito voices the cantankerous creature who attempts to protect the forest (March).
• “World War Z”: Because there simply aren’t enough zombie movies, Hollywood mines the literary ranks with an adaptation of Max Brooks’ horror novel. Brad Pitt plays a U.N. rep who travels the globe interviewing survivors of an apocalypse known as World War Z. Here’s hoping director Marc Forster fares better with this than his bungled James Bond endeavor, “Quantum of Solace” (December).