How did Hollywood manage to fit so many of our must-see projects into one year? 2012 features Nolan's last Batman, Whedon's Avengers, Ridley Scott's return to science fiction, Andrew Stanton's John Carter, the Hunger Games movie, and Alfonso Cuaron's space epic. And that's just scratching the surface.
This year, there are 58 genre movies already on the calendar, with another dozen awaiting release dates. Here's our complete guide to science fiction and fantasy movies to watch (or avoid) in 2012.
The Devil Inside (Jan. 6)
Another "found footage" horror film, this one features a mysterious 911 call and a woman who's possessed by not one, but four spirits.
Outlook: It really depends how tired you are of "found footage" movies.
The Divide (Jan. 13)
A group of nine strangers hide out in the basement to survive a nuclear attack. With no hope of ever leaving the basement, they begin to descend into psychosexual madness.
Outlook: It's the most disturbing end-of-the-world movie we've seen in years. Read our review here.
Underworld Awakening (Jan. 20)
Kate Beckinsale wakes up in the future after 12 years in cryo-suspension. Now vampires and lycans face a brand new enemy: humans.
Outlook: Len Wiseman didn't direct this outing, but it could still be entertaining cheese.
The Woman in Black (Feb. 3)
Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, stars in this horror movie, playing a young attorney who faces a vengeful ghost.
Outlook: This film, directed by the writer of The Descent Part 2, has almost no buzz. But we love a spooky ghost story.
Chronicle (Feb. 3)
A group of teenagers gain telekinetic powers, in this "found footage" superhero movie. And judging from the trailer, one of them gets a little bit power-mad.
Outlook: The trailer looked fantastic.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Feb. 10)
In a Brendan Fraser-less sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Rock teams up with Michael Caine to go to an island with giant insects and huge lizards. In 3D! Oh, and Vanessa Hudgens is there.
Outlook: It's The Rock in "family comedy" mode. With cheesetastic special effects.
Perfect Sense (Feb. 10)
The entire world is gripped by an epidemic that takes away your senses, one by one. Meanwhile, a chef (Ewan McGregor) meets a beautiful scientist (Eva Green) and they have loads of sex.
Outlook: It's Ewan McGregor having sex during the apocalypse. Can't see any downside there.
Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance (Feb. 17)
Much like Journey 2, this is a sequel that nobody demanded. This time, Nic Cage is in Europe, and he pees fire.
Outlook: It's directed by Neveldine and Taylor, of Crank and Gamer fame, and by all accounts the action is genuinely nuts.
The Secret World of Arietty (Feb. 17)
The Borrowers, the classic novel about little people who live among us in secret, gets a lavish adaptation by the masterminds at Studio Ghibli.
Outlook: By all accounts, this is not the best Ghibli movie. Still probably better than most non-Ghibli films, though.
Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (March 2)
Speaking of classic books... this is an environmentalist fable loosely based on Seuss' story of a creature with a giant mustache who protects trees.
Outlook: Voice actors like Zac Efron and Danny DeVito seem to be trying too hard, and the latest trailer was kind of obnoxious.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (March 2)
Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star as Hansel and Gretel, all grown up and living as bounty-hunters who kill witches.
Outlook: Renner and Arterton wear awesome black leather outfits and tote big rifles. We're in.
John Carter (March 9)
Now that Brad Bird has rocked as a live-action director with Mission Impossible 4, it's his Pixar comrade Andrew Stanton's turn. Stanton adapts Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic "sword and planet" novels, with a script co-written by Michael Chabon.
Outlook: It's hard to imagine how this could be anything but amazing.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (March 9)
A scientist (Ewan McGregor, again) is forced to take on a ludicrous challenge: introduce salmon to the Yemen, in this adaptation of Paul Torday's novel.
Outlook: The book is a fascinating look at an impossible engineering project, but the movie may be more focused on romance.
The Raven (March 9)
John Cusack stars as fantasy/horror writer Edgar Allen Poe, as he investigates a series of crimes based on his stories.
Outlook: We're not sure how supernatural this film will get, but it looks pleasingly demented.
Silent House (March 9)
A remake of a critically acclaimed Uruguayan horror film, shot in one long take, about a woman trapped in a house. We hear there's a crazy twist ending.
Outlook: Worth seeing just to see a horror movie shot in one continuous take, which sounds nuts.
Mirror Mirror (March 16)
The first of two Snow White films this year, this one features Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen and Phil Collins' daughter as Snow White.
Outlook: The Immortals director Tarsem Singh seems to be unleashing his campiest movie yet.
The Hunger Games (March 23)
It's a post-apocalyptic future, and the United States has become the dystopian Panem, where children battle to the death in a huge arena.
Outlook: If anybody can bring the savage brilliance of Suzanne Collins' novel to life, it might be Pleasantville's Gary Ross.
A Thousand Words (March 23)
Eddie Murphy plays a fast-talking guy who rips off a spiritual guru and is cursed to die after he finishes saying a thousand words.
Outlook: It's from the director of Meet Dave and Norbit.
Wrath of the Titans (March 30)
Sam Worthington is back as Perseus, and this time he has to rescue Zeus from the Underworld.
Outlook: Will it live up to the standard set by the first one? It's hard to imagine.
The Cabin in the Woods (April 13)
This long-delayed film is a subversion of horror tropes by Cloverfield's Drew Goddard, co-written by Joss Whedon. Starring Chris Hemsworth!
Outlook: Self-aware horror with a Whedon touch. And lots of clever twists.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (April 20)
Another apocalyptic romance — this time an asteroid is about to hit Earth, and Steve Carrell takes a road trip to reunite with his high-school sweetheart.
Outlook: The rom-com version of Melancholia?
Lock-Out (April 20)
This Luc Besson-produced film features Guy Pearce doing his best Snake Plissken impression as a guy who has to rescue the president's daughter from an orbital prison riot.
Outlook: Looks like it's trying for a Fifth Element feel.
The Avengers (May 4)
The culmination of all those Marvel superhero films, this one sees a crew of movie stars facing off against Loki, and his friends.
Outlook: There were rumors of budgetary disputes and Robert Downey Jr. diva behavior. But we still expect excellence.
Dark Shadows (May 11)
Tim Burton and Johnny Depp reunite for a movie version of the cult TV series about vampire Barnabas Collins.
Outlook: It really depends whether you feel that Burton and Depp need some time apart.
Battleship (May 18)
The board game you haven't played in years becomes a Transformers-esque action movie about aliens who come down and trap naval vessels in a magic ocean bubble, where they have to fight monsters.
Outlook: A Transformers movie without Michael Bay?
Men in Black III (May 25)
Another sequel nobody asked for. Agent J (Will Smith) has to travel back to the 1960s and meet a young Agent K (Josh Brolin). Expect lots of Yoko-Ono-is-an-alien humor.
Outlook: There were huge rumors of script problems and on-set drama. But the first trailer looked surprisingly fun.
Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1)
The year's second Snow White film, this one features Twilight's Kristen Stewart as an ass-kicking Snow White, and Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman who protects her.
Outlook: We're actually kind of excited for this one. Nick Frost plays a dwarf.
Prometheus (June 8)
Ridley Scott returns to science fiction in this ambiguous Alien prequel. A crew of explorers seeks the origins of humanity, but may find the end of the human race instead.
Outlook: It's Ridley Scott. And he filmed in Iceland. It looks astonishing.
Jack the Giant Killer (June 15)
Another fairy tale movie. Bryan Singer directs this grittier story of a man who journeys into the kingdom of giants to rescue a princess, threatening the peace between humans and giants.
Outlook: We haven't heard much about this film yet, but it's Singer doing action-adventure.
Brave (June 22)
Pixar's first female hero, Merida, goes on a quest in this fairy-tale epic. Merida defies custom and makes a mistake that nearly unleashes chaos on the land.
Outlook: This film switched directors halfway through. But it still looks lovely. Fingers crossed.
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (June 22)
One of our greatest presidents is revealed as a slayer of our greatest monsters, in this adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's book.
Outlook: Directed by Wanted/Night Watch helmer Timur Bekmambetov. Really all you need to know.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29)
And yet another sequel nobody asked for. But this time, Bruce Willis plays the eponymous Joe. And the master of disguise, Zartan, is trying to take over the world's leaders.
Outlook: Directed by Jon M. Chu, who gave us The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. So it could be something special.
The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3)
Spider-Man's origin gets retold, just six years after the last Spidey movie. This time he faces the Lizard, and meets Gwen Stacey.
Outlook: Director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) might actually bring a new wit and humanity to the wall-crawler.
Ted (July 13)
Seth McFarlane's directorial debut, this film follows a guy who wished for his teddy bear to come alive. The wish was granted, and now he's an adult with a living teddy bear.
Outlook: Could be cute. It's a neat premise.
The Dark Knight Rises (July 20)
The conclusion of Chris Nolan's epic Batman trilogy. Bane demolishes football fields, Catwoman spouts Occupy Wall Street rhetoric, and Bruce Wayne gets pretty messed up. And that's just the trailer.
Outlook: Nolan's literally never let us down. And this looks like his most insane movie yet.
Neighborhood Watch (July 27)
Ben Stiller (and more importantly The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade) are suburban dads on a neighborhood watch, when aliens attack.
Outlook: Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Probably pretty cute.
Total Recall (Aug 3)
Underworld's Len Wiseman directs a remake of the Paul Verhoeven film, in which we never go to Mars. Instead, the nations of Euromerica and New Shanghai battle, and Colin Farrell is caught in the middle.
Outlook: It didn't wow us at Comic-Con. But it's got cool flying cars, and probably some fun action.
Warm Bodies (Aug 10)
A zombie falls in love with a human, in this adaptation of Isaac Marion's novel. And their love could change everything.
Outlook: From the director of 50/50, with a cast that includes Rob Corddry and John Malkovich.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Aug 15)
The "dirt baby" movie. A childless couple (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) bury a box full of their wishes for a child — and then one arrives, but he turns out to be more magical than they realized.
Outlook: The trailer looked kind of creepy.
Paranorman (Aug 17)
A boy who can speak with the dead tries to save his town from an ancient curse after it's besieged by the undead.
Outlook: From the studio that created Coraline, co-directed by the director of Flushed Away.
The Apparition (Aug 24)
A college experiment unleashes a ghostly presence that haunts a young couple, and only an expert in the supernatural (Tom Felton) can save them.
Outlook: We're kind of excited to see Draco Malfoy fighting ghosts.
7500 (Aug 31)
A trans-Pacific flight gets haunted by a supernatural presence, in this film by director Takashi Shimizu, co-starring True Blood's Ryan Kwanten.
Outlook: Get these motherfucking ghosts off this motherfucking plane! Sorry, had to say it.
The Possession (Aug 31)
In this film formerly known as Dybbuk Box, a couple inherit a box containing something evil.
Outlook: The small sub-genre of Jewish horror gains one more entry. L'chaim.
Resident Evil: Retribution (Sept. 14)
A fifth movie in the post-apocalyptic zombie-fighting saga, this one features the Las Plagas parasite, which allows the undead to ride motorcycles and shoot machine guns.
Outlook: Zombies on motorcycles! Paul W.S. Anderson returns as writer/director. This one seems rushed to theaters.
Dredd (Sept. 21)
Mega City One's greatest lawman finally gets a serious film, with Karl Urban as a Dredd who never takes his helmet off. Sarah Connor and Cersei Lannister, aka Lena Headey, is the villain.
Outlook: The draft script was fun but nothing special. But the look of the film is picture-perfect, and script drafts can change.
Hotel Transylvania (Sept. 21)
Dracula is running a resort where the Invisible Man and Frankenstein's monster hang out. But a teenage boy stumbles on the place and falls for Dracula's teen-age daughter.
Outlook: Genndy Tartakovsky directs. On the other hand, Adam Sandler voices Dracula.
Looper (Sept. 28)
This time-travel movie, directed by Brick's Rian Johnson, features Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hitman who has to deal with his own future self (Bruce Willis).
Outlook: It looks like noir perfection. Johnson got the money to finish the film from Chinese co-investors, so the movie was reportedly tweaked to make this a future where China is a superpower.
Frankenweenie (Oct. 5)
The full-length version of Tim Burton's cult short movie about an undead dog.
Outlook: Expect campy horror gothiness.
Halloween III (Oct. 26)
Yet another Michael Myers film, this time with no involvement from Rob Zombie.
Outlook: From the director of Drive Angry. So, you know, could be nuts in a good way.
Red Dawn (Nov. 2)
Another long-delayed film, this one takes place in a near future when an unnamed Asian country invades the United States.
Outlook: Hard to imagine how 1980s paranoia could be updated in a satisfying way.
Skyfall (Nov. 9)
The latest James Bond film sees Bond (Daniel Craig) questioning his loyalty to M (Judy Dench) as MI6 features a huge new threat. Javier Bardem plays a mysterious villain.
Outlook: Sam Mendes (American Beauty) is directing. So fingers crossed!
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (Nov. 16)
At last, it ends. Bella's already had her mutant baby in Part 1, and now we see the fallout of Bella becoming a vampire and Jacob falling in love with a baby.
Outlook: Part 1 was kind of a letdown, but maybe Part 2 will restore our faith in director Bill Condon.
Rise of the Guardians (Nov. 21)
Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost and the Sandman team up to save the world from the Bogeyman.
Outlook: Based on the book by William Joyce, with Alec Baldwin voicing Santa Claus. Could be fun.
47 Ronin (Nov. 21)
One of the all-time great Japanese films gets a fantasy reimagining, full of witches and monsters.
Outlook: Director Carl Erik Rinsch blew our minds with his short film The Gift, and this is his chance to shine.
Gravity (Nov. 21)
Sandra Bullock stars in Alfonso Cuaron's epic about a woman who's trapped in space after a space shuttle accident. George Clooney co-stars.
Outlook: The Children of Men director has a new, space-bound version of his "one long take" shot which sounds astonishing. This could be actual science fiction Oscar-bait.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14)
Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth, in the first half of an adaptation of Tolkien's classic quest novel.
Outlook: The first trailer was the stuff of dreams. And Martin Freeman looks perfect as Bilbo Baggins.
World War Z (Dec. 21)
Brad Pitt stars in an adaptation of Max Brooks' novel, playing a United Nations employee who races around the world trying to stop a zombie pandemic.
Outlook: They're making some pretty huge changes to the book, so fingers crossed.
Life of Pi (Dec. 21)
Yann Martel's magical-realist novel about a boy trapped on a raft with zoo animals gets a movie version from Ang Lee.
Outlook: If they keep the carnivorous islands and other weird stuff, it could be seriously insane.
NO RELEASE DATE
The Sound of My Voice
Brit Marling plays a cult leader who claims to come from the future.
Outlook: It's possibly the most acclaimed film from Sundance 2011.
This time, the giant piranhas are attacking a water park. They're insisting this will get a theatrical release after all.
Outlook: The title says it all, really.
David Cronenberg's son Brandon directs this weird film about people who smuggle viruses harvested from sick celebrities.
Outlook: It looks fascinatingly Cronenbergian.
Mars et Avril
A French-Canadian film about the one person who refuses to leave Earth for Mars.
Outlook: The first trailer was beautiful and super-weird.
Paranormal Activity 4
Just announced, probably coming in October. The cash registers continue to ring.
Outlook: We liked PA3 more than PA2, but is there any place left to go with this saga?
Another magical realism novel — this one by Salman Rushdie — gets a big adaptation. Probably coming in October.
Outlook: Directed by one of our favorite Indian directors, Deepa Mehta (Fire, Water, Earth).
Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess are lovers whose worlds are literally opposite, thanks to a weird gravitational quirk.
Outlook: "Quirky" is pretty much the only word. But the first trailer was pretty to look at.
Dorothy of Oz
Glee's Lea Michele voices Dorothy in this animated film, which was previewed at Comic Con but has had zero buzz since.
Outlook: The voice cast includes Dan Aykroyd, Kelsey Grammer and Patrick Stewart. Could be fun.
The thrilling "Nazis on the Moon" film that we've been drooling over. Coming out April 4 in Finland, and hopefully sometime in the U.S.
Outlook: The concept art is stunning, and the screenplay is by Tiptree Award-winning novelist Johanna Sinisalo.
The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer team up to adapt David Mitchell's six-segmented, time-spanning novel. Probably coming in October.
Outlook: The first still and concept art looked amazing.
Atlas Shrugged, Part 2
The second half of the Ayn Rand adaptation, in which we discover just who John Galt really is.
Outlook: The first one was a "so bad it's wonderful" masterpiece.
Amityville Horror: The Lost Tapes
A sequel to the original film (not the remake.) An ambitious reporter leads a clergyman and other witnesses to investigate the notorious haunted house legend. Delayed from Jan. 2012.
Outlook: Sounds like a Paranormal Activity wannabe, with added brand recognition.