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'Dark Knight,' 'Spidey,' 'Hobbit' lead 2012 films

By David Germain

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 10 2012 8:35 a.m. MST

In this film image released by Disney, Chris Hemsworth portrays Thor, left, and and Chris Evans portrays Captain America in a scene from "The Avengers," expected to be released on May 4, 2012.

Disney, Zade Rosenthal, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Hollywood is respecting the environment and recycling — again.

The prospect of a few dozen sequels, prequels, remakes and assorted other reworkings of familiar tales might sound tiresome until you look over the guest list studios have lined up.

More Batman with "The Dark Knight Rises." More Peter Parker with "The Amazing Spider-Man." More short guys on a quest with "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." More vamps and werewolves with "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2." More cool sunglasses with "Men in Black 3." More Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Incredible Hulk with "The Avengers." More prehistoric pals with "Ice Age: Continental Drift." More traveling zoo animals with "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted." There's even more Curly, Larry and Moe with "The Three Stooges."

Add in three action flicks based on classic fairy tales and four 3-D reissues of major blockbusters, and 2012 might make good on Hollywood's aim to lure back audiences after movie attendance last year dipped to its lowest since 1995.

Here's a look at the year's coming attractions:

SUPERHERO PARADE:

Nicolas Cage provides a winter warm-up with "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" (Feb. 17), returning as the bounty hunter from hell on a mission to rescue a child from the devil.

The heavy-hitters arrive this summer. First up is "The Avengers" (May 4), teaming Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as the Incredible Hulk, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye.

Directed by Joss Whedon, "The Avengers" has S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) assembling a superhero dream team to battle Thor's bad brother (Tom Hiddleston).

After two "Iron Man" flicks with his billionaire inventor Tony Stark at center stage, Downey said it was an adjustment joining an ensemble.

"In his world, there are just people who satellite around him. So this was sort of a mandatory humility, and it's definitely getting me in the right mindset for parenting," said Downey, who's expecting a baby with wife Susan.

Next comes "The Amazing Spider-Man" (July 3), with Andrew Garfield taking over as Peter Parker in director Marc Webb's new take on how a mutant spider bite turns the gangly teen into the web-slinging hero.

"Every single human being can relate to feeling like this ordinary person that wishes they could do so much more, and what would happen if all of a sudden, you're a skinny kid that could?" said Emma Stone, who plays Peter's romantic interest, Gwen Stacy. "If you've ever been a teenager, you've felt like that. If you've ever been bullied, you've felt like that. I can relate to Peter Parker in so many ways."

Then, Christian Bale returns as Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises" (July 20), director Christopher Nolan's third and final tale of the wealthy vigilante with all the cool gadgets. Anne Hathaway joins the cast as Catwoman.

After the late Heath Ledger's Academy Award-winning performance as the Joker in "The Dark Knight," Nolan went with a lesser-known villain over more familiar Batman baddies such as the Riddler or the Penguin. This time, it's Bane (Tom Hardy), known to comic-book fans as the brawny brute who breaks Batman's back and puts him in a wheelchair.

How will Bale's spine fare?

"I'm sworn to secrecy, and we're not allowed to really talk about it much," said Gary Oldman, who returns as Batman's police ally Jim Gordon. "I can say this much, that the story's terrific, that he's going to really go out with a bang."

FAIRY-TALE MAKEOVERS: