Let's face it, 2016 is the year every superhero fan has been waiting for. We have not one but three studios - Marvel, Fox, and Warner Bros. - competing to take the year for their respective superhero franchises. Even better, all three studios look to have a solid slate of films, so the competition is even fiercer than ever!
But which movie will reign supreme? I'm not just meaning financially, but also critically - who do we think will perform the best?
[X-Men: Apocalypse](tag:1194267) (due out May 27th) promises to be the biggest X-Men movie to date. The franchise is abandoning its grounded roots, instead working within the new timeline set up in [X-Men: Days Of Future Past](tag:203942). Mutants are public knowledge, Magneto's trying to live a normal life, and the dark spectre of the first mutant hovers over the world like a shadow...
The movie sees a change in Fox's strategy, with a lot more characters and concepts true to the comics. It promises global mayhem on a scale we've never seen before in Fox's X-Men movies, and the trailer has got even some of the harshest sceptics excited.
Meanwhile, Fox's other 2016 offering is Deadpool (due out February 14th), and again that film's an unusual one. It's Fox's first R-rated superhero movie, and it's already suffered a bit of a blow by not being released in China (although frankly, that's not unusual). Quirky and off-the-wall, Deadpool promises to be both violent and entertaining, with the Merc With A Mouth even breaking the fourth wall! Tickets are on sale now, and Deadpool looks set to track over $55-million for its opening weekend.
Civil War was probably one of the biggest - and best-received - events in Marvel Comics' history, and it's no surprise that the movie version looks to be the same. [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409) (due May 6th) pits Captain America's team (above) against Iron Man and his allies; it divides the superhero community in the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and is set to be a vital part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Captain America: Civil War literally has everything going for it, right down to the inclusion of Marvel's best seller, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. Rumours abound that there will be major character deaths - the comic led to the death of Captain America himself - and the spectacle of seeing the Avengers at war with one another has always sold well in the comics. What's more, it even features the first appearance of Tom Holland's Spider-Man; and the inclusion of Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is sure to result in a massive sales boost. He's literally the biggest-grossing superhero of them all:
Less likely to be the top-seller of the year is Doctor Strange (released on November 4th). Introducing the first all-out mystical superhero to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange has some big talent attached to it - not least Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role. There's little doubt that will be a tremendous film, but it's essentially the launch of a whole new part of the franchise, whereas most of the other movies are building on franchises that are already solid and stable.
WARNER BROS. / DC COMICS
This is the year when Warner Bros. and DC really move in on Marvel's turf, and their strategy is high-risk. Wisely, they've taken two of their most iconic and successful franchises, and brought them into head-on collision in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (released March 25th). The result is sure to be a high-selling movie, although fans remain strongly concerned. There have been long-building fears that DC are trying to do too much, too quickly, while the inclusion of Doomsday in the trailer shocked many, who felt DC were giving too much away.
Personally, I'm optimistic - but in part because of DC's second movie this year, Suicide Squad (due August 5th). The trailer shows a film every bit as off-the-wall as Fox's Deadpool, and suggests that DC's approach to a Cinematic Universe may not be quite so dark as many have been expecting!
All in all, DC are the definite outsiders, but their superheroes are also more firmly established on the big screen than possibly any others in the world bar Spider-Man. They can't afford negative reviews and responses; they're being judged much more critically than Marvel were when they made their Incredible Hulk misstep. But I think they're in with a solid chance of taking the year!
So those are the contenders - time to put it to a vote...