Watchmen Post Mortem

watchmen1Now that the weekend is over and we’ve had a chance to try and wash this glowing blue paint off (ammonia?), the accountants are sifting through the $55 million that Watchmen has taken in. Everybody else is trying to read the film’s future in the entrails. The quick take is that even that many sheckles is still considered a disappointment.

Why? Well, the movie opened up with a massive publicity blitz on a whopping 3600 screens. And there literally wasn’t anything else to watch that weekend. (Even the Los Bros Jonas movie tumbled 80%). Plus, there is the fear that any audience for an adaptation of the 1985 Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel will have seen it on Friday and, sated, will be waiting for the upcoming DVD release, the rumored four-hour cut, and the opportunity to sit around naked in their glowing blue paint in the comfort of their own home. Did Alan Moore’s curse work? Will heads roll at Warner Bros.? The pundits have their say after the jump.

Steve Zeitchik of Hollywood Reporter’s Risky Business surveys a post-giant squid landscape. He believes the fall-out will include studios giving fanboy-specific comic material like Priest closer scrutiny before switching any lights to green. The Watchmen under-performance also takes some of the shine off of Zack Snyder‘s rising star. And Warner Bros. has yet to develop an effective DC property beyond Batman.

We say: The relative success of films like 30 Days of Night and 300, made on the cheap from properties unfamiliar to the public who have never darkened the door of a Forbidden Planet, suggests the top shelf comic genre still has legs. Snyder also has plenty in the pipeline, including the forthcoming Sucker Punch, an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man and a segment in Heavy Metal. Of course, one or more of these projects may be completely imaginary. But yep, the WB sure seems to have the kryptonite touch when Christopher Nolan isn’t involved.

Cinematical’s Eugene Novikov asks everybody to hits the brakes for a minute. He argues that Watchmen isn’t the brand name Batman or Spider-Man is, so therefore we shouldn’t apply the same expectations. He also notes that it’s R-rated and 163 minutes long. In short, Watchmen was a hard sell to the non-geek, family-friendly contingent. It prominently featured a giant blue wang, after all.

We say: The Dark Knight showed that if the material is right, then a movie can be longer than a whore’s dream (or Dr. Manhattan’s appendage) and still pull in the punters. Novikov has a point on the unfamiliar material, but surely Frank Miller’s 300 and Sin City were considered unknown properties. Both performed well. Plus, Warner Bros. seemed to go all out to “educate” the public on a graphic novel that already had favorable Time magazine coverage. (“Better than the Bible,” I think the quote went.)

Nikki Finke on Deadline Hollywood Daily ponders “Is the complex story too murky? Is the rampant violence too noxious? Most importantly, will the pic have legs?” There’s also some grim news: the pic is doing best with males over 25. That’s not the market any big budget blockbuster is looking for. Finke also has some interesting reporting on the movie’s marketing blitz:

“[R]ival marketing gurus say they’re surprised and impressed by the campaign that’s also left them confused what the movie is about or even who the good guys or bad guys are and why. As one of them admired: “The campaign was about planting a big flag in the ground as if to say, ‘We are an event. And if you don’t understand that, then you’re not cool enough to get it’. “

We say: Eeek. No doubt that many Hollywood execs will have a sleepless night on Friday. Ang Lee’s Hulk opened to amazing numbers ($62 million) in 2003, then plummeted the following weekend faster than Bruce Banner swan-diving into the Grand Canyon. The film was considered such a calamity that Marvel necessitated a reboot helmed by somebody named after a dog. So if nobody turns up for a repeat view of Watchmen next week, will Warner gamble on a remake in half-a-decade’s time? Terry Gilliam might get his shot at the movie yet.

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2 Responses to “Watchmen Post Mortem”

  1. fullbodytransplant Says:

    Tight work, well said.

    I still miss the original ending with the squid:

    http://fullbodytransplant.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/watchmen-squid-the-real-ending/

    Good times.

  2. Critical Bitchslap: A.O. Scott vs. Richard Brody « SquallyShowers Says:

    […] he wrote, represented “an urge to escape from escapism,” an alternative to films like Watchmen, Knowing, and whatever else they’re condemned to watch in Greeley, Colorado. Each has several […]

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