Summer action movies: Wizards, pirates, heroes

Johnny Depp, left, and Penelope Cruz are shown in a scene from "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."
Peter Mountain,AP Photo/Disney

LOS ANGELES - Pirate Jack Sparrow embarks on a new quest. Wizard Harry Potter comes to the end of his saga. And swarms of new superheroes come out swinging.

Add in a third round of giant robots from space, the dawn of a planet of intelligent apes and an alien invasion in the Old West, and Hollywood has one of its most action-packed summers ever in store.

Pictures: Summer movies 2011

Continuing franchises include Johnny Depp's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides;" the battling 'bots sequel "Transformers: Dark of the Moon;" and the prequels "X-Men: First Class" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

New comic-book adaptations join Hollywood's superhero fixation with "Thor," "Green Lantern" and "Captain America: The First Avenger." Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig team up to take on extra-terrestrial raiders in the sci-fi and Western hybrid "Cowboys & Aliens. "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams directs his own E.T.-style adventure with "Super 8," a tale of teen filmmakers whose monster movie turns real after a train wreck unleashes an alien force.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint head back to Hogwarts one last time for the final showdown between good and evil wizards with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."

The adaptation of J.K. Rowling's finale to her fantasy series was split into two films, the first leaving off with last fall's cliffhanger involving the death match between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).

Radcliffe provides a refresher in case anyone has forgotten where things stand.

"There are two concepts that you have to understand. There are seven Horcruxes that we're tracking down. They're pieces of Voldemort's soul that we're going to kill. I'm looking for them, and there are the three Deathly Hallows. Voldemort's looking for those, and it's a race to see who can get to which ones first."

Millions of Potter fans already know the answer, but that should not undermine the film's prospects of becoming the top-grossing installment in a franchise that already has taken in $6.4 billion worldwide.

"Deathly Hallows: Part 2" joins other action franchises that are going the 3-D route for the first time, among them the "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Transformers" sequels.

"Dark of the Moon" reunites "Transformers" star Shia LaBeouf and director Michael Bay as an event out of Earth's past touches off a new round in the struggle between two warring robot races.

Megan Fox, who co-starred in the franchise's first two movies, is gone this time but other returning cast members include John Turturro and Tyrese Gibson.

After wrapping up the original story line in a trilogy, "Pirates of the Caribbean" returns in a stand-alone story that sends Depp's Jack Sparrow on a hunt for the fountain of youth.

"On Stranger Tides" co-stars Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane, with Geoffrey Rush back as Jack's old nemesis, Barbossa.

Director Rob Marshall jumped right in on the sword fights and other action in "On Stranger Tides," saying the song-and-dance moves he crafted in such musicals as "Chicago" and "Nine" were good training ground.

"I think a lot of people were surprised I was doing action," Marshall said. "But it's choreography. It's absolutely choreography. So I felt the most at home in the big battle scenes with lots of people there, and working with stunt people who are like dancers. Oddly enough, it was right up my alley."