Friday, January 09, 2009

Someone Explain This To Me

You've heard about this mess with the Watchmen movie? Can anyone tell me what the heck Fox has done wrong here to incur the wrath of all the fans and media?

Here's the brief story for the uninitiated: Fox bought the film rights to the Watchmen graphic novel some ten years ago. They have never done much of anything with them.

Warner Brothers somehow decided they didn't need the rights to Watchmen in order to make a Watchmen movie. So they made one. For a year or so now, movie blogs and fan sites have been salivating over the upcoming film.

Fox then decided to sue Warner Brothers, and from what I can tell the first hearing on the matter saw a judge rule that Fox's case has merit. Fox is said to be seeking either an injunction to keep the film from being released or receive some sizable portion of the profits.

Then all hell broke loose online. Aint It Cool has been bashing Fox for this, whipping their fan readers into a frenzy (that's just one article... there have been four or five Aint It Cool articles whining and moaning about this).

Some writer from wrote an open letter inviting Fox to "eat all the dicks," which, while funny, is no more mature and logic-based an argument than a third grader calling a fellow student a "doody-head."

You can see more similar sentiments here and here.

You should know that my world view is largely conservative and I tend to lean on logic over emotion when analyzing things.

It should come as no surprise then, that I'm left scratching my head here. What in the heck has Fox supposedly done wrong?

Fox owns the rights. Warner gives them the finger and makes the film anyway, Fox sues, and somehow the fans hate Fox?

Let me tell you why that is... because fans could give a crap about the rules. Fans just want what they want. They want a Watchmen movie. The fans are basically acting like toddlers who just had their rattle taken away. Gimmie, gimmie... I want... I need!

I never read the Watchmen. Honestly never even heard of it until this movie was made. But I understand there to be a vast and loyal following. I understand they've waited years for someone to make a movie, that they got their hopes up when Fox bought the rights only to have them dashed by 10 years of Fox sitting on the project, and that they got excited when Warners made the film. And now they feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them.

Too bad. Laws are thankfully not based on comic-book-fanboy longings and emotions... but rather, you know... what's legal and stuff. But fans could care less about the law... they just want their precious Watchmen--heck, most of these fans will probably download the movie illegally once it comes out... they do not care about what's right.

Warners is the studio the fans should be pissed at... for getting their hopes up on the film without doing basic due diligence on securing the rights. Any other view is just sour grapes. This is the same Warners that is one of the most aggressive Hollywood studios in tracking down and disrupting movie pirates--so if it's them holding the rights to something, and someone else profiting from it, they'll lean on the law. But if it's another studio protecting their rights, it's totally wrong, man. Whatever.

Warners is George Costanza after getting caught having sex with the cleaning lady: "Should I not have done that? Was that wrong? I gotta plead ignorance here. If anyone had told me that sort of thing was frowned upon..."

Anyone here have any insight into this conflict that might make me rethink things? Because it seems pretty clear cut to me.


At 1/10/2009 10:01:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

I is law and Fox has the rights, so black and white says they have a case.

I had to do a little research on this because I remember hearing about litigation way back when the trailer premiered, I believe on The Dark Knight (July 18).

And of course now that the movie nears release, the discussion is intense.

It sounds like a lot of people did stupid stuff here. Numerous people were involved trying to make this thing. Producers went studio to studio. It sounds like Fox gave up on it ever being a movie, especially since creator Alan Moore deemed the comic book "unfilmable."

And then Warner started making it, and Fox didn't make any effort to stop them. If Fox thought Warner was going to make an awesome flick out of this material, you would think they would have tried to stop it from being made in the first place. Then they saw how cool it looked and said, "Now, wait guys. Fair is fair. We own the rights." If that's true, then I can see where much of the "screw you, Fox," stuff comes from.

I am quite certain things like this happen all the time and a studio sees another studio's production of a movie that the former studio has rights to and they see the results and say, "Phew...glad we didn't do that."

You're right that the fanboys just want what they want. I think it would go for anything in which you saw a full realization dangled in front of you and then someone threatens to take it away.

Even though this is not life and death, it's like a doctor showing an AIDS patient a vial of magic liquid that completely cures the disease and a pharmaceutical company that could never perfect the formula snatching it away and not promising it will ever be put to market.

In this case, though, these people will get to see the movie eventually, just not when expected. Whatever happens.

Whatever, of course. The fact that Warner decided to just go ahead with the project and not include Fox in some way is patently (no pun intended...but now that I've written it...I totally intend it) stupid.

At 1/12/2009 04:36:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I don't know all the details either, and I'm sure none of us ever will. However, two things don't make any sense. 1) It's not like Fox insiders had no idea this movie was being made two years ago when filming began, so why wait until now to press the issue, and 2) There is no way in hell Warner Bros would pour 80 million or whatever into this thing without believing that they were in the clear to make it.

Something is being held back, or crap like "Aintitcool" is just exaggerating it for whatever dumb ass reason. I wouldn't put it past them. Harry Knowles recently wrote a column asking all other websites to stop reporting bullshit "Batman 3" movie rumors because it ruined the cred of supposedly legitmate sites like his; give me a fucking break!

Either way, as Chris said, things like this probably happen a lot more than we are made aware, and they always get settled. This has just been made a bigger deal out of due to the cult fanbase of the subject matter. I'm a fan myself of the graphic novel; it's arguably as good as just about any piece of fiction written in the last twenty five years, no joke. But if I have to wait a couple of extra months, I think I'll live.

Many franchises such as "Spiderman" are tied up in the courts for over a decade before anything can be accomplished; at least in the case of "The Watchmen" the film has been completed, so whenever it's given the go it can be released fairly quickly.


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