A few months ago open (legal) warfare broke out over the ownership of the movie rights to Dungeons and Dragons. Sweetpea Entertainment, the production company responsible for the disastrous 2000 movie starring Jeremy Irons and two (even worse) direct-to-DVD sequels, announced they were developing a new, big-budget movie with Warner Brothers. Hasbro, who own the D&D tabletop game via their subsidiary Wizards of the Coast, fired back that Sweetpea's film rights had expired and Hasbro was now developing a film franchise with Universal Pictures. Hasbro then sued Sweetpea to stop their project going into development.
The point of contention is that the D&D movie rights were sold in the late 1990s, when TSR (the original company that created the game) was sinking into financial ruin and was in dire need of funds. Their deal with Sweetpea, in the person of Courtney Solomon, was born of desperation and featured clauses that Wizards and Hasbro (who bought TSR in 1997) disagreed with, but were unable to contest. However, the deal also included clauses forcing Sweetpea to release a new D&D movie every five years or see the rights revert to the licence-holders (in this case, Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro).
According to Sweetpea, the second and third D&D movies (entering production in 2005 and 2010 respectively) fulfilled this obligation. However, Hasbro has claimed that the second movie being a TV movie (it debuted on SyFy just before it was released on DVD) and the third being a direct-to-DVD movie did not satisfy the clause, due to them not being theatrical releases. As a result, Hasbro claim that the rights have lapsed, leaving them free to develop a new project.
Sweetpea have now counter-sued Hasbro, demanding that their ownership of the movie rights be respected and seeking a ruling preventing Hasbro from using D&D branding and all use of copyrighted D&D elements included in the original deal in any future film project. A hearing has been set up for 25 March, 2014.
If Sweetpea wins the legal case, it leaves Hasbro in the awkward position of being able to proceed with a film based on spin-off properties (including the Forgotten Realms setting and the Drizzt Do'Urden character) but only if they do not use any core elements included in the original Sweetpea deal, including most of the iconic D&D monsters and spells.
Hopefully the March ruling will clear up the mess. As for who to back, I think three disastrous films in succession show that Sweetpea and Solomon should not be allowed to continue developing the film franchise. There's not much Hasbro can do to make things worse, and at least they'd make sure the new film would have a big budget and likely a name director. Sadly, aesthetic and creative arguments will not carry the day, with both sides deploying big-hitting Hollywood lawyers to make their case in court.