Comic-Con: Peter Jackson takes a bow, George Miller shows off ‘Fury Road’

July 26, 2014 | 2:47 p.m.
Benedict Cumberbatch, from left, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom attend the Warner Bros. Pictures panel for "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" on Day 3 of Comic-Con International on Saturday, July 26, 2014, in San Diego. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

From left, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom attend the Warner Bros. Pictures panel for “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” at Comic-Con International on July 26 in San Diego. (Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press)

Zack Snyder’s early peek at “Batman v. Superman” kicked off the Warner Bros. Comic-Con International panel with some serious fanboy firepower, but the studio still had three other highly anticipated films in store for the 6,500-odd fans gathered in Hall H: Andy and Lana Wachowski’s sci-fi epic “Jupiter Ascending,” George Miller’s post-apocalyptic action reboot “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and the final installment in Peter Jackson’s blockbuster “Hobbit” trilogy, subtitled “The Battle of Five Armies.”

Neither the Wachowskis nor “Jupiter Ascending” co-star Mila Kunis were on hand at the panel, so it fell to Channing Tatum to introduce footage from the space opera, in which he plays a genetically engineered warrior who comes to Earth to reveal to Kunis’ Jupiter Jones that she is interstellar royalty.

“We really try to do something different, something you’ve never seen before,” Tatum told the crowd, calling the Wachowskis “absolutely out of their minds,” presumably in a good way. “It’s not a book or a comic, so we tried to push it.” As it happens, the film, which was originally slated to open this month, was itself pushed, ostensibly to allow the effects work to be finished, and is now set to open Feb. 6, 2015.

FULL COVERAGE: Comic-Con 2014

Following the “Jupiter Ascending” footage, Miller took the stage to offer an extended preview of his long-awaited reboot of the “Mad Max” franchise, which has Tom Hardy stepping into the role originated by Mel Gibson. Like the other films in the beloved but long-dormant franchise, the director said the new film is essentially “a Western on wheels,” centered, like the 1981 classic “The Road Warrior,” on a feverish and deadly chase that plays out over several days across a blighted landscape.

“The story popped in my head and just wouldn’t get away, like an imaginary friend,” Miller told the crowd. “I love chase movies; I think they’re the purest form of cinema. That’s where the film language started. I wanted to make one long, extended chase, and see what we could pick up about the characters along the way.”

Judging from the enthusiasm with which the dizzyingly action-packed “Fury Road” footage was received by the crowd in Hall H, buzz around the movie coming out of the convention is likely to be, like the muscle-bound “Road Warrior” villain, Humungus.

Finally, it was time for the “Hobbit” presentation, and there Warner Bros. pulled out one last surprise: Comedy Central host and massive Tolkien nerd Stephen Colbert was on hand to moderate the panel, dressed head to toe in the Lake-town garb he wore in his brief cameo in the last “Hobbit” film. Joining Colbert and Jackson on the stage were a full assortment of familiar faces from both the “Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Rings” films, including Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Elijah Wood, Graham McTavish, Evangeline Lilly and Orlando Bloom, along with longtime Jackson collaborator Philippa Boyens.

Offering a selection of footage and a new teaser from the final “Hobbit” installment — along with a blooper reel that included such things as Ian McKellen doing a jig in tighty-whiteys — Jackson promised that the “The Battle of Five Armies” will offer both sweeping action and a heartstring-tugging wallop.

“There’s a lot of sadness and tragedy,” the director told the crowd. “It’s always good when you can kill off some main characters, as a filmmaker. It’s a chance to do something ugly, powerful and emotional.”

Though Colbert kept the proceedings light and jokey (“Elijah, do you know how to read?” he asked with mock horror after Wood confessed that he has still never read the “Lord of the Rings” books), the panel was likely an emotional finale for Jackson himself. More than a decade after Jackson first brought moviegoers to Middle-earth, it served as a final Comic-Con victory lap for a director who has now, to quote Tolkien, been there and back again.

– Josh Rottenberg | @LATHeroComplex

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