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Is ‘Watchmen’ Really Dead?

As "Watchmen’s” character Rorschach would say when in deep thought: “Hurm.” The big question at the box-office last weekend was whether fans would watch “Watchmen” again. The perception was that the graphic novel adaptation, having launched to a solid if unspectacular $56 million, needed a strong second weekend if it was to stay on the […]

As "Watchmen’s” character Rorschach would say when in deep thought: “Hurm.”

The big question at the box-office last weekend was whether fans would watch “Watchmen” again. The perception was that the graphic novel adaptation, having launched to a solid if unspectacular $56 million, needed a strong second weekend if it was to stay on the path to recouping its $200 million production and marketing cost.

Last week screenwriter David Hayter went so far as to talk directly to fans in a letter posted at Hardcore Nerdity to make sure they understood the stakes, making an impassioned plea with a litany of reasons why fans should support the film:

“If the film made you think,” he wrote. “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 … 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.”

Despite his call to arms, “Watchmen” dropped 67 percent to $18.1 million. Zack Snyder’s film has amassed $140 million worldwide in 10 days, and still has some box-office life in it, and will no doubt be a strong seller on DVD and Blu-ray. And while it’s still some way from entering the black, it’s not all doom and gloom, with the film’s defenders certain that both box-office and critical history hasn’t been carved in stone just yet.

“I found that fans of the comic were very pleased with the film and even more excited about the director’s cut DVD,” said Don Murphy, producer of the “Transformers” franchise and of the adaptation of Alan Moore’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentleman.” “I know I was and am.”

He says reports of “Watchmen’s” failure are premature. “There are never enough fans that they alone can make a film successful — they must be respected (but) not followed slavishly. (But) the film should end up doing almost $300 million worldwide box-office plus a ton more (on) DVD — I would say that it has entered the mainstream.”

Asked whether he thinks talk of “Watchmen” being a box-office “disappointment” will affect the greenlighting of future “difficult” graphic novel adaptations, Murphy rankles. “Your question is completely stated backward, as if you believe some of the more idiotic Internet pundits out there,” he says. “The film was not greenligted because it was a great best-selling graphic novel — it was made because it had Zack Snyder. I think all graphic-novel based movies are in just fine shape, and history will prove me right.”

Jonathan Llyr of Hardcore Nerdity says “Watchmen” followers are divided over the movie. “I get the feeling that fans are split on the adaptation, although they should really thank their lucky stars that the movie looks anything like the graphic novel with the way movies get made these days,” he says. “People who like it seem to really like it and those who don't, well, really don't. Fans of the book have directed a film version of “Watchmen” in their heads for years now, so it's really a thankless task for anyone to try to tackle it. Fans treat the book like a bible, but it is a flawed masterpiece. Snyder, Hayter and (writer Alex) Tse should be very proud of themselves for their bravery … It disappoints me that some fans who dislike it are being so rabid about it. So many of these so-called ‘fans’ really like to eat their own.”

And while Llyr isn’t surprised at the box-office drop-off, he doesn’t think it’s necessarily a response to the film’s quality. “With studios releasing DVDs almost the day after a film comes out — and in many different versions, as ‘Watchmen’ is sure to be — fans are more careful with their dollars,” he says. “It also takes up a big chunk of your time to watch it. The economy doesn't help, either. People will come back to this movie again and again — just on DVD. It's a great film, one that will be more appreciated as years go by.”