Scores of superheroes, sequels are coming to the big screen in 2018

2017 may not have been the greatest year for movies at the box office, but that hasn't deterred the big studios from launching the same kinds of films in 2018 -- led by lots of superheroes, not unlike most years this past decade.

And who can blame Hollywood? Three of last year's top five films, five of the top 10, and seven of the most popular 13 were comic-book adaptations.

So it's no wonder 2018's most anticipated movie has more costumed characters than you can sanely count crammed into a single feature. In fact, "Avengers: Infinity War" is so overstuffed with Marvel men, women and alien species that it already has a sequel planned for 2019 to handle the spillover.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in the umpteenth remake of  A Star is Born,  this time with a country-music twist.
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in the umpteenth remake of A Star is Born, this time with a country-music twist.

Two more movies also will land in the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year: the Afrocentric "Black Panther" and "Ant-Man and the Wasp," which adds Evangeline Lilly's flying crime-fighter to Paul Rudd's micro-adventures.

Not to be outdone by the Disney MCU, which will soon absorb it, Fox's X-Men-based Marvel unit also has three movies on the slate for this year: "The New Mutants," "Deadpool 2" (with "Infinity Wars' " Thanos, Josh Brolin, doing double villain duty as Cable) and "X-Men: Dark Phoenix."

And Sony says, "Hey, we still control some Marvel characters, too," with Tom Hardy as the Spider-Man antagonist-turned-antihero "Venom."

As for dark, benighted DC, Warner Bros.


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didn't have enough time to make 20 "Wonder Woman" sequels after the fall's "Justice League" fizzle, so all they've got coming in 2018 is an "Aquaman" feature and the animated musical "Teen Titans GO! To the Movies."

Considering how much audiences prefer the Avengers superteam above all others, this may be the first year in which a Marvel movie beats a Lucasfilm in the box-office race.

While there will certainly be interest in the early adventures of "Solo: A Star Wars Story," that movie's troubled production history and some negative fan reaction to "The Last Jedi" could hamper the box-office performance of the Harrison Ford-less space-cowboy saga.

Nonetheless, "Solo" should still be the biggest science-fiction film of 2018, but it will hopefully have great competition on that front, too. With such brilliant 2017 fantasy movies as "The Shape of Water," "Get Out" and "Blade Runner 2049" still resonating, our expectations deserve to be high for Alex Garland's "Annihilation," Ava DuVernay's "A Wrinkle in Time," Steven Spielberg's "Ready Player One," J.A.

 The Incredibles 2
The Incredibles 2
Bayona's "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," John Krasinski's "A Quiet Place," Robert Rodriguez's "Alita: Battle Angel," Rupert Wyatt's "Captive State," Shane Black's reboot "The Predator," Luca Guadagnino's remake of "Suspiria," the Peter Jackson scripted-and-produced "Mortal Engines," Claire Denis' "High Life" and the "God Particle" addition to the "Cloverfield" series.

Less discerning fantasy fans might still expect to get a charge out of "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," Dwayne Johnson also fighting fantastic beasts in "Rampage," "Maze Runner: The Death Cure," "Pacific Rim Uprising, "Tomb Raider" rebooted with Alicia Vikander, a more live-action "Jungle Book" movie than the last one (maybe called "Mowgli"), that magical nanny in "Mary Poppins Returns," Jamie Lee Curtis back in what is being billed as her final confrontation with Michael Myers in another "Halloween," and for any remaining Transformers fans, "Bumblebee.

Jason Clarke as a young Ted Kennedy in  Chappaquiddick
Jason Clarke as a young Ted Kennedy in Chappaquiddick
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Those who prefer their action and intrigue at least marginally capable of occurring in the real world may want to check out Jennifer Lawrence as Russian agent "Red Sparrow," Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and five more lady heist artists in "Ocean's 8," more female outlaws in Steve "12 Years a Slave" McQueen's "Widows," Claire Foy from "The Crown" as the new outside-the-law hacker Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl in the Spider's Web," Tom Cruise back in "Mission: Impossible 6," Denzel Washington back as "The Equalizer 2," the very busy Brolin returning along with Benicio Del Toro for "Sicario 2: Soldado," and the also hard-working Johnson doing rescuey things in a burning Chinese "Skyscraper.

Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus and Rooney Mara as  Mary Magdelene.
Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus and Rooney Mara as Mary Magdelene.
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Prefer reality in your "realistic" films? Some noted talents will attempt to oblige.

Clint Eastwood restages the thwarted terrorist train attack on "The 15:17 to Paris" with the three actual Americans who saved the day playing themselves. Chris Hemsworth leads another "12 Strong" U.S. military types (all portrayed by actors this time, though it's also based on a true story) against the Taliban in the early days of the Afghanistan invasion. "La La Land" director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling do astronaut Neil Armstrong, the "First Man" on the moon. Christian Bale plays former Vice President Dick Cheney in "Backseat" for Adam McKay ("The Big Short"). And the incident that sank Sen. Ted Kennedy's presidential ambitions is recounted in "Chappaquiddick."

When it comes to royalty, Saoirse Ronan plays "Mary, Queen of Scots," Emma Stone is Queen Anne's "The Favourite," and Rami Malek is rock royalty Freddie Mercury of Queen in "Bohemian Rhapsody." If it's released this year, we might even get an "Outlaw King," with Chris Pine as Scotland's Robert the Bruce.

Other great and/or shady ladies getting the biopic treatment include Felicity Jones' Ruth Bader Ginsburg ("On the Basis of Sex"), Melissa McCarthy's autograph-forger Lee Israel ("Can You Ever Forgive Me?") and a Rooney Mara "Mary Magdalene" (with a Joaquin Phoenix Jesus).

Phoenix, by the way, is another in-demand actor, playing paralyzed artist John Callahan in Gus Van Sant's "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot," headlining Lynne Ramsay's fictional drama "You Were Never Really Here," and co-starring with John C. Reilly as "The Sisters Brothers" in Jacques Audiard's adaptation of the acclaimed Western novel. Hey, Brolin, quit slacking!

Along with the renowned auteurs just mentioned, writer-director Alfonso Cuaron studies a middle-class Mexican family in "Roma," Lars von Trier gets around to tackling serial killers (how has it taken him this long?) with "The House That Jack Built," Spike Lee will tell us the true story of a "Black Klansman" and Barry Jenkins of "Moonlight" fame adapts the James Baldwin novel "If Beale Street Could Talk." Other acclaimed works of fiction that have been movie-ized include Ian McEwan's "On Chesil Beach" and Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull," both with Ireland's answer to Joaquin Brolin, Saoirse Ronan.

If you get a hankering for lighter fare, some of these 2018 comedies may turn out to be funny. "I Feel Pretty" with Amy Schumer; "The Spy Who Dumped Me" starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon; "Tully," which reunites Charlize Theron of "Young Adults" with writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman; Melissa McCarthy in "Life of the Party"; gender-reversed remakes of "Overboard," with Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez, and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (called "Nasty Women"), with Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson; "Night School," featuring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish; and Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly together again as "Holmes and Watson."

The most guaranteed laughs in 2018, of course, will come courtesy of "Fifty Shades Freed."

For musicals, we've got the umpteenth remake of "A Star is Born," this time in a country-music setting with Bradley Cooper (who also directed) and Lady Gaga. Also keeping things unoriginal is "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again."

And while the big animated feature draws of 2018 are all about going back to the same (mostly digital) inkwell, we somehow can't help feeling kinda excited to see "Incredibles 2," "Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2" and "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse." Ditto for Disney's live-action remake of "Mulan."

We're looking forward even more to two stop-motion masters' latest works -- Nick Park's "Early Man" and Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs." Maybe not so much another "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch" cartoon, but who knows?

The same can be said for dozens of other 2018 releases we don't have the space to list here or know about yet. As for the films we did mention, keep in mind that some may not come out this year due to production delays, schedule jockeying or revelations that someone involved with the production is a sexual predator.