It’s a perfectly good Saturday night and I could be anywhere (in any of my local old man pubs or studying at home) but I’m in a cinema in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of strangers watching the Veronica Mars movie. Veronica Mars, for those of you not up to date with your 2004 American teen noir, is a teenage detective living in the corrupt town of Neptune and played by Kristen Bell. She’s less Nancy Drew and more Nancy Screw-you (because you don’t mess with the Mars) and she’s back after nearly a decade of silence, thanks to the life-giving powers of Kickstarter.
I’m not sure how much there is in the film for casual viewers, but for fans of the show and noir, there is a lot to enjoy here. The film suffers from a slight lack of pacing, and probably one too many cameos and injokes (did James Franco need to be there? That is the question you ask yourself) but it delivers jumps, laughs and one liners to an engaging degree. So, to all involved in the film- well done! You didn’t waste all that Kickstarter money on a private yacht party. In fact, the lack of faux-gritty handheld camera shots attests to a significant part of the budget being spent on tripods, which I heartily commend.
But because I’m churlish and a general party pooper, I have three questions to ask of the movie.
***WARNING: Though I’ve tried to not give too much away, the following does contain some mild spoilers***
1. Is being true to the fans and being true to the story and characters the same thing?
While Kickstarter campaigns for films are not a new thing, Veronica Mars was certainly the most high profile, having broken several records with the campaign. Warner Brothers were not exactly bending over to finance a cancelled teen show from yesteryear, but the fandom came through. Sourpusses like me were concerned that because of this the film, in trying to please the fans who had paid for it, would become little more than Logan and Veronica fanfiction. Just some backstory here: Peeps hate Piz, Veronica’s boyfriend at the start of the movie, because he’s just so nice and loving and generally not getting accused of murder. Logan on the other hand is the series’ Heathcliff; he’s broody, he’s full of passion and wild love, and oh yeah, he’s psychotic, violent, and keeps winding up with a dead ex-girlfriend. What a catch!
However, despite my misgivings, the film actually did a decent job of treading the tightrope between wanting to deliver the best film possible to the fans who had paid for it, and pandering. It gave the fans (and let’s be honest, who else is going to be watching the film?) exactly what they wanted; with a side helping of doom, gloom and ‘things will probably go downhill from here’. It’s a pretty sweet ride, with undertones of tragedy. I concede that the fans knew what they were doing: Fans 1 : Sourpusses 0.
2. Can a film ever really capture all of the magic of a good TV series?
Making a film of a TV series is not a task for the faint hearted. In one medium you will have had seasons and years of character development and storylines, with time to build it all up convincingly, while in the other medium you are necessarily condensing it all into something easy to digest in under two hours. I was worried that Veronica’s contradictory, flawed and oh so badass character was going to get shrinkwrapped into little more than a caricature- but she survived largely intact. If there was one thing they had to jettison to streamline the story it was all of her random acts of kindness. Casual viewers will probably be left more afraid than enamoured with Veronica, but you can’t help but for feel for the girl when Madison Sinclair is a Mega Bitch at the reunion.
The film couldn’t provide all of the complexities and characterisation of the TV series (there is just not enough time to do that), however, it did top the TV series in one very important facet- with the removal of the white knight figure. Veronica’s one tough cookie, but eventually (and almost always in the series finale) she’ll end up alone with a psychopath and needing rescuing from either Logan or her dad, and it hasn’t always sat right with me. Guess who rescues Veronica from her inevitable brush with a psychopath in the movie? Veronica. Boom. Sisters be doing it for themselves!
3. How much Veronica is too much Veronica?
So- is this the end of the line for Veronica or is a Kickstarter campaign for a sequel hovering in the wings? The story was left deliberately open ended to allow for such an event. Do we need another film? Did we need this one? One of the reasons I wouldn’t want a sequel is because every Veronica vehicle tends to end in the calm before the shitstorm- the girl can solve crimes, but only by booking herself and her friends and family first class tickets on a trainwreck. Veronica spent so much of the series trying to get out of her hellhole of a town and getting over her feelings for Logan- if she goes back to it all it is just not going to end well. I love the character so much that I’m not sure I can sit and watch her torture herself over endless sequels.
Who am I kidding? Of course I can. Like any addict, if there’s Meth going, I want some. Whether it should be on offer is another question.
In conclusion, its not often that Veronica Mars makes me less cynical, but this film did a good job of, if not silencing my inner critic, at least stuffing my inner fan with so many marshmallows that it was a worthwhile trip back to Neptune. Now, where’s the Meth at?