UPDATED with more details: Serving notice that it will be a potential holiday sleeper franchise launch, Mortal Engines surprised the crowd at New York Comic Con today by unveiling the first 25 action-packed minutes of the film.

Based on the Philip Reeve novels series, Mortal Engines takes place thousand of years after an apocalyptic event. Cities rise up, but they are mobile and the big ones consume the little ones for their resources. It is a widely original concept that played exceptionally well to to crowd at Madison Square Garden.

Andy Serkis moderated a panel that includes Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens (who with Fran Walsh wrote the script and the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies), Christian Rivers (a longtime Jackson protege making his feature debut), and most of the cast.

Jackson said during the panel that the film had the mythology and the literary pedigree to launch a franchise, and he was hopeful that would happen.

The movie featured jabs to the present, like when the immigrants of a smaller, swallowed city are told that parents might be temporarily separated from their children. The footage also included a museum in London complete with an exhibit for the “Screen Age,” which included sculpted figures of the Minions — a nod to the pic’s distributor Universal.

Uni, MRC and the filmmakers have kept the film on a low burn until now, but today marked the start of an obvious global ramp-up. It hits theaters December 14.