"Will you follow me one last time?"

It was interesting how different my reaction to Saturday's panel for "The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies" was to the reaction Greg Ellwood had. I agree with him that Cate Blanchett was positively radiant and that Stephen Colbert couldn't have been funnier in his unbridled nerd enthusiasm for all things Tolkien. I think everyone on the panel was great. I love these people, no doubt about it. And as I've written, I think the "Hobbit" films so far are good at what they're doing and getting better, while still not as great as the work he did on "Lord Of The Rings."

What I had a problem with on Saturday was that the panel was at least twice as long as anything else Warner Bros. did. I guess at this point, financially speaking if nothing else, Peter Jackson and company have earned the right to take their victory lap and soak up the love and adoration. I just felt like it was a real slow-down in terms of energy after a pretty great and well-coordinated morning by the studio.

What I had no problem at all with was the actual teaser trailer that was screened by the studio, and now it's online in glorious gigantic HD. Unsurprisingly, they took a page from how they sold "Return Of The King," and if the movie is able to find the quiet moments and the character highs and lows amidst the scale of the titular conflict, then it's going to put the right cap on the series as a whole.

There are beautiful images here, massive images, and when I think back to the early days of development on "Fellowship," when Jackson was talking about just how big Middle-Earth could be on film, and how pie-in-the-sky those ambitions seemed to be, I am struck by how far he has come on his own journey. These films are not just adaptations for him; they are biography. He was called out of his hobbit hole in New Zealand to take on this impossible task and now he's done it… TWICE.

At this point, we're talking about the crazy little maniac who made "Bad Taste," able to will any image he can imagine up onto the screen thanks to the army of remarkable artists and technicians (many of whom are the same people) who he commands as they make this last push to wrap everything up. I'm ready for this final trip.

 

Tell me what you think of this first look at the big finish.

"The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies" opens in theaters December 17, 2014.