Comic book superheroes are all set to wield their powers to benefit Hollywood this summer. After Iron Man netted a tidy sum of $350 million (Dh1.28 billion) at the worldwide box office this month – and is still flying high – the next few months will open doors to an enraged green beast, a red-faced monster from hell and even a knight in bat's clothing.
But it's a tough call when deciding which genetic marvel will take the lead at the box-office, as the hunt for the season's best on-screen hero doesn't simply end there. The new-age leading man is giving these comic juggernauts a run for their money, especially when they take the form of Indiana Jones, Prince Caspian and a Kung Fu-fighting panda.
Industry pundits are already predicting that Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will rake in as much as $252m in the United States alone, the most of any summer film, according to the Hollywood Stock Exchange. This would closely edge out Iron Man's American collection, which has brought in about $228m to date.
However, these top contenders still have to survive the might of The Dark Knight. The batman sequel, which stars Christian Bale as Batman and late Heath Ledger as the Joker, is expected to rake in $200m at the US box office. But with its combined international earnings, the bat may be the first one to fly to the finish line in this season's race.
While you pick your favourite superhero of the summer, Emirates Business runs down the films that will set the box-office ablaze over the next few months.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – out now
Stars: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett and Karen Allen
The plot: Set in 1957, Indy is under investigation by the United States Government and is being stripped of his title at Marshall College. A chance encounter with a greaser has our whip-yielding superhero hunting in the forbidding jungles of Peru for a magical crystal skull, which will give him psychic powers. Blanchett plays a Soviet Spy, while Shia LaBeouf is Indy's greedy sidekick.
Budget: About $150m.
Why we love it? It's Indy. And after a string of duds, director Steven Spielberg has teamed up with producer George Lucas and these two geniuses together can only wow us.
Weaknesses: At 65, Ford is just not cut out to be a superhero and LaBeouf is too young to carry this film alone.
Expected outcome: With its Memorial Day opening in the US, a massive marketing campaign and a loyal Indy fan base, this film is on its way to becoming the summer's biggest hit.
Sex and the City – May 30
Stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon and Kristen Davis
The plot: Carrie and the girls are back in Prada and trawling the streets of New York in their Jimmy Choos – with a 'Big' wedding on the cards. But will Carrie and Mr Big tie the knot? Director Michael Patrick King sneakily shot two endings – the 'I dos' and the jilted scenario.
Budget: About $65m
Why we love it? What's not to love? There's Prada, loads of Jimmy Choos, scandals and metrosexuality.
Weaknesses: After so much bad press about the cat fights on the sets, the camaraderie in the film just won't have the same zing.
Expected outcome: Aimed directly at the new-age woman and metrosexuals, the film will be big in major metros and overseas.
Prince Caspian – June 5
Stars: Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes
The plot: The sequel to 2005's The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe takes the Pevensie kids back to the magical world of Narnia as Prince Caspian (Barnes) fights the good fight to win back his throne.
Budget: About (gasp!) $300m.
Why we love it? You mean, hunky newcomer Barnes isn't enough? Well, if you grew up on a diet of CS Lewis' children fantasy series, then you will tag along with the Pevensie siblings for this fairy tale ride.
Weaknesses: Disney's first serving in the series brought on the yawns 30 minutes into the film. This epic is expected to be even longer than its predecessor's 143 minutes.
Expected outcome: The film targets a younger audience, which means big bucks in the world of cinema.
You Don't Mess with the Zohan – June 5
Stars: Adam Sandler and
The plot: What's a summer without a comedy and Adam Sandler pulls out all stops as a commando who moves to Manhattan to become a hairstylist. Yes, you read it right.
Budget: About $75m
Why we love it? It's Sandler for one, and he has also co-written the script with Saturday Night Live's Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow. How wrong can they go?
Weaknesses: It also stars singer Mariah Carey – need we say more?
Expected outcome: Do we really care?
Kung Fu Panda – June 12
Stars: [The voices of] Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Ian McShane
The plot: The first CG-animated film of the summer is set in the legendary world of ancient China. Po (Black) the panda must become a Kung Fu master to save the Valley of the Peace from a villainous snow leopard.
Budget: About $70m
Why we love it? Aside from a stellar voiceover cast, the movie is being released in Imax.
Weaknesses: None really.
Expected outcome: It's the next Ratatouille.
The Incredible Hulk – June 12
Stars: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William Hurt
The plot: Edward Norton goes green this time round as the Incredible Hulk. And when he is not stressed out, his Dr Jekyll persona sees him as scientist Bruce Banner. While on the run from the military, Banner is now close to a cure to rid himself of his Hulk side but all is lost when a new creature emerges – The Abomination. Also, expect Robert
Downey Jr's Iron Man to make a
Budget: About $125m
Why we love it? After the fantastic Iron Man earlier this month, Marvel is also producing this film. So we can actually expect a story.
Weaknesses: Norton is a brilliant actor, but definitely not superhero material. Also, director Ang Lee's 2003 debacle with The Hulk is still fresh in our minds and it will take a gargantuan effort to convince us to sit through a second coming.
Expected outcome: Unless backed by an exceptional marketing campaign, the box-office will probably nose dive in the second week. But the film may recover its losses overseas.
Wall-E – June 26
Stars: Ben Burtt, Sigourney Weaver
The plot: Set in year 2700, Wall-E is a 700-year-old trash-collecting robot who must save a planet unable to sustain mankind.
Budget: About $150m
Why we love it? The Pixar gang are back at what they do best, and they have also roped in director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) to work his incredible magic. Clearly a winning combination.
Weaknesses: We don't need another tirade on how humanity is destroying earth.
Expected outcome: The kids will love it; it will give Kung Fu Panda a run for its money.
Hancock – July 3
Stars: Will Smith and Charlize Theron
The plot: Smith plays Hancock, an out-of-work superhero who hires a PR guru to restore his image to its former glory.
Budget: About $150m
Why we love it? Smith's track record for hitting the jackpot with US Independence Day releases is legendary, be it Independence Day, Men in Black or Bad Boys.
Weaknesses: Smith's I Am Legend was weak at best. And director Peter Berg didn't exactly have the cash registers ringing with The Kingdom.
Expected outcome: It's Will Smith and US audiences usually have nothing better to do on Independence Day than watch the fireworks display and head to the movies.
Hellboy II - The Golden Army – July 10
Stars: Ron Perlman and Selma Blair
The plot: The mythical world starts a rebellion against humanity in order to rule the Earth, so Hellboy (Perlman) and his team return to save mankind.
Budget: About $85m
Why we love it? Mexican director Guillermo del Toro is in the director's chair. After winning awards and accolades for Pan's Labyrinth, this one is sure to be interesting.
Weaknesses: The first film was hardly a winner and sandwiched between Hancock and The Dark Knight, can Hellboy II stand its ground in the box-office fight?
Expected outcome: The film will take a beating at the box office, thanks to Hellboy's rather limited fan base and the audience being pulled to The Dark Knight in the second week of release.
The Dark Knight – July 17
Stars: Christian Bale, late Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal
The plot: Bale dons his Bat Suit yet again to go up against the Joker (Ledger) and district attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart), who comes between Batman and assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes (Gyllenhaal, taking over from Katie Holmes).
Why we love it? Batman Begins was arguably the best superhero film ever made. This one can only do better, especially when the sequel boasts a new Bat Suit, a state-of-the-art new Bat Pod and action scenes filmed specifically for Imax. Plus, this is Ledger's last film with reportedly an award-winning performance.
Weaknesses: Sequels rarely live up to the original's hype, like Spider-Man 3.
Expected outcome: As Ledger's last film, fans will come out in droves. It will probably be the second biggest hit of the summer this year.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe – July 24
Stars: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson
The plot: Fox Mulder (Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Anderson) have retired from the FBI, but they return one last time to uncover a series of mysterious abductions in Virginia.
Budget: About $35m
Why we love it? After creator Chris Carter left audiences hanging about the Mulder-Scully romance when the television show ended six years ago, fans will want to know if the duo end up together.
Weaknesses: The X-Files is so last season. After six years, can we please move on to another story?
Expected outcome: X-philes (fans of The X-Files) will not miss the opportunity to book a seat in the cinemas. The rest of the audience will hardly care who lives and who dies, (oops… did we give the plot away?)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor – August 7
Stars: Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh
The plot: Fraser returns as explorer Rick O'Connell to combat the resurrected Han Emperor (Jet Li).
Why we love it? Directed by Rob
Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, xXx), we think the action sequences will pack a serious punch.
Weaknesses: After three films of the series, audiences may be growing tired of the bandaged evil on the loose.
Expected outcome: American audiences may give it a lukewarm response, but the emerging markets – especially China and India – will love it.
Tropic Thunder – August 18
Stars: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr and Nick Nolte
The plot: Through a series of freak occurrences, a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying.
Budget: About $100m
Why we love it? It's directed by Ben Stiller, so we can expect great entertainment all the way. Plus, hot on the heels of Iron Man, Downey Jr returns to the big screen.
Weaknesses: Stiller's Zoolander, which came out in 2001, wasn't technically tasteful. We aren't sure if Stiller can handle such a big budget project on his own.
Expected outcome: The film will attract fans of the Frat Pack and will hit big with only Mamma Mia competing with it that week.
Mamma Mia – August 18
Stars: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters
The plot: One daughter, three possible dads and a trip down the aisle you'll never forget.
Budget: About $90m
Why we love it? The feature-film adaptation of the beloved musical has been seen by more than 30 million people around the world. Add to that the timeless music by Abba.
Weaknesses: Not many people will easily sit through a musical in this day and age – unless you're a fan of Bollywood movies – or the film version of Chicago. Besides, not everyone loves Abba.
Expected outcome: Fans of 1970s kitsch certainly won't give this film a miss.
(All UAE release dates are subject to change)