You can go home again.
In the pilot episode of the cancelled TV series we meet a young Veronica Mars who tells us of her first sexual experience…or what she can remember of it. We see her wake up, realise she has been drugged and raped, and limp her way straight to the sheriff’s office to report the crime to the authorities.
“I’ll tell you what, Veronica Mars, why don’t you go see the wizard? Ask for a little backbone,” is the response.
Yeah. “Veronica Mars” was not your usual CW fare. Veronica (Kristen Bell) was a super smart high school detective who didn’t care what people thought of her – not because that was her natural disposition, but because it was the only way that she could cope with the murder of her best friend, her family falling apart, being socially rejected and the general corruption and inequality that took place in Neptune, California, the ‘town without a middle class’. When Veronica comes to the aid of bullied student, Mandy, in season one episode ‘Hot Dogs’, her response to Mandy’s gratitude and disbelief pretty much sums Veronica up.
“I can’t believe that you didn’t [do what I did]! You want people to leave you alone, Mandy, or better yet treat you with respect? Demand it. Make them.”
Veronica Mars was not a marshmallow. I was hooked.
Only it’s been nine years. Ruined lives, bloodshed, the season three (and sadly series) finale was enough to get Veronica out of detective land in Neptune and into the more socially acceptable lawyer path in New York. But one more murder charge for ex-boyfriend and epic love Logan Echolls (for he’s had several), and she’s ‘pulled back in’.
As a backer for the film I was pretty excited (and by ‘pretty excited’, I would probably list it as one of the best pieces of news I received in 2013 – the others being that my boyfriend wanted to marry me, my sister had given birth to her first child, and Clint’s tumour was on the mend). But how Rob Thomas was going to please the fans while staying true to the story, satisfy the studio, AND create a feature film replicating the show’s signature noir style on minimal budget was a question I was very happy was up to him and not me. Talk about pleasing many (91,000+) masters.
So how did they do? It was good. Pleasingly good. Hopefully good enough to get more “Veronica Mars” on our screens (in small or big capacity) again. There’s room for growth. For moviegoers that aren’t familiar with the Veronica Mars universe, well, you won’t get much from the movie, but go watch the series. You won’t regret it.
The film doesn’t waste any time getting Veronica back to her roots – just enough to show she’s been making the right choices, had the right career progression and found the right boyfriend again (seasons three’s Piz played by Chris Lowell), before it’s time to question ‘does it all just bore the shit out of you Veronica?’
The dialogue is snappy, the cast slip back into their roles as if it was more comfortable than their own skin, the class war theme from the show pulses through every scene, and the Veronica-Keith father/daughter relationship is as strong as ever. There are some new characters, an absolute highlight being Gaby Hoffmann who plays the murdered pop singer’s number one fan (can we keep her?), and a very fun cameo from James Franco. A standout scene involving dancing, slow-mo, and a Veronica Mars pretending to be in the good time party spirit while secretly scoping out her next ‘hit’ (murder suspects), captures the noir style perfectly, and underscores a new layer this film brings to the character and series, which is that Veronica may be an adrenaline junkie, and she is potentially embarking on self-destructive behaviour by returning to Neptune…and Logan (Jason Dohring).
What didn’t quite work was the central mystery. With little time to develop, understand the players involved (even if they were returning characters), and no real tension as to whether Logan is guilty or not, it lacks the punch of the previous reveals within the show – that granted had the benefit of a 22 episode build up. Logan is also surprisingly mellow for a guy who has just been accused of murder for the (third?) time, and while it’s great he turned out well-adjusted in adult life, you do miss some of his biting wit and snarky comebacks that made him such a great foil for Veronica in the first place.
But what it did leave me with, and no doubt this was the intention: I want more. Thomas has set up a whole new universe for Veronica to explore, and I want to see her continue. If we look at the movie as an extended season premiere serving to bring Veronica back to town and kickstart a new mystery (I just know the Kanes will be involved), then this was a very successful outing indeed.
It might be self-destructive for you, Veronica, but it’s great for us, your loyal backers.
Blu-ray : There’s some great stuff on here, including an hour-long documentary that chronicles the plight to get the movie made. No commentary, sadly.