For the fourth X-Men film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, producer Lauren Shuler Donner wanted to tell the titular character’s origin story by drawing on 46 years of Marvel Comics narrative as well as on the revisionary X-Men mythology provided in the first trio of films. “Truth is, sequels are tough,” she says. “You have to top yourself in terms of action and visual effects yet serve your story and characters first and foremost.”

Despite the economic challenges of the time, Hollywood has been enjoying anomalously robust boxoffice numbers, and studios are optimistic that this summer’s blockbuster slate will continue to snare large audiences. With gargantuan budgets as high as $300 million (for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), there is certainly a lot at stake. Though Flickipedia’s Atkinson says this summer’s crop will likely “print money for the studios,” he expects the films to be creatively bankrupt.

Ice Age’s Brenner -- who grew up in the 1980s enjoying sequel franchises such as Indiana Jones, Gremlins, and Beverly Hills Cop -- shrugs off such criticism. He says that the audience is sacrosanct and that he strives to honor viewers’ loyalty at the box office with the most entertaining film possible.

“If a critic walks into a movie already convinced that it’s a commercial exercise -- well, there’s not much we can do about that,” Brenner says. “But to a fan, a great sequel will always seem like a gift from the movie gods.”



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Will these film franchises with new releases this summer be better the second (or third or fourth or sixth) time around?

MAY 1
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
PREQUEL TO: X-Men (2000), X2 (2003), and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
STARS: Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, Liev Schreiber

MAY 8
Star Trek
SEQUEL TO: Six Star Trek TV series and 10 movie adaptations
STARS: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Simon Pegg

MAY 15
Angels & Demons
PREQUEL TO: The Da Vinci Code (2006)
STARS: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård

MAY 21
Terminator Salvation
SEQUEL TO: The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
STARS: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Helena Bonham Carter

MAY 22
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
SEQUEL TO: Night at the Museum (2007)
STARS: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams

JUNE 24
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
SEQUEL TO: Transformers (2007)
STARS: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel

JULY 1
Ice age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
SEQUEL TO: Ice age (2002) and Ice age: The Meltdown (2006)
FEATURES THE VOICES OF: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary

JULY 17
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
SEQUEL TO: Five previous Harry Potter films
STARS: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint