Note: this article was also published on SciFi4Me.com.
Veronica Mars, written by Rob Thomas & Diane Ruggiero, directed by Rob Thomas. Produced by Warner Bros. Pictures. Copyright 2014. (Seen March 25, 2014.)
“A long time ago, we used to be friends.” Ten years ago, to be precise, and the Veronica Mars movie keeps the fact that the original show aired about that long ago. Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), that feisty adult version of Nancy Drew, has escaped her soap opera life in the fictional town of Neptune, California, and is now in New York City. She has left behind her investigative interests, and instead is becoming a lawyer, living a life with Stosh “Piz” Piznarski (Chris Lowell).
However, as she notes in the narration, that old life is a bit of an addiction for her. When her ex-boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) calls her for help, being the main suspect in the death of his girlfriend, she can’t help but start snooping around. It luckily coincides with her ten year high school reunion, which allows the movie to give in to the fan love and show as many cast members from the original TV show that’s possible. The plot then follows your typical murder mystery storyline, as Veronica investigates the murder, cop corruption, and her own life in the interim.
I had actually came to Veronica Mars after the show had been cancelled. I kept seeing it referenced on TV Tropes, and kept hearing how it had a lot in common with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer in terms of a strong female lead, snarky humor, and lots of pop culture references. (In fact, Joss Whedon had admitted to being a fan of the show, and ended up in a bit role in season 2.) When it showed up on Netflix Instant, I gave it a shot – and fell instantly in love. It’s one of those shows that on the surface doesn’t technically qualify as geeky, but somehow still does (the film noir feel of it helps), and even won four Saturn awards during its run. It’s smart, darkly funny, and was one of those early series that started the trend of season-long plot arcs that is now so fashionable. It was made for binge watching, before binge watching was cool.
It’s hard to decide what people going into the Veronica Mars world for the first time would think of the movie. The opening contains a bit of a flashback narration that sums up the important parts of the television series, but the plot ranges wide enough to where even I had a bit of trouble keeping track of who was who. There is plenty of fan service, from Veronica calling herself a marshmallow (the fan nickname) to an acoustic version of the show’s theme song being played in the New York streets. But in today’s age of curated content, does it matter if something doesn’t appeal to those outside of its intended audience? I often wondered who goes to see a sequel without seeing the original movie (or at least being familiar with the world), and the same can be said here.
I had eagerly followed the news as the movie started on Kickstarter, how it succeeded beyond anyone’s imagination, and then got released in a new funding model of in theaters and digitally at the same time. The Veronica Mars movie can be considered a success just on the basis that it was made. While there have been stories of fans influencing producers to the point of getting a movie made of a series cancelled far too soon (the original Star Trek movie and Firefly‘s Serenity are the most notable examples), this was the first time fans were able to directly influence whether or not a film was made.
When it first was launched, there was a lot of flack about the fact that these were ‘Hollywood’ people ‘abusing’ what Kickstarter was started for. But it’s not like Rob Thomas (creator of Veronica Mars, and the writer/director of the movie) is George Clooney or Warner Brothers. He’s barely a step up from your average independent filmmaker, and it’s not like the fans were forced to donate, after all. I thought this was a perfect way to show how effective Kickstarter can be.
Whether or not you agree this was an ‘appropriate’ use of Kickstarter, the simple fact is that ten years ago, this would have never been made. The additional fact that they released it in theaters and digitally at the same time goes to show how the very way we consume entertainment is changing on a daily basis, and the studio system as we know it is slowly going away as a result.
As a fan of the show, I was happily impressed with the movie. It was well-written and acted, and the cameos from Ira Glass and James Franco (not to mention a brief appearance by Jamie Lee Curtis) made for some great moments. As I said above, the plot gets a little complicated at times, but not so complicated that I felt lost for too long. Finally, the movie ends on a scene that implies there may be more from this universe, and I was happy enough with the result to be wanting that to actually happen.
We did indeed used to be friends, Veronica Mars and I: this movie made me remember why, and the next time I have a weekend to spare, I plan on watching the series all over again.