Is Watchmen Cursed?

Just when it looked like we were actually going to finally get to see a Watchmen movie, along comes a lawsuit by 20th Century Fox claiming that it — not Warner Bros. — has the film rights to Watchmen.

That in itself wouldn’t be all that surprising. Rights to properties like this can pass through multiple entities, sometimes under very odd circumstances, and sorting things out can be tough. Typically, though, this would be a way for 20th Century Fox to shake some money out of Warner Bros. Except if we are to take 20th Century Fox at face value, they’re not interested in any compensation for its rights according to Variety,

“We will be asking the court to enforce Fox’s copyrights interests in ‘The Watchmen’ and enjoin the release of the Warner Bros. film and any related ‘Watchmen’ media that violate our copyright interests in that property.

Surprisingly, Fox said it would rather see the film killed instead of collecting a percentage of the box office.

“When you have copyright infringement, there are some damages you never recover,” said a source close to the litigation.

I suspect that’s more of a threat to increase their negotiating position, but when Fox originally filed the lawsuit back in February 2008, they did seek to enjoin the movie from going into production, so perhaps they’re serious.

Presumably this lawsuit also places in jeopardy all of the Watchmen action figures and prop replicas that DC Direct had announced, since those relied on the characters in the movie rather than the comic book. DC Direct had once planned to proceed with Watchmen-based action figures, but abandoned it after Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons said they wanted no part of it. DC may have been playing nice in withdrawing the figures, but more likely it was afraid of a lawsuit that would have threatened its hold over the Watchmen rights.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave (wait — that’s a character froma different company. Sorry about that).

Wonder Woman Animated Movie Coming February 2009

Next up in Warner Brothers series of straight-to-DVD animated DC films is Wonder Woman, scheduled for release in February 2009. One of the things I thought the New Frontier movie did very well was its interesting take on Wonder Woman (which I assume it got from the comic, but I haven’t read it so can’t confirm).

I assume this won’t be that dark, but at least it’s something until DC gets its act together and gets going on the live action film again (hint – do whatever it takes to get Joss Whedon back helming the project).

One of Us, One of Us

Tod Browning’s 1932 classic, Freaks, is apparently in the public domain and available for download at Archive.Org. This movie was considered so far out on the edge for its time that it ruined Browning’s career, led to a financial disaster for Universal, and was banned in the UK until the 1960s.

Sadly, the original version was received so negatively by test screen audiences that Universal ordered a recut that resulted in over 30 minutes of Browning’s original footage being removed; that footage is still lost.

So, Basically, King of Kong Was Bullshit

Like a lot of geeks, I saw King of Kong when it finally made its way to my corner of the world. Liked it; laughed at it; thought Billy Mitchell was an ass.

Then the other night I’m forcing my wife to watch it, and I decide to Google Billy Mitchell for the hell of it to see if he ever responded to the very negative portrayal of him in the “documentary.” And up comes a link to this MTV story which basically suggests the “documentary” was largely a work of fiction thanks to clever editing.

For example, consider this new light on one of the most outrageous parts of the movie…when Steve Wiebe beats Mitchell’s score live but Mitchell’s taped score is accepted almost immediately afterward,

The movie doesn’t show Mitchell’s answer, but it shows Day going over to the computer and inputting Mitchell’s score. Day tells MTV News that he remembers Mitchell answering, “Yup,” to the aforementioned question, but Mitchell says he doesn’t remember the call. And he wants the record to show what “The King of Kong” does not: that cooler heads prevailed after New Hampshire, and Mitchell’s taped score was yanked within 48 hours of its posting, giving Wiebe the record and the glory for months to come.

King of Kong’s producer and director call that “streamlining the narrative” but it looks a lot like lying through ommission to me.

And anyone who saw the movie knows that Mitchell can barely stand to be in the same room as Wiebe and never deigns to play against him live. Except that also appears to be a case of “streamlining the narrative,”

Then came CGE. “I thought at the Classic Gaming Expo, Steve would see we’re good people, we’re straight shooters, and we’re fun,” Mitchell said in the recent interview. At the event, the two gamers shared a podium where they joked about their budding rivalry and sat for a joint Web radio interview. They also tried to play “Donkey Kong.” The problem was there was no real “DK” machine there. They found a cabinet that could run a version of the game.

Mitchell remembers playing it and doing well on his first try at the machine. “There’s a little luck involved. I got 929,000. I got there on my second guy.” He recalled Wiebe spending much of the event playing at that machine: “There’s always good luck and bad luck. He struggled. In the end he came through with a good score: 893,000. He got there with his last guy on his last game on the last day.”

Weibe remembers the actual game slightly differently, but there seems to be little doubt that the two played together.

Steve Sanders, probably the most normal person in the movie, puts it best in the MTV article when he says that the movie is accurate but not fair. Or as the Violent Femmes put it, “I told the truth but it was still a lie.”