'Watchmen' Fans Organize To Demand Epic Running Time

Watchmen Fans Petition for 3 Hour Film

Although praise of early preview footage has been nearly universal, some comic book fans have managed to find a bone of contention with Warner Bros. upcoming adaption of the landmark comic book series Watchmen , considered by numerous critics and publications (including Time Magazine) as one of the best and most important pieces of literature of the 20th century.

The studio released the film's highly-anticipated debut trailer on the eve last month's so-called "Superbowl for geeks", Comic-Con International: San Diego, and then premiered even more footage to con attendees, making the Zack Snyder-directed feature the belle of the San Diego ball.

Thousands of fans lined up in the giant but somehow inadequately-small San Diego Convention Center in hopes of gaining entrance to a Q&A panel featuring Snyder, members from film and that preview footage, and both the mainstream press and fan blogosphere covered the event with the same fervor the Washington press corps are currently dedicating to the 2008 Presidential election "Veepstakes".

Fans and press alike heaped accolades on the first-look footage, which showed a film seemingly very faithful its in adaptation of writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons' 1986-87 limited series and later collected graphic novel, with some sequences unmistakably lifted directly from the original comic pages.

But comic book fans are notoriously hard to please, and for some, Warner Bros. might not let Snyder be faithful enough.

Motivated fans calling themselves the "Minutemen" (a reference to the story) have begun an online petition to "respectfully demand" the studio let Snyder edit the March 2009 release at over 3 hours in length, to allow for as many elements of the source material possible to make the film's final cut.

"Over the past year, Zack Snyder and his production crew have been working tirelessly to bring to life the essence of Watchmen, fully aware that ‘the devil is in the detail’," reads the petition in part.

"As with any movie Warner Bros have a responsibility to make ‘Watchmen’ a commercial success and to appeal to a broad audience, many of whom will not be familiar with the story – and therein lies the issue. While discussions with WB studio executives are ongoing about the running time of the movie, there is pressure to ensure that it comes in at below 2hrs and 50 minutes.

"We, the ‘Minutemen’ below, submit that Watchmen must be a 3 hour movie and ask WB to respect and extend the courtesy of this longer running time to the giant of all superhero stories."

The current 2 hour 50 minute running time – still very long by average standards – has been confirmed by Snyder. The director has even acknowledged trying to cut the film even shorter, while at the same time publicly expressing reservations over bringing it in under 3 hours, admitting elements of the massive, multi-layered storyline would be relegated to the cutting room floor.

Online petitions started by comic books readers are nothing new – fans have been known to start petitions to try to save low-selling titles from cancellation and to protest or attempt to influence storylines – but whether Warner Bros. takes notice or not will be interesting to observe.

While no doubt fans will eventually get their full-length director's cut on an inevitable DVD/Blu-Ray release anyway, and the issue might only be over only 10 or slightly more minutes in the first place, the notion of shorter films being more likely commercially successful is arguable to say the least.

The logic that shorter films can by shown by theater owners more times in a day (and therefore potentially collect more receipts) is unassailable, but there is ample evidence to suggest the right film can make that factor irrelevant.

The highest-grossing film of all time, 1997's Titanic, clocked in at nearly 3 and ½ hours, almost as long as the real ship's maiden/final voyage. And all three of Peter's Jackson's cash cow Lord of the Rings entries flirted with the 180 minute mark, with the finale The Return of the King (201 minutes) going home and spending the night with it.

Even Warner Bros.' own current superhero box office phenomena The Dark Knight comes in at a relatively long 2 hours and 32 minutes. While a few critics suggested the film might have played even better a few minutes shorter, that nitpick clearly didn't affect box office . The Dark Knight just moved in behind Titanic as the second highest grossing film of all time.

So will Warners' avoid the wrath of the online tastemakers that helped fuel The Dark Knight's buzz factor and roll the dice with an "epic" running time? Or stick with the more conventional wisdom and make the film maybe a little less daunting for moviegoers who might have heard of "Watchmen" by now but who couldn't pick "Nite Owl", "Dr. Manhattan", or "Rorschach" out of a police line-up?

Currently, a little under 4000 fans have virtually "signed" the online petition, not nearly enough to put a dent in film's box office, but a number that could be greatly amplified over the Internet when the studio begins to market the film in earnest. Newsarama – and perhaps Warner Bros. – will be “watching” how big that number grows over the coming weeks.

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