Heroes and monsters kick off summer movie season

(Photo courtesy of Marvel) (Photo courtesy of Marvel)

Although spring started less than a month ago, movie theaters across the country have already begun preparing for the ever-expanding summer movie season. With school out of session, summer is the most profitable time of the year at the box office, leading studios to release their biggest, most highly anticipated films in rapid succession. In order to lessen the risk of cannibalizing the market, what constitutes "summer" has spread out across over four months, starting with the beginning of May and ending in late August.

Since the 2002 release of "Spider-Man," the first weekend of May has signaled the start of summer, with other superhero films like "Thor" and "The Avengers" following its example. This year, it is especially difficult to pinpoint just when the season of effects-driven action adventure tentpoles begins. With the unprecedented April release of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and the overwhelming success of young adult adaptation "Divergent," moviegoers have already started heading to theaters in droves to see movies typically reserved for the summer months.

In the tradition of its predecessors, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" staked claim to the first weekend of movie summer. Directed by Marc Webb, who directed the first film in the rebooted franchise starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, returns to the helm. The critical response has been stronger than the first film, with critics such as Leslie Felperin of The Hollywood Reporter saying it "is emotionally weightier and more satisfying than its predecessor." Coming in at two hours and 22 minutes, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" swings into theaters on May 2.



Spider-Man is not the only Marvel superhero franchise coming to theaters in the month of May. "X-Men: Days of Future Past" combines the beloved characters of the original X-Men trilogy with their younger selves from the recently released prequel "X-Men: First Class." The series is already known for being particularly ambitious for its usage of dozens of mutant heroes. Now that there are almost double the amount of principal characters, director Bryan Singer ("X2: X-Men United") returns to guide what is easily the biggest X-Men film yet. "X-Men: Days of Future Past" releases on May 23.

(Photo courtesy of Marvel) (Photo courtesy of Marvel)

Two beloved franchises are being reimagined for contemporary audiences this May. "Godzilla," featuring an impressive ensemble cast including Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen, is the first depiction of the legendary Japanese monster since the reviled 1998 film of the same name. Directed by Gareth Edwards ("Monsters"), the film promises to be a story-driven action drama set in the face of destruction only one of fiction's most recognizable monsters could produce. "Godzilla" smashes into theaters May 16.

In a dark departure from the classic tale "Sleeping Beauty," Angelina Jolie stars in "Maleficent." Directed by veteran special effects artist Robert Stromberg ("Avatar"), "Maleficent" takes a cue from "Wicked" and takes the perspective of the titular villain, depicting a familiar story from an alternate point of view. This is Jolie's first live-action film since 2010's "The Tourist" and one of the summer's only female-driven blockbusters. Co-starring Elle Fanning and Juno Temple, "Maleficent" will debut on May 30.

Reach the reporter at zheltzel@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @zachheltzel

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