Everyone is watching the Watchmen–or rather, everyone is watching the dueling studios 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers as the fate of the highly-anticipated film is gradually shrouded in uncertainty and confusion. With Rorschach, the Comedian, Silk Specter, Nite Owl, and the rest of Alan Moore and David Gibbons’ brilliant cast so tantalizingly close to the silver screen, fans and film-lovers alike are anxious over the conflict. Will there be “Watchmen” on the night of March 6th, the day of the film’s scheduled release? Or will the conflict remain unresolved, as many fear, and result in postponement or even cancellation?
But let’s back up. Where does this all begin? The story is familiar by now: Fox bought the rights to distribute a film adaptation of Watchmen shortly after the acclaimed graphic novel’s release and spent the next twenty years doing absolutely nothing with it. Warner Brothers decided to develop the so-called “unfilmable” story anyway and managed to produce the $130 million epic with “300” director Zack Snyder at the helm.
Of course, it’s not that simple – it never is. Before filming began, Fox approached Warner Brothers and a suit began over the rights to the project, though it is obvious Warner Brothers continued with production regardless of legal troubles. Unfortunately for Warner Brothers, in late December Judge Gary Feess brought down the gavel on Fox’s side of things and since then, Fox has made it clear that they want to prevent the release of the film, a possibility which will be decided on January 20th. The only good news for fans in this bleak tale is that lawyers on both sides of the conflict are working on a settlement.
The legal conflict hasn’t stopped Warner Brothers from mounting a variety of marketing strategies. Snyder and company took full advantage of the comic-book hype of “The Dark Knight,” releasing the first trailer just before Batman hit theaters.
A series of prequel video games called “Watchmen: The End is Nigh” will be released during the month of March to (hopefully) go along with the film. Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl) and Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach) lend their voices and‚ original artist David Gibbons served as an advisor during production of the seventies period game.
“The Tales of the Black Freighter,” the fictional comic book in the original graphic novel, will be included as an animated feature for Watchmen’s (hopeful) DVD release, with Gerard Butler voicing the main role.
Director Zack Snyder didn’t forget the fans, either. He took to Watchmen’s Youtube channel and started a contest for Youtubers to create commercials for Veidt Enterprises, a fictional corporation in the Watchmen world. Some of the top entries can be found‚ here.
Action figures are due to be released this month and this past Wednesday, a footage-packed‚ featurette was released via Apple that depicts the original generation of superheroes of the Watchmen universe, the Minutemen, whose story plays an important role in the story. The featurette was accompanied by a‚ Japanese trailer for the film that also plays host to some never-before-seen footage.
Recently, Warner Brothers launched a new‚ website that plays homage to vigilante Rorschach’s publication of choice, the fictional conspiracy theory magazine The New Frontiersman. While there are no apparent easter eggs, the website includes a few nods to Watchmen fans, incorporating the original Minuteman photo, an ink blot (also known as a Rorschach test), and the ubiquitous blood-stained smiley face pin into the site’s design.
So whether or not there will actually be a film to see on March 6th is still up in the air. But Warner Brothers isn’t about to back down and fans can only hope that their legal team is as aggressive as the marketing campaign–or, even better, as aggressive as the Watchmen themselves.