‘Dark Knight Rises,’ ‘Hunger Games’: Our Favorite 2012 Sneak Peeks

First looks at a dapper Bruce Banner in 'Avengers' and a rather emo 'Spider-Man' also top our list of the best reveals so far.

Hey, wait! We thought that summer was all about unwinding — kicking back, catching up, taking a breather from the relentless go-go-go of our interconnected century. Not so much!

Fact is, many of next year’s most anticipated films are currently shooting or are deep into post-production work and, as is usually the case these days, studios and the paparazzi have been delivering a steady stream of sneak peeks at the movies we can’t wait to check out in 2012. Here are our picks for the five coolest early looks to surface in the last few weeks.

Batman, Meet Bane’s Pain
The teaser trailer for “The Dark Knight Rises” made clear that, for all of Bruce Wayne’s fancy-schmancy gadgets, we’d be seeing some old-school, hand-to-hand combat between Batman and his adversary, the villainous Bane. This new set photo shows us just how intense that hand-to-hand (and hand-to-throat) fighting will be. What’s doubly intriguing about this photo is the scar running along the back of Bane’s neck. According to DC Comics lore, Bane becomes a test subject for an experimental drug called Venom, which he becomes so addicted to he’ll die without it. The scar could well be an indication of director Christopher Nolan’s continued quest to bring realism to Gotham City, with the scar a gnarly reminder of Bane’s chemically twisted personality.

Dr. Banner, You’ve Changed
Metamorphosis is at the heart of who Bruce Banner is, so it makes a certain sort of sense that the actor behind the character (and his green-skinned alter ego, the Hulk) has changed more than any other in the contemporary Marvel movie universe. First, it was Eric Bana, then Edward Norton and, now, we get Mark Ruffalo. And in the “Avengers” teaser trailer that debuted at the end of “Captain America,” we get the first-ever look at Ruffalo in character as Banner. He’s smart, he’s skeptical, he’s a snappy dresser. So this is a good start. But we’ll be keeping an eye out for a look at Ruffalo, gussied up in layers of CG magic, as the Hulk himself.

Battle Rihanna
Last week’s “Battleship” trailer is nothing short of effing crazy: transforming alien ships, Brooklyn Decker playing kissy face in a bikini and peg weapons directly pulled from the board game on which the film is based. Tucked into all this bang-whiz-pow madness are two fleeting shots of Rihanna making her film debut as a naval officer coming face-to-ship with some aliens here to cause humanity great physical harm. She doesn’t get to utter a line, but hey, neither did Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the Victoria’s Secret model-turned-actress, in the first few “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” trailers. So for now, while we can’t say for certain Ri can deliver a convincing line reading, we do know she’s quite OK looking scared as hell on camera.

The Ultimate Yogi
At San Diego Comic-Con last month, Andrew Garfield told MTV News he modeled his wiry Spider-Man after the version in the “Ultimate” series of comics. But “The Amazing Spider-Man,” it seems from the first teaser trailer, is at least as influenced by director Marc Webb’s indie-emo roots as it is by comics lore. This Peter Parker is something of a tortured soul, internalizing the pain of his parents’ seeming abandonment and, in this screen grab, striking a kind of deep-in-thought yoga pose. As new footage comes out in the months ahead, we’ll be waiting to see how deeply the film dives into the existential crisis of being a nerdy superhero and how much Webb lets Parker (and Spidey) fly.

Brooklyn, Obviously
Remember when “Twilight” fans freaked out about pasty old Robert Pattinson becoming steamy, super old Edward Cullen? How’d that turn out? Entertainment Weekly‘s cover photo of the boys of “The Hunger Games,” and the decidedly mixed reaction to it, will likely stand as yet another example of dedicated fiction fans rebelling against the cinematic representations of characters they’ve been imagining in their heads for years. We’re trusting in Lionsgate to get everything right. That’s what they did in casting Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. And we see no reason to second-guess Liam Hemsworth as Gale and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, even if (gasp!) Hutcherson didn’t don contact lenses to mimic his character’s baby blues.

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