Fans should plan to savor every visual morsel when "Watchmen" swoops into movie theaters Friday because the subversive superheroes of the landmark comic book series may never return to the big screen.
"There's no way I would be involved in a sequel or prequel," said director Zack Snyder, who turned the graphic novel "300" into a 2007 blockbuster.
"Will they make one? I have no idea how you would. The work is the work. This movie is about ideas. Anything else you would do, if you did a sequel to it, misses the point entirely of what 'Watchmen' is," he said.
It's unclear whether Warner Bros. would ever take a cue from Dr. Manhattan, the blue-hued superbeing played by Billy Crudup who smoothly proclaims in the comic and the movie that "nothing ever ends." Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. production, declined to be interviewed for this story.
"Contractually, we are obligated," Crudup said. "I will do it. I just don't know what it is we would do."
Unlike superheroes with superhistories like "Batman" or "Spider-Man," decades worth of "Watchmen" source material doesn't exist.
In the 1980s, illustrator Dave Gibbons and writer Alan Moore (who has said he doesn't want to be associated with a "Watchmen" film) crafted only 12 chapters of the comic book-turned-graphic novel.
The nearly three-hour R-rated movie is faithful to the original novel, leaving almost nothing on the cutting room floor except "Tales of the Black Freighter," a comic-within-the-comic woven throughout "Watchmen." It will be released March 24 on DVD as an animated short film along with "Under the Hood," the tell-all memoir from "Watchmen."
Beyond that, Snyder can't envision any cinematic additions to the mythos.
"What? In the next movie, they redeem themselves?" Snyder said. "To continue is to either rehash the same idea again or you're going to try to fix the characters, which goes against everything the book stands for, or you could pick up new characters _ or I don't know what. To me, philosophically, it just doesn't make sense."
The only plan to truly expand the "Watchmen" universe is in the virtual world. Warner Bros. is releasing "Watchmen: The End Is Nigh," a downloadable video game for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. Andy Abramovici, the game's senior producer, said it was created with input from Gibbons and original comic editor Len Wein.
"What we all decided was the most prudent route to go down was to take some hints from the original story and explore those and what the allusions in the book meant to those characters, so our villain in the game is mentioned once or twice very briefly in the 12 issues, but because he is mentioned the way that he is, we kinda riffed on that," Abramovici said.
The game was originally intended as a full-length interactive version of the film, but Abramovici said it was later pared down to two downloadable episodes because of production constraints. Set before the movie takes place, players can brawl as either gadget-happy Nite Owl or manic Rorschach, who have teamed up to take down the villainous Underboss.
On the big screen, "Watchmen" could be the first blockbuster of the year. When Snyder's "300" charged into movie theaters around the same time in March 2007, it took home $70.9 million.
Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Media By Numbers, believes "Watchmen" could snag a similar response on opening weekend.
"I think 'Watchmen' has a shot at posting solid numbers," Dergarabedian said. "The marketing is great. The release date is perfect. The fanboys are clamoring for it, and it's got a cool factor, too. I think 'The Dark Knight' opened the door last year for audiences. People are probably going through superhero withdrawal, and 'Watchmen' is just the fix."
A prequel or sequel might make a sound investment if "Watchmen" does well. The Batman sequel "The Dark Knight" soared into 2008's No. 1 spot at the box office with $533 million; "Spider-Man 3" took in $336.5 million in 2007.
While a possible prequel about the Minutemen _ the superhero team that came before the Watchmen _ may make financial sense, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays seasoned "Watchmen" superhero The Comedian, says it would be creative suicide.
"The fans would kill us if we tried to go and do something else," Morgan said. "If we tried to do a prequel that wasn't written by Alan Moore, we'd get crucified. We couldn't walk down the street. Unless Warner Bros. wants all of their actors to get killed, I think it's a bad idea."
AP Entertainment Writer Ryan Pearson contributed to this report.
Warner Bros. is a unit of Time Warner Inc.
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