The trailer for the highly anticipated superhero movie "Watchmen" promises intense on-screen action, larger-than-life characters and scathing social commentary.
But lately the movie has become better known for its courtroom drama, with 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. continuing to clash over interests in the film.
Fox is trying to block Warner's scheduled March 6 release, claiming that it controls the rights to the movie through a series of deals it made with the producer, Lawrence Gordon.
In a ruling last week, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess agreed with Fox, stating that "Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the 'Watchmen' motion picture. "
The judge also encouraged the parties to forgo the trial and instead focus their attention on negotiating a resolution or preparing an appeal. But the sides remained at loggerheads during a status conference in court Monday.
With a trial set for Jan. 20 and no settlement in sight, the release of the film could be indefinitely delayed.
Based on the award-winning graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, "Watchmen" was produced by Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures (with Paramount distributing the movie overseas). Over the last 20 years, several Hollywood studios, including Fox, have attempted to develop a cinematic adaptation.
According to the Associated Press, an attorney for Fox said the studio would continue to seek an order delaying the release of the movie directed by Zach Snyder ("300").
Fox attorney Randy Kender did not return a phone call from The Times. A Fox spokesman declined to comment except to issue a statement: "We are gratified by the recognition of our rights in the judge's order, which speaks for itself."
The January trial will address the remaining issues in the case. Fox's suit also accuses Warner of interference with contract and breach of contract.
Warner Bros. said in a statement: "We respectfully but vigorously disagree with the court's ruling and are exploring all of our appellate options. We continue to believe that Fox's claims have no merit and that we will ultimately prevail, whether at trial or in the Court of Appeals. We have no plans to move the release date of the film."
After its long Hollywood odyssey and with the esteemed reputation of its source material, "Watchmen" has inspired anticipation among comic-book fans that hasn't been seen since Tim Burton's "Batman" in 1989.
The fans are not the only ones watching the current corporate duel with bated breath. The filmmakers and cast are hungry for updates as well.
"I don't know anything more than you do," Jackie Earl Haley, who portrays the grim-masked vigilante Rorschach, said last week when asked about "Watchmen's" future. "We're all hoping for the best, but I don't think anyone really knows what's going to happen."
Times staff writer Geoff Boucher contributed to this report.