'Watchmen' Producer's Emotional Appeal Fails to Grasp Basic Contract Law

In the latest stakes-upping gesture to emerge from the Watchmen legal tussle, one of the film's producers has issued an open letter arguing Warner Bros.' "morally right" claim to the film. Good luck with that!

Not that Lloyd Levin's argument isn't persuasive and sincere enough to warrant some consideration: Fox, which insists it never relinquished the rights to the graphic-novel adaptation and has filed for an injunction to stop its release, reputedly turned its back on Watchmen in 2005 when Levin and original rightsholder Lawrence Gordon took a detailed pitch to both that studio and Warners. "It included," Levin writes, "a cover letter describing the project and its history, budget information, a screenplay, the graphic novel, and it made mention that a top director was involved."

At which point, Levin adds, Fox gave a "flat 'pass.' That's it. An internal Fox email documents that executives there felt the script was one of the most unintelligible pieces of shit they had read in years." But Warners, despite its own problems with the script, decided to take a gamble on Zack Snyder, the R-rating, the budget, the running time, the DVD extras and every other hard-sell, years-in-the-making quality that was soon lobbed into production at the kinder, gentler studio.

If you're still waiting for the part where Levin asserts his and Warners' legal claim to Watchmen's distribution rights, it's OK — so are we. But in closing, straight from the Judge Judy School of Emotional Public Appeals, there is this:

By his own admission, Judge [Gary] Feess is faced with an extremely complex legal case, with a contradictory contractual history, making it difficult to ascertain what is legally right. Are there circumstances here that are more meaningful, which shed light on what is ultimately just, to be taken into account when assessing who is right? In this case, what is morally right, beyond the minutiae of decades-old contractual semantics, seems clear cut.

For the sake of the artists involved, for the hundreds of people, executives and filmmakers, actors and crew, who invested their time, their money, and dedicated a good portion of their lives in order to bring this extraordinary project to life, the question of what is right is clear and unambiguous - Fox should stand down with its claim.

Oh. Again, we're no lawyers, but our first impression is usually correct. So let's just say that for the sake of a judicial system already choked with inefficiency and predation, the answer of what is right seems even clearer by implication — Warner Bros. should probably bring its checkbook when a federal judge hears the case Jan. 20.