With all the surprises and great stuff we've seen at this afternoon's Warner Bros. panel in Hall H, the grand finale came as Peter Jackson screened more than 12 minutes of The Hobbit.
The final Warner presentation began with a lengthy amount of documentary footage chronicling the last five days of principal photography on the two-part epic—and interestingly, a lot of the scenes we got glimpses of were from the second half, There and Back Again, including scenes of Lake-Town under siege from Smaug (no shots of the dragon, though, sadly). After lots of behind-the-scenes footage, including members of the cast giving personal greetings directly to the Comic-Con audience, the lights went up again and Peter Jackson strolled out to a hero's welcome.
Jackson asked the crowd to say "Hi from Comic-Con!" as he filmed them for an upcoming video blog, perhaps marking the first time a major filmmaker has actually directed something in Hall H. Next, he and moderator Chris Hardwick brought out stars Martin Freeman (Bilbo), Andy Serkis (Gollum), Richard Armitage (Thorin), Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and Elijah Wood (Frodo), along with screenwriter Phillippa Boyens. Then the lights went down again—for the next 12 1/2 minutes.
That's right: Jackson screened more than 12 minutes of footage from part one, An Unexpected Journey, including extended footage of key scenes from the film, such as the dwarves' first gathering at Bag-End and Bilbo's eerie encounter with Gollum. Despite a slightly more digital look, the footage mostly matched The Lord of the Rings in tone, color and composition, instantly transporting us back to this vision of Middle-earth as if we'd never left it.
The emotional content of the footage was quite palpable as well, especially in a somber exchange between Gandalf and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and a scene where a bedraggled Bilbo, under the influence of the ring already, forces himself to lie and hide "the precious" from the kindly wizard.
The presentation left the weary Hall H audience in a state of rapture, and it gave Jackson and company a standing ovation as they departed following the question-and-answer session.
Interesting tidbit: Asked by a fan if he would consider making a movie of The Silmarillion, Jackson said it was unlikely because the Tolkien estate owns all the rights to the books and "they hate (our) movies."
Judging from what we saw today, they'll probably continue to be in the minority. The Hobbit opens on Dec. 14, 2012.