It isn't a failure for everyone. Warner Brothers certainly won't call it a failure, Zack Snyder won't call it a failure, Alan Moore (if he is even cognizant of the fact that a Watchmen movie was released this weekend) wouldn't call it a failure. Hell, I don't even think it was a failure. I enjoyed it quite a bit. But as far as the month of March is concerned, and as far as Watchmen's own hype is concerned, it was a failure.
Read the James Berardinelli piece I linked to on Friday (seriously READ it). In it, he says a big opening for Watchmen would cement March's status as a good box-office month. Well, Watchmen DID open up at #1 at the Box Office and DID open to $55 million. But is $55 million enough?
In short: no.
As long as I am linking to articles by superior writers...check out what Box Office Mojo has to say about Watchmen's opening. Warner Brother's spent about as much money promoting the film as it took to make it and made sure it opened in more theaters than any R-rated movie ever. And yet, Watchmen had only the 6th highest opening for an R-rated movie behind "juggernauts" such as The Matrix Reloaded and Hannibal.
Having the 6th highest grossing weekend for an R-rated movie would be awesome for most films. If I made an R-rated movie and it grossed $55 million in its Opening weekend, I would be thrilled. But this is Watchmen we are talking about...WATCHMEN. This is the movie based on a graphic novel that is considered to be the Moby Dick/Citizen Kane/M*A*S*H/Hamlet of all graphic novels. And if something is considered the best a medium has to offer, it should reasonably be the highest grosser. But Watchmen failed at that even as its opening weekend falls at 12th(!) all time for comic book movie openings (behind Fantastic Four for Christ'ssake!)
I don't know who is at fault and I don't particularly care. Film Threat theorizes that the marketing campaign was a little too run-of-the-mill Comic book movie-ish for a story of this pedigree, but I am hard-pressed to find fault with a campaign that got me so personally excited for the film. Whatever the case may be I am personally disappointed by the Box Office results of Watchmen and I think Warner Brothers secretly is as well.
As for my take on the movie, itself, I really enjoyed it. I feel bad for anyone going into this movie expecting a brisk 90 minute story about superheroes fighting bad guys because that is so not what this movie is. But for anyone who read the graphic novel or did a little research, this film had to be quite an interesting experience. Most critics seem to find fault with how closely the movie resembles the graphic novel but I don't think that took away from the experience at all. Contrary to Alan Moore's previous assertions, I believe that Watchmen, the book, was very cinematic and the wisest choice of adaptation for the big screen was loyalty and faithfulness to the material. I was not that big of a fan of 300, but I have to give Zack Snyder his due on this one. Watchmen is a very good movie, and for a select group of fans who have waited 23 years to see it, it was probably even a life-affirming one.
Finally, I would like to welcome Jackie Earle Haley to the comic book movie acting Hall of Fame. He can take a seat right in-between Hugh Jackman and Heath Ledger as far as I'm concerned.