I’ve talked to you a lot over the years about Veronica Mars, even more so over the past few weeks. Starting as a teen noir TV series in 2004 Veronica Mars followed High School detective Veronica (Kristen Bell) as she tried to solve her best friend’s murder, figure out who raped her, and help out at her dad’s private detective agency. It was a surprisingly dark teen drama with clever dialogue and believable characters. The show was beloved by too few people and finished in 2007. Rumours of a film continuing the story were rife as usual and I was not convinced. Cue 2013 and the film has a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign which spawned a dozen imitators and more importantly raised funds for the Veronica Mars film to be a reality.
In the opening two minutes of the film a quick montage is shown summarising the traumatic teenage years of Veronica and serves as a chance for any non-fans to catch up on what they have missed. From there we see Veronica in her new life in New York City, trying to put the past behind her as she embarks on a career as a lawyer and rekindles her romance with the ever reliable Piz (Chris Lowell). Back in her childhood town of Neptune, California the world has not changed so much and soon enough her ex-lover Logan (Jason Dohring), with whom she shares an epic love story, has been accused of murder and needs the assistance of the best former teen detective he knows. Not one to deny the call of the man who has smouldered at her so often Veronica drops everything and hot tails it back to Neptune.
Neptune brings with it seediness, drama, and pretty much every character from the TV series you could have hoped for. In the naive belief that the film still has a few surprises you haven’t read about yet I won’t go into too much detail but suffice it to say that Veronica is staying with her dad Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) and her old school friends Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Mac (Tina Majorino) are back by her side all grown up but still willing to get their hands dirty. When the film returns to Neptune, and in particular when Veronica finds herself at the school reunion, the film suddenly felt like a return home for the fan in me. All the characters are so familiar and throughout there are subtle nods to events that have taken place that cement the film firmly in the Veronica Mars canon.
Series creator Rob Thomas has both written and directed the film and in doing so has had to adapt both his shooting style and the way in which he stretches out the central mystery across the script. In the TV series there would often be a mystery per episode alongside a series-long arc, often involving the death of at least one person. Here in the film a murder is again at the centre and the mystery struggles a little to fill the feature-length running time. As for the shooting style it is clear that a conscious effort has been made to ensure that this film will look impressive on the cinema screen and not just when streamed online. Thomas has pulled the camera back giving every shot a little more scope and letting Neptune fill the screen alongside its inhabitants. The film may only have had a small budget but this does not harm the aesthetic as it showcases production values of a much wealthier shoot and while dialogue heavy scenes do dominate there’s a stunt or two thrown in and nothing ever feels limited or compromised.
Dealing with themes including murder, betrayal, blackmail, and corruption Veronica Mars has lost none of the dark edge that made the series such a cult success. This alongside the carefully honed dialogue and characters with whom you share three years of history Veronica Mars is every bit the film that the fans deserve. I laughed, I gasped, I got the warm fuzzies, and I noted a dozen times when the film would subtly nod to its parent series and let the fans know that they were in safe hands and that nothing had been forgotten.
I don’t know what the film’s appeal will be to those new to Veronica and the town of Neptune. This film is such a labour of love and was funded by, and made for, those who obsessed over the original three series. There is an introduction to catch you up on the basic back story but with 64 episodes condensed to two minutes there’s no way you can care about the characters to the same degree. Perhaps take this as motivation to finally watch the TV series your friends have been harassing you about so you’re all set to properly enjoy the film. I’d love to hear how well the film plays to a non-fan; hopefully it will work on its own and drive viewers back to the series.
As a fan of the series and Kickstarter backer I am biased as anything but I really enjoyed the film and look forward to seeing it again this Friday on the big screen. It could have all gone horribly wrong but thankfully instead we have a solid film that will please rather than horrify the fans and hopefully act as a calling card for a series that needs a little more love.
Veronica Mars is on very limited release from 14th March 2014. Full list of cinemas below:
Leicester Square (London)