The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies launched a full-scale assault on Comic-Con.
The cast and crew from the final installment of The Hobbit trilogy showed off the first trailer for the fantasy film at the pop-culture convention, as well as a blooper reel from both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies.
Stephen Colbert, dressed as the shaggy-haired character he cameoed as in The Hobbit, enthusiastically moderated the panel at the San Diego Convention Center.
The trailer conjured up for the audience of 6500 attendees gathered inside Hall H showed the dragon Smaug setting Lake-town ablaze, Cate Blanchett's royal elf Galadriel kissing the forehead of Ian McKellen's beleaguered wizard Gandalf and legions of elves and orcs racing into battle.
"It's always great when you can kill off some main characters," said director Peter Jackson, a fan favourite at Comic Con.
"You have the chance to do something powerful and emotional. We do get to kill a few of them this time around."
"It's not as comical as the first Hobbit movie. It's getting closer to the tone of Lord of the Rings," he added.
Jackson was joined by several cast members for the clebration of all things Hobbit, including Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans and Lee Pace.
"I was just grateful to get in this one. I thought my time was over in Middle Earth," Oscar-winning Blanchett said about reprising her role as elf queen Galadriel.
Jackson added "we do get to see Galadriel lose it a little in this movie ... she gets to kick Sauron's arse a little bit."
They were also joined by Benedict Cumberbatch and Andy Serkis, who portray the computer-generated Smaug and Gollum. Both actors imitated their fantastical characters when pressed by fans. When asked where he'd like Gollum to visit, Serkis joked "backstage with Stephen Colbert to see what he's got inside his costume, precious."
Cumberbatch plays two characters in the film - the dragon Smaug and the Necromancer, an iteration of villain Sauron.
"One is made of something vulnerable and one seems to be born out of everything that's evil and difficult to pin down and kill," Cumberbatch said.
Serkis, who has been a pioneer in the motion capture world for developing visual effects techniques that helped capture the character of creature Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, said the film "basically changed the course of my life with such magnitude." He will next be in the upcoming Star Wars films, most likely in a motion capture role.
At the start of the panel, superfan Colbert introduced a lengthy blooper reel that highlighted several funny moments left on the cutting room floor during the 13-year history of the films. The bloopers mostly featured McKellen riffing on other actors, flubbing his lines and, in one instance, lifting Gandalf's robe to show off a pair of white briefs.
The Battle of the Five Armies is set to debut December 17.
-with AP and Reuters