Look, comic book fans. Another comic book icon has come to life, and he's cooler than ever. Or maybe not. For every superhero success story (Spider-Man) there's an equal disaster, a movie so bad and dorky that even fanboys deny its existence. (Remember The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? For your sake, I hope not.)
With a summer full of comic book heroes coming to vibrant, visual effects-induced life, the following is a look at what's in store in the next few months and beyond. The expectations of each movie are rated on a scale of 1 to 10 using the "Geek Meter," an unscientific look at how much the stereotypical comic book fan (an overweight, obsessive nerdy intellectual with no social skills; think Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons) is breathlessly anticipating its arrival.
Iron Man already blasted its way into theaters with nearly $100 million its opening weekend, and is the first of two films Marvel Comics has financed completely on its own. Although the studio doesn't have any releases scheduled for 2009, have no fear: Robert Downey Jr. and friends will be back with Iron Man 2 on April 30, 2010.
There's no need for the Geek Meter rating for the first Iron Man, but the fanfare for the two-years-and-counting sequel will be off the charts: it deserves a Geek Meter score of 9, with room to grow given future casting and story decisions. Now playing
Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
OK, so this wasn't originally a comic book. But executive producer George Lucas has always said the movies were inspired by the Saturday afternoon serial shorts that played before double features at movie theaters in the '30s and '40s, which is the cinema's equivalent to comic books at that time. The Geek Meter here is off the charts: On a scale of 1 to 10, even a score of 11 may be modest. Opens May 22
The Incredible Hulk
This is the second Marvel Comics product (rumor has it Downey makes an appearance as "Iron Man" Tony Stark) to be financed independently, and we can only hope it won't be as boring as Ang Lee's snorefest in 2003. Edward Norton is a nice choice for Bruce Banner, though, and the visual effects look impressive. The problem is the supposed tension between Norton and director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter), which can sometimes lead to a poor end product. A fair Geek Meter score is 6, with the sincere hope that it's as awesome as the Hulk story can be. Opens June 13
Only true fanboys are familiar with the graphic novel, but would you become interested if you knew the movie starred Angelina Jolie as a sexy assassin who recruits and trains James McAvoy's innocent waif to unlock his killer instincts? I thought so. It may strike some as a typical action movie, but given the cast (Morgan Freeman and rapper Common also star) and story it's worth a solid 7 on the Geek Meter. Opens June 27
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Hellboy wasn't a huge hit when it opened in April 2004 (only $59 million), but given that it did well on DVD and Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) is returning to the director's chair, how bad could it be? Geek Meter: A modest 6, which would be much lower if Del Toro weren't involved. Opens July 11
The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger's death has created a great deal of intrigue around Christopher Nolan's follow up to Batman Begins, and rightfully so, as early buzz and trailers show a big glimpse of Ledger's captivating turn as the Joker. Also, Scientologist Katie Holmes as Bruce Wayne's (Christian Bale) girlfriend is out, and the more talented Maggie Gyllenhaal is in the same role. Geek Meter: A legitimate 10, with hope that Ledger's performance is as good as advertised. Opens July 18
OTHER MOVIES TO WATCH FOR:
Director Zack Snyder's follow-up to 300, about a vigilante named Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) who re-connects with his former crime-fighting buddies to find out who's trying to kill superheroes from the past and present. Geek Meter: 7.5. Opens March, 2009
Hugh Jackman returns in the title role in the first of what may be many (a Magneto movie is also in the works) X-Men: Origins movies. Geek Meter: 8. Opens May 2009
Justice League (which includes Batman, Superman, the Flash, Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern)
Geek Meter: If it's cast well and production begins this summer as planned: 9. Until any of that happens: 4. Summer 2009
Blond hair, big muscles and a fearsome warrior? Sounds like Brad Pitt in Troy. Geek Meter: 5. Summer 2010
Sin City 2
The first one was so beyond awesome it's hard not to be excited for the sequel, especially with so many cast members (Jessica Alba, Clive Owen) and director Robert Rodriguez returning. Geek Meter: 8.5. Opens 2010
Captain America, The Avengers
It's a bit early to speculate because both are still in pre-production and no casting decisions have been made. Based on potential and inherent fan interest, Captain America gets a Geek Meter rating of 8, and The Avengers clocks in at 7. Opens Summer 2011
Always remember that whether these movies are good or bad, somewhere, in the deep recesses of his parents' basement, there's a comic book fan spending too much time in the blogosphere looking forward to the next great, geeky thing.