With both The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers set to drop next year, not to mention a second season of Game of Thrones and a host of other genre goodies, 2011 must seem light for us True Believers. But some long-awaited projects came to fruition, some stuff we thought would suck turned out to, well ... not suck, and we got exciting glances at future projects. With all that in mind, here's a look back at the biggest and the best from sci-fi entertainment this year.
Check out the list, and share your favorite moments of the year in the comments!
DC Comics Reboots Reality
Massive comic book crossovers featuring nearly every major character a publisher has to offer are nothing new. In fact, they happen at least once a year these days. But 2011 was the year that DC opted to pull out all the stops with one massive rolling of the cosmic dice. They didn't just alter their comic book reality. They made a new one, complete with 52 brand-new #1 issues, new creative teams and new timelines for all of their heroes. Some (OK, most) called it a publicity stunt, but the sales figures say it seems to be working out well so far.
Apes Rise, and it doesn't suck
As reboots, remakes, sequels and prequels become more and more ubiquitous, we get more and more cynical about them. Then something comes along and shatters everything we thought we knew about franchise films. Before Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the last Apes installment we saw was Tim Burton's attempt at a reboot, so we might have been a bit more skeptical about this franchise than most. Director Rupert Wyatt and company changed all that, delivering a taut, powerful origin to the Apes series that has us crying out for sequels.
Harry Potter goes out on top
Think of all the film franchises that maintained their quality for more than two flicks. It's a short list. The Harry Potter films just kept getting better, and the eighth and final installment released this summer may have been the best of them all. It gave long-serving fans the curtain call they'd been longing for and proved that in the right hands (namely the hands of director David Yates) long-winded franchises can do more than just rake in money. Of course, with $1.3 billion in worldwide box-office revenue, this one raked in plenty of dough, but it also gave us a fitting farewell to one of the great fantasy franchises ever.
A Song of Ice and Fire has a really big year
George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy saga A Song of Ice and Fire has been steadily attracting fans for 15 years now, but 2011 was the year everything exploded. First, there was Game of Thrones, HBO's dark, ambitious and brutal adaptation of the series, which garnered both critical acclaim and ratings success. Then there was A Dance With Dragons, the long-awaited fifth volume in Martin's series, which quickly rocketed to the top of the bestseller lists. Martin has gone from fantasy icon to full-blown power author, season two of Game of Thrones is on the way, and a sixth book in the series will be arriving ... eventually.
Spider-Man is dead! Long live Spider-Man!
DC wasn't the only comics house doing some game-changing this year. We all know death is never final in comics, but Marvel's Ultimate Universe has aimed to change that with a different timeline where they can do whatever brutal, crazy thing they want. This year, writer Brian Michael Bendis had the guts to kill off the Ultimate Universe Peter Parker as he fought off the Green Goblin to save the ones he loved. Pete was replaced in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man by Miles Morales, a mixed-race webslinger that many saw as a ploy for publicity. If you didn't dig the changing of the guard, don't worry. The Peter Parker of the original Marvel Universe is still alive and well.
Superman reboots. Again.
We had to wait almost 20 years between Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, neither of which was particularly satisfying. This was the year that we got our wish for a new Superman flick on the horizon, as well as the year we got our first non-American Superman actor in Henry Cavill. Opinions are still divided over whether Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan can team up to make Man of Steel the Superman reboot we've been waiting for since the late '70s, but at least we're getting another chance, and just seeing another Man of Tomorrow flick underway is enough to get us excited.
Star Wars goes Blu-Ray, Lucas revisionism continues unchecked
Star Wars in glorious high definition? Yes, please! It's only when George Lucas decides he's still not done tweaking his six-film saga that we start to worry. What started with adding some background richness way back in the Special Edition days, then plopping Hayden Christensen's Force ghost down in Return of the Jedi in the DVD days, has now turned into a full-on overhaul of Darth Vader's final moments with the addition of a howling "NOOOOO!" as he chucks the Emperor to his death. Fans cried foul louder than ever, but that didn't stop the box sets from selling like hotcakes.
The Dark Knight Rises becomes the most spied-upon movie in history
Everyone's got a camera in their pocket these days, so it's no surprise when glimpses of high-profile movie sets turn up in every corner of the Internet. When it came to the set of The Dark Knight Rises, though, things seemed to get a little out of hand. Not that we're complaining. We loved all those early glimpses of the stars, vehicles and big action sequences as they came together. But what started as a trickle of tantalizing glimpses turned into a flood of pictures, videos, and rumors about nearly every detail of Christopher Nolan's final Batman epic. Never before has a film been so closely scrutinized before it even finished shooting.
Professor X and Magneto meet on screen for the first time
The love/hate relationship between Charles "Professor X" Xavier and Erik "Magneto" Lensherr is a time-honored part of superhero storytelling, but until this year we'd never seen on film just how these two bonded in the first place. Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class—quite possibly the best superhero film of the year—changed that, giving Xavier the opportunity to meet and save Lensherr as he tried to bring down an old enemy. The enemy became mutual, and the team-up that would lead to one of comics' most epic ongoing clashes began.
Ridley Scott returns to sci-fi with his most ambitious movie ever
If we made a list of our most anticipated sci-fi flicks for next year, it would undoubtedly include The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. But there's another sci-fi project outside of the superhero genre that's got us just as excited. Ridley Scott's alien epic Prometheus is still shrouded in some serious mystery, but we've spent all of 2011 savoring every single detail of the production. The killer trailer was the icing on the cake, and now we'll spend the first half of 2012 biting our nails as we wait to see the flick in all its Space Jockey glory.
Who is River Song? Now we know.
Ever since we first encountered the enigmatic River Song in "Silence in the Library" way back in the David Tennant era of 2008, Doctor Who fans have been waiting to unravel the mystery of who this feisty space archaeologist really is. Finally, this June, in the midseason finale "A Good Man Goes To War," Steven Moffat gave us our wish in the form of some alien writing on a baby's cradle. It shook the Doctor Who family to its core, and it still has big implications for the future of the series. Those implications may have gotten bigger now that we know Amy and Rory are exiting in series seven, but we'll have to wait until the fall to find out just what all that will mean.