This is the post I never, ever, wanted to write. The post I never, ever thought I'd have to write. But writing it I am, scarcely believing the words even as I type them: the Watchmen movie is embroiled in a legal battle that, (in a worst case scenario,) could end up having it be barred from release, indefinitely.
What evil cabal would ever concoct such an insidious plot as to kill the long-awaited adaptation of our favorite graphic novel of all time? There is only one organization that evil: 20th Century Fox.
The legal broo-ha-ha started back in February of this year, when Fox filed a copy infringement and breach of contract suit against studio Warner Bros., which owns the current version of Watchmen being helmed by director Zack Snyder (300). Fox's claim was that they had obtained the rights to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' genre-shattering graphic novel, and all subsequent film endeavors related to it, between the years of 1986 and 1991.
But when attempts to make the film in the 80's and early 90's stalled, the usual legal gymnastics ensued, with Fox selling off partial rights of Watchmen to other interested companies (who ultimately went under), all with the understanding that Fox would still hold the exclusive right to distribute any Watchmen film, sequels or spin-offs (like "The Black Freighter" tie-in) that got made down the line, unless an sizable buy-out fee was paid to the studio.
Well, after nearly two decades of starts and stops and almosts, Watchmen was finally tossed into the laps of Warner Bros. by producer Larry Gordon, who had obtained the rights to the film in a turnaround agreement with Fox in 1994, with the stipulation (according to Fox) that the studio's original terms of contract still be honored, including the buy-out fee. According to the Fox's lawsuit, Gordon and Warner Bros. failed to make good on that promise.
After Fox filed suit, Warner Bros. immediately filed a motion for dismissal with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, claiming to have done no wrong. As of this past Friday, the judge has thrown out that motion, allowing Fox to proceed full-steam with its lawsuit.
With Watchmen having already wrapped its principal shoot, and gearing up for its March 6, 2009 release, Fox is urging that the case to be fast-tracked, and, if this latest court action is any indication, the judge will heed that call. Even worse, Fox isn't just looking to dip into Warner Bros.' pockets for profits: they'd rather see the film banned from theaters altogether.
"When you have copyright infringement, there are some damages you never recover," said a source close to the litigation."
This makes me SICK TO MY STOMACH. I'm going to try not to curse, but WTF is wrong with 20th Century Fox???? To put this in terms of a rap beef: quit playah-hatin'.
Seriously though, I feel like this is all a vile bit of strategy to help Fox have a better $ummer at the multiplex in 2009. Think about it: if Watchmen gets knocked off the '09 lineup, it leaves the comic book lane wide open for Fox's own properties, most notably X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The simple truth is that Fox has reason to be scared: since the first trailer premiered, then the fan fervor at this year's Comic-Con, and now acclaimed directors like Kevin Smith spouting gospel about how freakin good Watchmen truly is, the movie has been blown-up as one the most highly anticipated releases of 2009. (Even the original graphic novel has started flying off shelves!
But the truth of the matter is that studios have been trying to make Watchmen happen since the 80's. Even in recent years, industry heavyweights like Paul Greengrass and Guillermo Del Toro were courted to get a Watchmen film up and going, and nothing ever came of it. What Fox is doing to Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder is like the old man who has popped a handful of Viagra with no success, getting angry with the young guy who walks by and knocks off the hot-chick, no problem. No one respects that old coot.
I solemnly swear: if Watchmen ends up on the list of great movies that almost made it, I will be leading the charge to make Fox PAY. I will slam every one of the crap movies and TV shows they put out, and use every bit of my blogger-power (it's about 3/4 as potent as flower-power) to downright brainwash every suggestible reader into boycotting any movie released by 20th Century Fox until Watchmen sees the light of day. (Sorry Wolvy, you'll be my first victim. Just to let these stuffed-suits know I ain't playing!) Fox will come to learn the TRUE meaning of the word "backfire," and I think I speak for a great many Watchmen fans when I say that.
Are you trembling with fear at the thought of Watchmen getting the ax? Is your stomach churning with a mix of nerves and disgust like mine is? Damn being silent, let your battle-cry be heard on this one!