Caffeinated Clint : Watchmen Settlement

This is maddening…. Its like handing a hooker cash just after she admits to being uninterested in sex and probably won’t be giving you the already-paid-for rim-job or milky hand-shake you were beseeching… Yep, Warner look set to settle with Fox over “Watchmen”.

Does it matter that Fox always hated the idea of a “Watchmen” movie? No.

Does it matter that they never wanted to make it? No.

Does it matter that some pencil-nosed accountant has found a loophole in an old crumpled up contract (something from the 1980s) that suggests Fox may still have a right to the film? Seems So.

I’m a stickler for what’s right too (If I robbed a bank, I’d probably return to the scene the next day just to apologize to the owner) and I realize that Fox may have some kind of share in this film, if it’s in writing somewhere – but c’mon! Doesn’t the studio know this is only hurting them? Don’t they realize they won’t be invited to the cool coke-felled parties any more? Don’t they realize Aint it Cool is suggesting everyone know boycott the studio’s movies!? (ha! love it Quint!) It just all seems… wrong.

Variety reports that ”attorneys for the studios agreed Friday to delay a federal court hearing until Monday in order to continue settlement talks.

”The hearing had been set to take place Friday before US District Court Judge Gary Feess in Los Angeles for the jurist to rule on Warner’s request for an expedited hearing on the key issue — whether to grant Fox’s demand to block Warner’s plans to release “Watchmen” on March 6.”

If Warner agrees to settle with Fox, it’s going to take the latter much longer to reap any kind of profit on superhero-pic “Watchmen”. And that doesn’t seem fair considering the WB were the ones that took the risk on the film in their first place, let alone paid for the bitch.

I’m not concerned about the WB financially – they do, after all, have “Terminator” and “Harry Potter” sequels out this year too – but that’s not the point; their movie, their money, right?

OK, for fucks sake, offer them seats to the premiere, maybe even offer to team up with them on a co-prod’ sequel sometime, heck, you can even shave of a few points in the back end for them – but Warner, don’t discount yourself here.

As Lloyd Levin, produced of “Watchmen” says, Fox detested a feature film version of “Watchmen”. They couldn’t care two hoots about it. They didn’t want to come to the party – don’t send them an invite.

Oh, and remember that note Levin left HitFlix (in which he essentially spat in the face of Fox)? Well, Fox have responded.

“We appreciate Mr. Levin’s passion for this project, but he has neglected basic facts and legal rulings. First, Fox notified Warner Bros of our rights in this project months before production on the film began — they chose to ignore our rights on this occasion and several times after that and proceeded at their own risk; 2) only after having our rights in the film deliberately ignored by Warner Bros. did we take the action of filing litigation in order to have those rights recognized; and 3) on Judge Feess’ Christmas Eve order, he specifically ruled that WB had been timely notified and that Fox, in fact, had the rights we asserted. There is no question of who is right and who is wrong.  That has been decided through the litigation that we had hoped to avoid, and we refer interested parties to the court’s ruling to confirm these statements.”

Its interesting times for Fox – if not for those everlasting “Simpsons” and “Star Wars” residuals they’d likely be reduced to mere small print type (like Yari Group and Orion) in a TIME magazine article on fallen companies of modern times. They really have hit the skids the last couple of years. And I’d say that’s the reason Rothman’s crowd are so stringent about getting their share of the “Watchmen” pie. And you would too if you’d just experienced your ‘worst’ Summer ever – the first in which none of your releases scored over $100 million.

Fox’s biggest films of 2008 were “What Happens in Vegas?”, “Australia”, “Meet Dave” and “The X-Files : I Want to Believe” – but biggest doesn’t necessarily equate to big box-office, as was the case with all those films (well, “Vegas” did respectable business, most of the others lost money – particularly Luhrmann’s “Australia”).

“I will admit something needs to change”, says a Fox employee, who shall remain unnamed for fear she’ll be pink-slipped on Monday. “We always joke that Fox Searchlight make the good movies – Fox make the opposite. But look, I think things are improving – or seem to be.”

As for whether the studio can recover from their financial piss-on of ’08?

“Wolverine. Everything is riding on it – Everything”, says the same Fox insider. “And I’m not just talking the future of the franchise – though naturally that is a factor, for instance, we haven’t decided whether we’re definitely doing “Magneto” yet, not until this one hits a magic number – but if this one tanks, the production line will slow-up, and the films that do get through will be cheap, family-friendly entertainment. The good news is Wolverine is great – I swear to you, it’s a very good superhero film. I think audiences will dig it”

As I see it, the studio really only have the “X-Men” franchise to rely on these days (and for their sake, and ours, I hope the latest, “Wolverine”, is good – though I have to admit, Brett Ratner’s “X-Men : The Last Stand” did leave me with such a sour taste in my mouth – and I’m sure I’m not alone – that I can’t seem to get too damp over this latest one) which is also why the shingle are suddenly going through their vaults to see what successful franchises of yesteryear they can resurrect :

- ”Expect another Die Hard as soon as Bruce Willis’s schedule free’s up”, says our Fox friend. (They’re already putting the feelers out for a writer).

- Maybe even another “Alien” and “Predator” movie – and not another of those awful match-up movies either. ”There’s been some scuttlebutt about an “Alien 5″ that’d serve as a James Cameron/Sigourney Weaver-reunion, but there’s more chance a “Predator” sequel, or remake” will come to fruition.

- I’m guessing there will probably be another “X-Files” film – for a couple of reasons. Nobody, including Fox, is quite ready to say goodbye to that franchise just yet (its also one of the only franchises they have). Also, If Sony’s “2012″ hits harder than an iron-gloved boxer, Fox – and every other studio – will be looking to jump on the alien-invasion bandwagon too.

- There will be a couple more “Alvin and the Chipmunks” sequels if this year’s “Squeakel” hits big, which it will (and if it doesn’t, the sequels will be produced for the direct-to-dvd market).

- The sequel to the Will Smith-starrer “I, Robot” is shaping up to go soon.

- There’s a “Daredevil” reboot being discussed. We probably haven’t seen the last of the “Fantastic Four” or “X-Men”, as a group, either.

- A sequel to “Wall Street”. They need a film like that to win back respect after all the talking-squirrels and robot-Eddie Murphy movies they’ve been pumping out.

- ”Matt Groening’s been asked to hurry up and come up with a “Simpson’s” movie sequel”, we’re told – and no surprise there.

Meantime, they’ve a slate of films that includes an “Alvin and the Chipmunk” sequel, a flick based on the “Dragonball” video-game, “Ice Age 3″, and James Cameron’s “Avatar”. One of those should be good. But compared to say, Universal or Warner’s line-up, its rather meh.

Remember the Fox of yesteryear? They would’ve had to have been one of the best studios around. They were quality – and so were their films. This was before they came to the wonky realization that there’s money to be made from films based on forgettable video-games and that spoof movies still pack ‘em in – even when done wrong. I still remember an exhibitor screening in the late 80s for two new Fox films – “Die Hard” and “Big”. Same day double. Wow. How great were they?! But the shingle were known for pushing out good, solid titles like that in the 80s – this is the crowd, after all, that released such gems as the “Star Wars” series, James Cameron’s money-spinning “Aliens”, “Romancing the Stone”, “Wall Street”, “Raising Arizona”, “Cocoon”, “Die Hard”, “Predator”, “The Abyss”, “The Boy Who Could Fly”, “The Fly”…. And in the 90s, they hit pay dirt – and then some – with “Titanic”. But some time after that, maybe between the ass-raping George Lucas gave audiences with the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy and Bill Murray sold out to voice a fat cat, traffic lights began greenlighting their movies, whilst the boys in the office played poker.

I really do hope Fox get back on their feet (Bill Mechanic still around?) – they were, and can be, a great studio again. But please, for the sake of cinema, and at the risk of losing that wad of dignity you still possess, leave “Watchmen” be and just get back to making your own movies again. Good ones.

Be good to your body – use soap.

Clint.