'Watchmen' to get its day in court

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Watchmen fans, the clock is now ticking — and that’s a good thing. A Jan. 6 trial date has been set for Warner Bros. and Fox to duke it out over what’s basically a very expensive unpaid toll ticket. To wit: Did Warner Bros. and producer Larry Gordon move on Zack Snyder’s $100 million adaptation of Alan Moore’s dark, revisionist superhero saga without first properly buying out Fox’s stake in the film? Regardless how the question is answered, the Jan. 6 court date would seem to all but assure that Watchmen will be released on March 6. For all you furious anti-Fox geeks who bought crayons to make Wolverine pickets, we hope you kept the receipt.

Parsing U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess’ edicts on this matter has become great entertainment blogger sport — so let’s play! With a trial looming, and with the judge stating the case is too “complex” for him to grant Fox’s request that he block Watchmen’s release, pressure is on both parties to settle the dispute before one of them emerges a big loser. As some armchair analysts have pointed out, arguments will likely center on whether or not a 1991 payment to Fox effectively renders this whole business moot, or if a subsequent 1994 agreement between Fox and Gordon (who has been trying to mount a Watchmen movie for many years with several different studios) kept that option open. In papers filed prior to the Labor Day weekend, Warner Bros. put forth the fanciful notion that Fox doesn’t deserve squat because they sat on their hands for years and did nothing to make the movie or even prevent others from doing so. Fox’s counter-argument: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Such kidders, you Warner Bros. people are! Even if that’s true — so what?

You’d think Warner Bros. would want to pony up some cash just to
make this stupid thing go away — that is, after milking it for all the PR
it’s worth, given how much everyone is all "Watchmen this" and "Watchmen
that" these days. Seriously, I should have “Zack Snyder’s $100 million
adaptation of Alan Moore’s dark revisionist superhero saga” programmed
into a default setting on my computer by now. If there was ever any
worry that this “obscure” comic was going to have to deal with an
awareness/relevancy problem with mainstream moviegoers, that concern
has now been alleviated by a factor of 37.98%, according to the
Crackpotatron we keep in the EW bloggercave — and that number is growing
larger every day.

Of course, increased recognition and increased commercial potential
also favors Fox, if Fox is going to insist on profit participation in
worldwide theatrical revenues and aftermarket stuff like DVDs licensed
products.

Then again, with all of us talking about this all the time, thus
raising the stakes of humiliation for both studios, maybe there’s equal
pressure on both sides to settle this thing and seal the resolution air
tight to avoid the risk of getting a big fat egg — or several thousand
small ones — splatted across the face.

This is all to say that I really have no damn clue, but I think it would be fair to say the following:

1.    Hollywood is slimy.
2.    Fox may get some money, and if
they have the stones to actually go to trial and fight for what’s right
instead of just a check, even get what they legally deserve… but man, are they losing the PR war with fans. Threatening to take Watchmen away from geeks
has unleashed some truly venomous blather toward Fox and its
moviemaking upper management — residual bitterness from adaptations of Daredevil, Elektra, Fantastic Four, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the first and third X-Men
movies. Never mind that most, if not all of these films were varying
degrees of “successful.” Those guys at the studio know what they’re
doing, but the hardcore fanboys sure don’t like the way they creatively
do it.
3.    Fox probably doesn’t really care much about point No. 2.
4.    Fanboys are probably stung to hear point No. 3.
5.    But they’ll totally get over it when Watchmen opens on March 6, 2009.*

*Pending future developments that make us change our mind.

Of course, increased recognition and increased commercial potentialalso favors Fox, if Fox is going to insist on profit participation inworldwide theatrical revenues and aftermarket stuff like DVDs licensedproducts.

Then again, with all of us talking about this all the time, thusraising the stakes of humiliation for both studios, maybe there’s equalpressure on both sides to settle this thing and seal the resolution airtight to avoid the risk of getting a big fat egg — or several thousandsmall ones — splatted across the face.

This is all to say that I really have no damn clue, but I think it would be fair to say the following:

1.    Hollywood is slimy.
2.    Fox may get some money, and ifthey have the stones to actually go to trial and fight for what’s rightinstead of just a check, even get what they legally deserve… but man, are they losing the PR war with fans. Threatening to take Watchmen away from geekshas unleashed some truly venomous blather toward Fox and itsmoviemaking upper management — residual bitterness from adaptations of Daredevil, Elektra, Fantastic Four, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the first and third X-Menmovies. Never mind that most, if not all of these films were varyingdegrees of “successful.” Those guys at the studio know what they’redoing, but the hardcore fanboys sure don’t like the way they creativelydo it.
3.    Fox probably doesn’t really care much about point No. 2.
4.    Fanboys are probably stung to hear point No. 3.
5.    But they’ll totally get over it when Watchmen opens on March 6, 2009.*

*Pending future developments that make us change our mind.

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