Aug 18 2008 9:19pm

Watchmen Beset by Legal Issues... Release in Doubt?

Fresh from the New York Times, it seems that Warner Bros., the movie studio behind the Watchmen movie (and parent company of DC Comics, publishers of the Watchmen comic on which it’s based) has been sued by 20th Century Fox for breach of contract, regarding distribution rights. From the article:

According to Fox’s lawsuit, however, Warner, in acquiring rights through the producer Lawrence Gordon, failed to acquire certain rights already owned by Fox, including the right to distribute any picture made by Mr. Gordon’s company.

The case, originally filed in February, echoes an earlier court fight that was resolved in 2005 when Warner agreed to pay the producer Robert B. Clark at least $17.5 million to settle claims that it had infringed his rights by making the “The Dukes of Hazzard” film with Johnny Knoxville.

Hm. If the Warners were willing to drop a measly $18 million on that pinnacle of the art of moviemaking that was The Dukes of Hazzard, somehow I don’t see them having a problem buying themselves out of this scrape, if it turns out that the lawsuit does have merit. Regardless, it’s worth keeping an eye on, especially considering that one of Fox’s tactics seems to be the filing of an injunction blocking the movie’s March 2009 release.

Oh, I can see an army of rabid comic-book geeks pounding down the doors to Fox’s headquarters now. Peanuts may not suffice this time, my brethren. I would suggest some perfume, but it seems that the Watchmen movie peeps already have that on lockdown.

CE Petit
1. Jaws
Thank you, yet again, Variety, for making news out of nothing and f*cking up discussion of a legal issue. This particular ruling is absolutely meaningless; the underlying motion was a tactical move that had absolutely zero chance of success, and was intended to give the parties time to maneuver behind the scenes to reach a settlement.

I'll comment on this further later today at Scrivener's Error, but I'm running to the doctor at the moment.
Sammy Jay
2. Malebolge
I'll be honest, when I first heard about this- about Watchmen's release being potentially prevented- I didn't particularly care. There have been comic book movies which have taken source material and adapted it to suit almost perfectly the silver screen, such as in the Dark Knight- and I should add here that while TDK is a fantastic movie and a fantastic adaptation of Batman, it is a Batman changed from the Batman of the comics, and perhaps that change is for the best. There have been comic books movies which have stuck to the source material like poop to a shoe, such as in Sin City and 300; these have both been successful and entertaining in their own rights, regardless of the alteration of some smaller details.

I have to wonder if either of these two routes could work for Watchmen. I mean, obviously a TDK approach wouldn't work because what makes this work seminal is the story, and the way the story is told; as such the script needs to be as close to the source material as possible. The problem here is that much of Watchmen was written with the comic book format and only the comic book format in mind; panels were laid out to mimic previous layouts to emphasise some degree of connection; discussions and action could occur simultaneously with overlays. Watchmen was as much a fantastic story as it was a flexing of the muscles of the comic book medium. Much of the techniques employed by Moore are was possible mainly because of people's ability to choose their own pace of reading, and the ability to flip back and realize 'oh crap, they did the same thing back there'- something you lack in cinema. If attempts are made to reproduce such effects in the film, I have to wonder if we can expect average movie-going audiences to have the presence of mind to notice them when all they want to see is another superhero movie.
And if that's what Watchmen is going to be- just another superhero movie, using the bare bones of Moore's creation- then I really don't care if this movie gets released or not.

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