McKellen, who's in New York performing in a pair of plays with his friend and
"I've seen this movie," he said as the crowd laughed. "You're going to have a wonderful time. The dragon goes on a bit long, but my golly, looks fierce."
The actor also noted that director Peter Jackson believes "Smaug" is the best of the five Tolkien films he's made. (Fans of the franchise may want to debate him on that point, though.)
McKellen said the warm reception to the films was particularly gratifying for Jackson and co. because when they were shooting the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy "at the beginning of the century," filmmakers weren't sure how moviegoers would respond to the films.
"It happened that you and others enjoyed them," McKellen said. "And so when we went to do the pick-ups for part two and part three of 'Lord of the Rings,' it was as if we were making these films for people who really cared. And the same is true of 'The Hobbit.'"
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" is in theaters now.