Crash course: Summer blockbusters, from Star Trek Into Darkness to The Hangover Part III

The Avengers and Batman helped make 2012 the biggest box-office year on record. Can this summer’s popcorn movies repeat the trick?

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The Independent Culture

Star Trek Into Darkness

9 May

JJ Abrams' sequel started the season – along with Iron Man 3 – with Benedict Cumberbatch in villainous form

The Hangover Part III

24 May

Comedy with a following this big means block- buster, with Bradley Cooper and co getting insensibly drunk (again)

Man of Steel

14 June

Superman returns, once more. Christopher Nolan produces, Zack Snyder directs, while little-known Brit Henry Cavill dons the red cape

World War Z

21 June

Produced by and starring Brad Pitt, and shot partly in the UK. Pitt is the UN agent saving us all from zombie apocalypse

Pacific Rim

12 July

Humanity battles ocean-dwelling beasts. Director Guillermo del Toro promises a "beautiful poem to giant monsters"

Monsters University

12 July

Pixar release their first prequel – about the undergraduate days of Monsters Inc heroes Mike and Sulley

300: Rise of an Empire

2 August

Much the same formula as the blood-and-guts, comic-book take on ancient warfare of 2007's 300. Eva Green stars

The Lone Ranger

9 August

Johnny Depp dons odd headgear and make-up – not another Jack Sparrow outing but as Tonto, in Disney's big-budget Western

Pain & Gain

28 August

Directed by Michael Bay, the reigning king of the summer blockbuster (see Profile), this is the true story of murderous Miami bodybuilders

How to: Be a baddie

By Simon Usborne

The greatest blockbuster baddies must be smarter, stronger and crazier than their hero nemeses (even if they have a massive fin) right until their inevitable demise.

Clever camerawork, 40 technicians and, crucially, the right music can turn even a lump of rubber and steel into the scariest thing in the world – and, in the case of Jaws, launch the era of the summer blockbuster.

Fancy being an intergalactic tyrant like Star Wars’ Darth Vader? Acquire dark latex clothing and a cape, add voice distortion and a personality disorder. A destructive father-son relationship helps too.

Are you a homicidal sadist with a brilliant mind, seeking Batman to taunt on the way to global destruction? Throw in a touch of camp and wild face paint and you can emulate the late Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson as the greatest villain of all, the Joker.

Profile: Action man Michael Bay

By Tim Walker

Michael Bay recently appeared to offer a mea culpa for his 1998 movie, Armageddon, in which an asteroid threatening to wipe out life on Earth was foiled by Bruce Willis. "I will apologise for Armageddon," the 48-year-old director told the Miami Herald. Before the bloggers could finish snarking, however, Bay recanted, claiming the interviewer "twisted [his] words".

There are several adjectives to describe Bay's oeuvre, but one of the few we can print here is: unapologetic.

Bay's name is a byword for Hollywood's crass, explosion-crammed summer output, which earns box-office dollars and critical derision in inverse proportion. As for his working practices, Megan Fox, sometime star of his Trans-formers trilogy, once likened the director to Hitler – she was fired.

His latest is Pain & Gain, starring Mark Wahlberg and The Rock as bodybuilders who kidnap and torture a wealthy local businessman. The film was made for $26m, which, by Bay's standards, makes it practically a home video.