Being a huge fan of the Veronica Mars TV show, I have been looking forward to the film since it’s been announced. The interesting thing is that the possible success (or lack thereof) will be something that could have some impact in Hollywood. Veronica Mars is a Kickstarter funded film, more specifically, the highest funded project in the Film category, and along with some other records, also has the most project backers in Kickstarter history. But not only is it that, it is also the very first film done by one of the big six Hollywood studios (in this case, Warner Brothers) to release a film both in theaters and On Demand at the same time. There seems to be a lot riding on this film to succeed financially, not to mention the need to satisfy diehard fans of the show who have been waiting seven years to see the return of these characters. So, yeah, no pressure.
Taking place years after the events of the third and final season of the show, we follow Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) who has long since abandoned not only the town of Neptune, but her life as a private investigator. She gets an opportunity to work for a reputable law firm in New York when news of the death of an old classmate, Carrie Bishop (Andrea Estella), a pop star who now went by the stage name Bonnie DeVille. A twist of fate occurs when it seems that the main suspect of the murder is Carrie’s boyfriend, and Veronica’s previous on-and-off fling, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). For old times’ sake, she decides do go and help Logan, while also catching up with her father, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) and some old friends. What ensues is a classic case of Veronica uncovering the mystery with confidence and wit while facing life threatening situations in the hopes that she can prove Logan’s innocence.
I will admit for the first ten-fifteen minutes, I was a bit worried, some of the fan service felt a bit too on-the-nose, and it started off with a brief summary of season one, to establish her character, her father and the town of Neptune. It felt like one of those obligatory voice-overs you see in every modern sci-fi movie. Granted that’s more of a taste thing, and I was more than willing to overlook it, but it seemed like a shaky start, where I can see the movie going either really good or really bad. Now first, I will try and look at the film from a fan perspective before shifting over to a more objective review. Oh my God, this is awesome! Practically EVERYONE from the show has come back, even if it is for a brief appearance. They play the theme song, once in the beginning and then during the end credits. There’s a ton of amusing callbacks to the show, and there’s even a line that’s a nod to the Kickstarter campaign. Overall, the acting is great, everyone slips into character like the show never ended, the mystery is best one since the Lilly Kane murder in season one and by the end it feels like a much more satisfying conclusion to a phenomenal show, but keeping it just open enough for more possible stories in the future.
OK, now that that’s out of the way, let me try and look at it from the view of someone who has not seen the show. Like I previously mentioned, it begins with a quick voice-over that summarizes season one, which is really all you need to know about to fully understand who the main characters are and where they come from. It is a bit lazy, but it’s quick and painless, and it’s presented rather nicely. Thankfully, after those first ten minutes or so, the fan service cools down a bit, and becomes much more subtle and less distracting. Like the show, the writing by director Rob Thomas (also the creator of the show) and his co-writer, Diane Ruggiero is as sharp as ever. The characters are fun and interesting, and Veronica Mars is fantastically performed by the extremely talented Kristen Bell. The supporting cast does a great job as well, but this is mainly a character-driven story, and the story itself is quite good with a solid mystery that keeps you guessing, plus there are some funny cameos that I won’t spoil. I can see complaints from people saying that the film feels like a TV movie or like an extended episode. Yeah, the film isn’t too stylish and I certainly wouldn’t describe the scale of the movie as “cinematic”, but the film makes up for that with its well-defined characters and a great lead character that gets you invested in her story. There is also some substance to be found as well, like in the show, the film uses technology in a realistic way, showing how social media can affect the lives of you and the people around you. Also, the town of Neptune is practically a character in and of itself, as it convincingly portrays a city divided by the haves and the have-nots, and how corruption as a result of that, can affect those in the city, all the way from political office to the school yard.
To sum it up, if you’re a fan of the show, why are you reading this? Go watch the film right now! If you’re not familiar with the show, and you’re curious, the film is worth checking out. I can’t say that it would necessarily impress, but it’s a solid character piece with an interesting mystery and fun dialogue. I do highly recommend the show, it’s only three seasons and they’re available on DVD. Veronica Mars is a very satisfying experience, and the love that the cast and crew had for the project and the fans just oozes off the screen. It was also nice to see a thank you to for the backers of the Kickstarter fund during the credits. It is a film that is definitely a passion project, if ever I’ve seen one, and it’s a bittersweet sendoff to an amazing character.
Side Note: Given the success of the Veronica Mars Kickstarter project, it makes sense that a lot of successful filmmakers seem to be using it as a resource to fund their films that might otherwise not hold any interest with the studios. However, that sentiment might not sit well with others, and I can see why. It’s not so much the giving of money that makes it work; it’s the sense of community and helping out those who can’t get help otherwise. The Veronica Mars project was an exception to this because it happened because of demand; if fans didn’t demand it Rob Thomas probably wouldn’t have started the project to begin with. That’s what made it so successfully, not just because it’s a popular show, but because it was the result of the overall community effort. The same can’t necessarily be said of Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here (successful), Spike Lee’s joint about humans addicted to blood, but they’re not vampires (?) (successful, but barely), James Franco’s Palto Alto Stories (unsuccessful) and others, both successful and not successful, which were criticized for taking advantage and simply using the system for free money. I can’t say where we might go from here, but depending on how well Veronica Mars performs at the box office, things are probably going to change, for better or for worse.