Roll up, it's showtime


Hugh Jackman on set of the new Wolverine movie being filmed in Picton.

Hugh Jackman on set of the new Wolverine movie being filmed in Picton.

Henry Cavill dons the blue tights as Superman/Clark Kent in the 2013 movie Man of Steel.

Henry Cavill dons the blue tights as Superman/Clark Kent in the 2013 movie Man of Steel.

In the wake of a blockbuster 2012 at the global box office for such big-budget comic book adaptations as The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man, the major Hollywood studios are unleashing another array of caped, cowled and costumed crusaders this year.

There's more Iron Man and Thor in store from the Marvel Comics stable, with Robert Downey jnr's third outing as the armoured Avenger (out in April) and Chris Hemsworth's second outing as the God of Thunder (due in November) helping to set the scene for The Avengers 2 in 2015.

Also this year, Hugh Jackman will swap showtunes for muttonchops and mutant claws in X-Men spin-off The Wolverine (July) and Jim Carrey joins the vicious fun of satirising superheroes in Kick-Ass 2 (August). But the man in tights under the most pressure to perform in 2013 is the original comic-book hero: Superman.

Banking on a hit with the franchise potential of its Harry Potter and Batman series, Warner Bros is desperately hoping that its $225 million ''origin'' saga Man of Steel - releasing worldwide in June - goes the way of Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (2005) and not Bryan Singer's Australian-shot Superman Returns (2006).

Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) and with Nolan conspicuously credited as a producer, Man of Steel stars Henry Cavill (from TV's The Tudors) as Clark Kent, Russell Crowe as his father Jor-El, Kevin Costner and Dianne Lane as his adoptive parents, Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Michael Shannon as the evil General Zod.

While the superheroes will mostly cover old ground, science-fiction movies will be plotting a new course with some of the year's most original storylines.

Of course, there's the hotly anticipated Star Trek sequel Into Darkness (May) but there's also Tron Legacy director Joseph Kosinski's futuristic Tom Cruise mystery Oblivion (April), Guillermo del Toro's giant-robots-versus-giant-monsters smackdown Pacific Rim (July), District 9 director Neill Blomkamp's 2159-set class warfare tale Elysium starring Matt Damon (August), the adaptation of Orson Scott Card's child warriors novel Ender's Game (November) and M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth, with Will and Jaden Smith marooned on a planet (June).

Space also provides the setting for Gravity, which has astronauts Sandra Bullock and George Clooney floating away from their destroyed shuttle tethered together by a shared oxygen tube.

Written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, of Children of Men acclaim, Gravity promises breathtaking suspense. It's due in cinemas in October.

Studios banking on films with built-in fan bases to boost box office returns have a long queue of sequels, prequels and remakes lined up this year.

They include the sixth lap for The Fast and the Furious (June), Bruce Willis's fifth Die Hard (A Good Day To Die Hard, in March), Scary Movie 5 (April), The Hangover Part III (May) and more superannuated spy-jinks with Helen Mirren in Red 2 (August).

Other second comings: the family friendly Despicable Me 2 (June), The Smurfs 2 (September) and The Muppets 2 (with Ricky Gervais, reportedly in December); GI Joe 2 (March); 300: Rise of an Empire, with Aussie Sullivan Stapleton in the lead (August); Insidious 2 (September); Sin City 2 (October); The Hunger Games 2 (November); and Anchorman: The Legend Continues (December).

Prequels include Oz: The Great and Powerful (March) and Pixar's Monsters University (June), which takes Monsters Inc. pals Sulley and Mike back to their student days.

Remakes include The Sweeney (February), costume dramas Anna Karenina (February) and Great Expectations (March), Boys Don't Cry director Kimberly Peirce's update of classic horror Carrie (March), a new Evil Dead (May), Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby (May) and Spike Lee's version of cryptic Korean hit Oldboy, with Josh Brolin starring (October).

Also riding again: The Lone Ranger (July), with Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski at the reins and Johnny Depp playing Tonto.

Les Miserables co-stars Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman each have crime dramas slated for release: Crowe's Broken City, with Mark Wahlberg (March); and Jackman's Prisoners, with Jake Gyllenhaal (September).

Other Australian exports pop up, from Jacki Weaver as Robert de Niro's wife in The Silver Linings Playbook (January 31) to Rose Byrne and Simon Baker in rom-com I Give It a Year (February), Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman in creepy mystery Stoker (March), Isla Fisher in Now You See Me (June) and Rebel Wilson in Pain & Gain (August).

Fanboy buzz is already building for four twisted tales laced with dark humour and violence:

■ The 3D action fantasy Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (February), starring Jeremy Renner (from The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy) and Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans) as crossbow-toting supernatural bounty hunters, could go either way - hit like 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman or miss, such as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

■ The promisingly Zombieland-looking zombie rom-com Warm Bodies (April) has Nicholas Hoult's undead heart skipping a beat for Aussie Teresa Palmer.

■ Also undead is Ryan Reynolds in R.I.P.D. (September), about a squad of slain police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department.

■ And Machete Kills, Robert Rodriguez's sequel to his bloody 2010 B-movie Machete, promises Mel Gibson as the villain and Charlie Sheen as the US president, though an Australian release date has not been confirmed.

The Internet Movie Database is also tipping late-2013 releases for three sure-fire contenders at next year's Oscars:

Twelve Years a Slave is Hunger and Shame director Steve McQueen's true story of a black man born free in New York, kidnapped in Washington DC in 1841 and made to work as a slave in a Louisiana cotton plantation for 12 years. Stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Brad Pitt.

The Counsellor, a Ridley Scott thriller, scripted by Cormac McCarthy, about a lawyer (Michael Fassbender) tangled in drug trafficking. Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz also star.

The Wolf of Wall Street, a Martin Scorsese crime drama starring who else but Leonardo DiCaprio as a stockbroker tangled in corporate fraud. Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey and The Artist's Jean Dujardin also star.

This story Roll up, it's showtime first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.