It’s a little late in the day for 20th Century Fox to enjoin Warner Brothers from going forward with a Watchmen movie, but, according to The Hollywood Reporter, they initiated legal action last Friday to do just that. 

This whole dispute stretches back to the late 80s, when Fox secured the rights for Watchmen and subsequently commissioned screenplays from Sam Hamm and Charles McKeown (the latter writing for Terry Gilliam).  In 1991 Fox “assigned some rights via a quitclaim to Largo International”, but there was always an understanding that the studio retained distribution rights for the first film to be made from the property.  When Largo went tits up, Lawrence Gordon acquired the company’s rights and entered into a turnaround agreement which stipulated a buy-out payment to Fox is Gordon set the film up at another studio.  Now that Warner Brothers is knee deep in Watchmen with Zack Snyder at the helm, Fox is a little peeved that they’ve received no buy-out price from Gordon.  So they’s a-gonna sue.

Now, will this impede Snyder’s work in any way, thereby jeopardizing the March 6, 2009 release date?  I highly doubt it.  From what I gather, this is Fox being a little vindictive and looking for a nice, fat settlement.  And, after a good deal of legal wrangling, I’m sure Warner Brothers will throw a bunch of money at the rival studio to make them go away.  I don’t know why Fox waited until now to hit Warner Brothers (and, by extension, Gordon) with a suit; I guess they have more leverage if the film is past the point of getting scuttled. 

But don’t fret.  Barring any technical setbacks on Snyder’s end, you’ll get your Watchmen next year.