I am what you might call an amateur comics geek. I don't subscribe to titles when they appear in issue form, but I do love my collections and graphic novels. And I'll defend to the death the proposition that Moore's Watchmen is hands-down the best graphic novel, ever.
The story is complex, multi-referential, and darkly thought-provoking. It deconstructs not just comics themselves, but the entire notion of a superhero, while reflecting on the real world darkness of the near-apocalyptic parts of the mid-1980s. It's the kind of thing that innately resists the simplifications and streamlining that come with moving comics to the movie screen.
Back in May, Neil Gaiman blogged about his "law" of comic-book movies, which is that a comic movie is better to the degree to which it hews to the look and feel of what people like about the comic. You can yank the story around a lot - comics readers get that - but if you mess with the iconic elements of the characters and setting then your movie is going to... well, suck.
So a lot of people have been anticipating the upcoming Watchmen movie with more than a little trepidation. It would be so incredibly easy to make a movie of this story that sucked, and disappoint us all. Up to now, it appears Warner may have learned something from their previous flops (Catwoman, anyone?) and their spectacular success with this year's Dark Knight. The pre-release info, and even the recent trailer, have had the look and have raised expectations, including my own.
Which brings me around to why the heck am I blogging in Copyfight about my peculiar media obsessions? Well, it looks like the film may not get released after all, and it's down to copyright issues.
Last week, an LA judge agreed with Fox that it owns copy rights in the material, and essentially cleared the way for Fox to block release of the movie in March. The rights are somewhat convoluted since it appears that what Fox owns is not the Watchmen material itself, but rights to distribute a film of that material. This stems from a deal in the late 1980s, after which Fox dropped the idea of making the movie but apparently retained certain interests.
Right now everything is very preliminary. The judge's decision came as something of a surprise, since he had originally scheduled a trial on the merits to start in January. I imagine that Warner will pursue a dual strategy of appealing this order while at the same time trying to get some kind of deal with Fox. My guess is that they'll offer Fox a slice of the pie and call it cheaper than potentially pushing back the release date.