Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Movie Review: The Veronica Mars Movie

When the kickstarter for this movie appeared I was a bit hesitant, I mean sure a movie would be nice but when people pointed out that if the executives said no to the series' creators that there would be no movie no matter how much people pledged, well, that put me off pledging. And by that point even though it was within the first few days the kickstarter was already doing amazingly well so I knew that it was going to be funded regardless of whether or not I kicked something in. Happily the movie did end up happening after all and I made plans to see it as soon as I could, I might've had some problems with the later Veronica Mars seasons but not enough to keep me from giving this a shot!

The Veronica Mars Movie

It's been nine years since Veronica Mars left the town of Neptune behind with all of it's corruption and destructive practices it engrained into her ever since she took up sleuthing after her best friend's murder. She's sworn she'll never go back, and certainly not for her high school's 10 year reunion, but after her old friend and lover Logan calls her asking to clear his name in a murder trial, well, there are some things you can't refuse to do for a friend.

In case people don't remember my reviews of the tv series, since it has been a bit of a while since the last one, while I really enjoyed the first season, it's possibly my favorite bit of a tv series of all time, the second and third season had their ups and downs where I loved parts and really disliked others. This movie was much of the same and while I disagreed with parts of the movie for philosophical reasons (which is fine to a point) there also were parts of the story that just felt weak. A large part of it was that this story is set nine years after the third season, Veronica has spent nine whole years away from Neptune and while we don't see much of that life we don't see anything to suggest that she wasn't reasonably happy. I suppose you could argue that because we don't see much of her life in New York that's supposed to show that's she's unhappy, coupled with how her personal look becomes much more vibrant when she gets back to Neptune, but honestly that felt more like a budget/time constraint to me as well as an economy of storytelling (we all know she's going back to Neptune for this case so why spend a lot of time in Not!Neptune?). Yet the story wants us to believe that she spent nine years on the straight and narrow and then slipped completely back into the role in Neptune in a matter of days and that her personality hasn't changed at all. I think that's also the biggest barrier to entry for a non-fan watching the movie, so much of it is about what the characters have done in the past and how their lives have changed/not changed and that change vs lack of change is also my biggest problem with the movie. 

I actually plan to give this it's own blog post sometime in the upcoming month but, speaking as someone who has left their "hometown" for complicated reasons, that philosophical difference I mentioned earlier is how Veronica comes back to Neptune and really considers staying there again. The town did practically nothing good for her for the 19 years she lived there, and is possibly even more corrupt now, and yet ever cynical Veronica thinks there's a chance she can change it for the better? Perhaps if we weren't told that Veronica "didn't do the private investigator thing anymore" and instead saw that she kept working as PI to help people then it would fit but otherwise I read the movie as Veronica coming to help Logan because it's Logan, not because helping people is what she does. I also was a bit thrown by the fact that every other person is still in Neptune as well, for some characters like Wallace and the 49ers it fit, they never had as many complaints, but then you had characters like Mac who clearly doesn't like Neptune and had the skills to leave but didn't, considering this is nine years later that just didn't make any sense to me. And Weevil's ending was just plain counter-intuitive, especially since I didn't see what the point was story-wise or thematically to do it and went against what I remembered from the series, maybe the idea was to show that while some characters have "grown" (like, erm, Veronica I guess) some have "regressed" but that idea still just barely holds together. Finally, she and Piz have been dating for over nine years now and she's never met his parents? What a convenient and cheap way to build tension....

I have seen at least one person complaining that this movie had too many in-references and jokes for new fans to get into the movie and they made it sound as if this was a grievous error. Let me disagree then, while the hype surrounding the movie is a way to bring in new fans this is a sequel, one that heavily builds upon the three years and beyond of these characters lives. I consider it ludicrous for people to jump into a surprisingly plot heavy story like this cold, although they never did talk about who was the big bad of the first and second seasons so it doesn't spoil the actual conflicts. There were a few times when the references went over my head (like Veronica offers to show Piz's boss her impersonation of him, and apparently that was an actor playing himself there so there's at least one in-joke?) and other times I thought they were brilliant little nods to the fans ("I thought I heard you were in the FBI?" "Maybe in another life"). By and large however I felt like the references were winks and nods to the audiences and not the barrier to entry, that was instead the movie itself.

 I will say that I was a little impressed that the show broke its own setups that it was so fond of using, that Veronica would be close to the truth, investigates more on her own, and it goes downhill worse than you'd believe. For once Veronica was able to get out of this mess on her own and unhurt, although I was surprised by the body count in the movie (there was always a body count in the series too but at least there it was spread over 22 episodes, it's one of the noir stylings I'm not as fond of). And visually/sound-wise the movie was perfectly fine, this has never been a story that needed a really large budget, although the characters really don't look like they're nine years older when they were actors in their 20s trying to portray college students. 

So, to watch or not? If you're a fan I think the answer is clear, you want more of this show so you've probably already seen this and made plans to read/listen to the new book set after the movie as well. If you're not a fan, I think I've already made it clear that watching this movie is dumb but that I do recommend at least part of the series. While not surprised I am still sad that this story just wasn't as tight or sharp and I had hoped it could be, I'm not sure what happened but Veronica Mars a long time ago you used to be good and yet I haven't thought the same lately at all....

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