Twentieth Century Fox are lobbying to halt the release of upcoming graphic novel adaptation Watchmen over a rights dispute.

The film, starring Billy Crudup and Patrick Wilson, is due for release in March 2009, following a lengthy development process.

But Fox, which claims to have bought the intellectual rights to the Alan Moore comic books in the 1980s, has launched a legal bid to prevent Warner Bros from releasing the movie.

"Warner Bros' production and anticipated release of the Watchmen motion picture violates 20th Century Fox's long-standing motion picture rights in the Watchmen property," said a Fox statement.

"We will be asking the court to enforce Fox's copyright interests in Watchmen and enjoin the release of the Warner Bros film and any related Watchmen media that violate our copyright interests in that property."

Alan Moore's acclaimed graphic novel, heralded by many to be the greatest comic book ever written, has taken a tortuous route to cinemas, with directors such as Paul Greengrass, Terry Gilliam and Darren Aronofsky, as well as screenwriter David Hayter, attached to the project.

But 300 director Zack Snyder has taken the project closer to completion than his predecessors, commencing shooting in September last year and now working on post-production ahead of a 2009 release.

Warner Bros appear confident of the legality of their possession of the rights to distribute the film, commenting: "We respectfully disagree with Fox's position and do not believe they have any rights in and to this project.

"The judge did not opine at all on the merits, other than to conclude that Fox satisfied the pending requirements," the studio added.

Moore's book, published by DC Comics as a monthly limited series in 1986 and 1987, tells of a group of 'superheroes' - without superpowers - whose role in society is called into question in a mid-80s US nearing nuclear war.

19/08/2008 10:45:31