3. Iron Man 3 (May 3)
The Reader’s Digest Version: Everyone’s favorite billionaire playboy crime-fighter must make the choice Batman already made twice: to either protect free society, or protect his girlfriend. Quips ensue.
The cast: Downey, Goopy, Cheadle, Favreau…No big surprises here, except Sir Ben Kingsley as a kimono-wearing creeper named The Mandarin. That particular casting choice seems a bit racially insensitive—but honestly, we should be thankful to receive King Benny in any ridiculous wig they provide him. So long as he soliloquizes. 5/5
The crew: This production is brought to you by the Lethal Weapon writer, the Braveheart cinematographer, and the visual effects army behind Avatar. They are all awesome movies, so given the transitive property of awesomeness, this flick will be awesome too.
Freshness: Hot on the heels of The Avengers (so named because The Tony Stark & Friends Alien Punishment Hour would look cramped on a marquee,) it’s gonna be hard for Marvel to raise the heroic stakes here. But who cares? Iron Man is badass, and therefore he gets a trilogy. That’s Hollywood law.
2. The Great Gatsby (May 10)
The Reader’s Digest Version: It’s 1922, and Jay-Z is booming from every automobile in West Egg. A young man called Nick turns over some advice his father gave him by hanging out with crazy, wealthy adulterers. Jay Gatsby is the craziest, wealthiest of the lot. Exuberance, and vehicular manslaughter ensue.
The cast: Leo may be a bit baby-faced to sell the hardened war hero-turned-zillionaire mystique that Redford gave Gatsby in ’74, but at least it’ll be an easier part on his teeth than his role in Django was. Tobey Maguire will make a fine narrator, and remains one of the most pleasant-to-watch actors working today. The talented Carey Mulligan will have to rev up her repressed energy from Drive to sell the universally lusted-after Daisy. And: Who the heck is Joel Edgerton?
The crew: Baz Luhrmann is the right man to make a movie about excess. He and his cohorts made show-stoppers like Moulin Rouge dazzle bright as a cancan dancer’s smile, stick like her perfume, and explode like her long-neglected liver. There’s no more stylistically defined director working today, except maybe Tarantino. But he would never work here, because there’s no scene where Gatsby turns on his party guests with a samurai sword.
Freshness: This is the fourth feature-film version of Fitzgerald’s shirt-throwing-est novel—but the first one in digital 3D. A mere marketing ploy? Or cutting commentary on the simultaneous excess and narrow-mindedness of our own pleasureful pursuits? Doesn’t matter. 3D is usually lame.
Finally, if you only see one blockbuster this summer, see…
1. Man of Steel (Jun 14)
The Reader’s Digest Version: One day a magical alien baby crash-lands in the countryside. He has terrifying superpowers that could obliterate the Earth, but is raised with good morals because his foster parents probably read a lot of Reader’s Digest. He gets a sweet journalism gig in the city, and protects the world from meaner magical aliens on the side. Patriotism ensues.
The cast: Super. (How could it be anything but?) Henry Cavill as Superman. Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Pa and Ma Kent. Russell Crowe as space Zeus, Jor-El. Michael Shannon as space Hitler, General Zod. Laurence Fishburne as some guy. (Doesn’t matter; Laurence Fishburne.)
The crew: Batman reboot masterminds Chris Nolan and David S. Goyer wrote the story. Hans Zimmer, Mozart of the melodramatic violin pitter-patter, wrote the score. Director Zack Snyder’s films (Watchmen, 300, Sucker Punch) have been inconsistently good, but consistently engaging (via consistently distracting slow-motion.) Expect the most sensuous close-ups of capes and/or American flags slowly flapping in the breeze you’ve ever seen.
Freshness: Another gritty, realistic, Nolan-inspired superhero origin story—sigh. The last Superman reboot came out in 2006, and that at least had a scene of Kevin Spacey screaming in it. The biggest new development here is that Superman’s little red underpants have mysteriously vanished…and we may never find them. The entire Internet is suspect.
And that’s that.