It was hard not to feel a bit miffed at the multiplexes last year, what with the nonstop glut of comic-book cash-ins, dull kiddie flicks and unnecessary sequels. Thankfully, 2012 is looking to be one of the more memorable movie years on record, with plenty of big directors returning and no shortage of films for actual, you know, grown-ups.
We begin with Tim Burton’s adaptation of the 1960s cult TV soap Dark Shadows (May 11), about a forlorn 18th-century vampire (played, appropriately enough, by the age-defying Johnny Depp) who’s sprung from his coffin in 1972, only to find that his new housemates—including Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter—may be even spookier than he is. Also being revived that day: Sacha Baron Cohen, who’ll attempt to make up for the boondoggle that was Brüno with The Dictator, in which he stars as a Hussein-in-the-brain Middle Eastern despot trying to win friends abroad while squelching democracy at home.
For those who prefer their comedy on the drier side, there’s Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (May 25), the writer-director’s first live-action film in five years. Starring Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton and frequent Anderson player Bill Murray, Kingdom tells the story of two love-struck adolescents who attempt to run away from their 1960s New England town. Then there’s Ridley Scott’s much-anticipated Prometheus (June 8), starring Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender facing down a deadly outer-space species, which might be a prequel to the director’s 1979 Alien.
Speaking of mysterious creatures, Tom Cruise plays a hair-metal demigod in Rock of Ages (June 15), an adaptation of the eponymous Broadway musical set in the ’80s, with songs by such hard-rock icons as Twisted Sister, Def Leppard and, uh, Jefferson Starship. Another film that promises plenty of skintight outfits and over-the-top theatrics is The Dark Knight Rises (July 20), in which Christian Bale dons the scowl-cowl to tussle with Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and Bane (Tom Hardy) and save Gotham. After all, he built this city!
There will be superheroics of another kind in The Bourne Legacy (August 3), as Jeremy Renner bravely attempts to continue Matt Damon’s insanely popular action-film franchise, playing the newest recruit in a top-secret program. Ben Affleck, Renner’s costar in 2010’s The Town, directs and stars in Argo (September 14), about the U.S. government’s daring 1979 attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran.
Also digging into the past are Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz, who come together in a remake of the beloved 1966 caper comedy Gambit, which trails an art curator and a Texan steer roper as they con a wealthy collector (this new version—release date yet to be announced—is written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen). But the year’s most intriguingly nervy film may just be Baz Luhrmann’s 3-D adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (December 25). With Leonardo DiCaprio as the not-so-great social climber, Carey Mulligan as his beloved Daisy and Tobey Maguire as third-wheel Nick Carraway, Gatsby looks to be a strange mix of Jazz Age storytelling and space-age effects. Will it be beautiful or damned? Hard to say. Either way, we won’t have to worry about a sequel.