When Veronica Mars disappeared from the TV scene eight years ago, those who had discovered it were greatly saddened. The adult-aimed, high school noir was one of the better written shows to hit the waves, and was on par with the great god Whedon in terms of dialogue.
As a follow-up to the series, this film is a wonderful gift. It isn’t even a bad mystery on its own, though I suspect it doesn’t work well without knowledge of its roots.
It is this show that made Kristen Bell (Burlesque, Safety Not Guaranteed). It was this character that made me respect her… and she has never really quite matched its ability in the roles that followed; not because she can’t act, but because she was trying to go against the Mars type as, typically, a flighty blonde. It was the strength and sarcasm of Mars, her power and fearlessness that made her an icon. I was really happy to see that ability in her again, and I’d love to see that aspect in her other roles. Perhaps this will remind folks of what she can do and give her the opportunity again.
One of the cleverest bits of the story is how it opens, fills in the intervening years and back-story, and then slowly transforms our heroine back into the Veronica we all knew. It is done in stages and then in a final sweeping moment. It was handled with sensitivity and ability on Thomas’ part. To add to the fun, there are a number of the inside jokes that work well with or without the background. Ultimately, it was rather satisfying to wrap up the old threads and to get to see a new story.
But was it worth the $7.50 (incl tax)? So, up front, this was my first, true, VOD experience… I opted to rent at home rather than to go to the theater. I use Netflix and Amazon Prime a lot to stream, and I’ve watched freebies in the past, but I’ve never paid for a VOD until this past weekend. In my case, I did so because the cost was less than a ticket+gas+time, and I didn’t expect the film to need a big screen. And it doesn’t; it is professional and well-done, but it was fine in a high-def stream (in my case via Amazon).
But, honestly, I don’t know how often I’d be willing to make that choice. This was an extension of a television show–which made the choice a bit less difficult. For an original movie, I’m not sure I’d have made the same decision unless there weren’t other options. I like being in the theater with other people silently watching the story unfold, but the tensions in the room being palpable. Viewed at home, the dynamic changes considerably. Certainly this is a shift that is happening in the industry, and this film in particular is a watershed. Its success or failure will inform a lot of the studio decisions going forward.
Why? Last year, Thomas made history with his Kickstarter campaign to finance his movie after WB passed on footing the bill. It may well go down as a pivotal moment in the industry when academics look back at it. It showed not only the willingness of fans to directly support the material they desperately want, but also that the desire for that fix and business do not need to be at odds… and that a quality product can come out of it. Of course it may also cause studios to try, even more than they do, to give people what they want rather than what they don’t even know they want. The first provides comfort and dependable revenue (when done well). The latter is what produces the surprise hits and original material.
I am not sorry that Mars got made, nor even how it got made, but I do hope it isn’t a trend by which studios force audiences to directly finance their own entertainment up front, and thereby diminish the overall quality and availability of new, original material. In the meantime, if you were a fan, yeah, you gotta see it. If you weren’t before, go watch the series first and then wrap it up with this final entry (for now). Not only did it hold up well, but the actors all picked up the threads of their characters wonderfully. And it really is more about the characters than it is the mystery or even, at times, the writing. And that’s OK. As long as we aren’t asked to pay to see the wrap up of shows on a regular basis, I can even live with the impending concerns this particular film represents.