Comics, Movies

Watchmen Is In Trouble

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You probably don’t care. Whether you loved the movie or hated it, it’s out and it’s done, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. Although the film grossed $55 million its opening weekend (a lot of money, but well short of the $70 mil Warner Bros. was hoping for) and looks to have a dramatic drop this coming weekend and afterwards, it shouldn’t affect anything directly Watchmen related. Even if it’s considered a financial flop, the only way Warner will be able to make the $150 mil spent on the movie (plus $50 mil for marketing [plus however much it owes Fox thanks to that lawsuit]) will be by hoping the nerd audience buys the expensive Director’s Cut DVDs and the Black Freighter and all that junk.

So why should you care? Because Watchmen isn’t about Watchmen anymore. Whether you liked the film or not, as I said on Monday, Snyder made a film directly for nerds and fans, and made it true to the source material as possible. If Watchmen tanks, that is the end of the very short-era of authentic comic books flicks, and likely adult ones as well. But don’t take my word for it — take David Hayter’s, one of Watchmen‘s screenwriters (and voice of Solid Snake, randomly), word for it in an open letter to nerd he wrote on Hardcore Nerdity:

This is a movie made by fans, for fans. Hundreds of people put in years
of their lives to make this movie happen, and every one of them was
insanely committed to retaining the integrity of this amazing, epic
tale. This is a rare success story, bordering on the impossible, and
every studio in town is watching to see if it will work. Hell, most of
them own a piece of the movie.

So look, this is a note to the fanboys and fangirls. The true believers. Dedicated for life.

If the film made you think. Or argue with your friends. If it inspired
a debate about the nature of man, or vigilante justice, or the horror
of Nixon abolishing term limits. If you laughed at Bowie hanging with
Adrian at Studio 54, or the Silhouette kissing that nurse.

Please go see the movie again next weekend.

You have to understand, everyone is watching to see how the film will
do in its second week. If you care about movies that have a brain, or
balls, (and this film’s got both, literally), or true adaptations —
And if you’re thinking of seeing it again anyway, please go back this
weekend, Friday or Saturday night. Demonstrate the power of the fans,
because it’ll help let the people who pay for these movies know what
we’d like to see. Because if it drops off the radar after the first
weekend, they will never allow a film like this to be made again.

I believe Hayter to be 100% correct. And unfortunately, most studio execs agree, From big sis Nikki Finke’s analysis of the problem on Deadline Hollywood Daily:

Once the pic opened, “either you were familiar with the source
material, or you had trouble following the bouncing ball,” one studio
marketing exec analyzed for me. Exit polling showed that the audience
didn’t really like the movie (as shown by a Cinemascore of only “B”).
“Alan Moore always said that Watchmen the graphic novel
couldn’t be successfully made into a movie. Maybe he was right.
Because, at the end of the day, Zack Snyder’s slavish attention to
detail in making Watchmen such a literal translation is what
ultimately doomed the film. He cared more about the appeasement of the
fanboys than in a cohesive, coherent movie meant for everyone.” 

Inside Hollywood, some studio execs blamed the Warner Bros brass for — get this — being too hands-off because Snyder had given the studio such an incredible success with 300 and the moguls just figured he knew what he was doing with Watchmen.
“This may have been one of those times when you second guess,” a
Hollywood bigwig opines. “What distinguishes a great studio exec from
every other studio exec is that they manage these filmmaker egos
without letting them know they’re being managed. But,” the bigwig adds,
“not everyone is Chris Nolan.”

If Watchmen fails, but that mean we’ll never get a good comic book movie again? No. But it will be virtually impossible to get a mature comic book movie made in the future. Worse, studio execs will feel they’re justified in changing whatever they want from the source material in their attempt to “broaden the appeal.” Which means the Deadpool Debacle all over again, or worse.

For all the talk of adapting Watchmen — whether it be to modern times, the war on terror, or simplifying the story more — I don’t think any of it would have actually brought in more non-nerds. Mass audiences didn’t know these characters, and they didn’t know the comic. If they came in, they were expecting Batman or Spider-man, and instead got an incredibly complex tale of morality (which is why so many audiences seem to be walking out  — seriously).

We’re really at a crisis point, people. If you want Watchmen to be a success, go see it again. and probably again after that. If you don’t… well, understand that means you don’t want any mature or authentic superhero stories being told in the movies in the future. I’m sorry that’s the choice you’ve been given, but there it is. There’s only one question that matters now: “Who Watches the Watchmen?”

About Author

Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.