This review contains spoilers. If you haven’t watched the movie, don’t read.
There’s a moment during the Veronica Mars movie when Veronica and Logan are driving across a bridge (pictured above) where I was sitting in the theater and just thought wow, this is a movie. The exterior shots of Southern California, Veronica’s smooth voiceover, the tracking shot of her riding shotgun. It has been close to seven years since the show was retired from television airwaves, and here it was on the big screen. Veronica Mars was 20 feet tall, right in front of me.
So rare is the moment that a character-driven film receives a theatrical release like this, less so for a character-driven thriller. And sometimes I try to ascertain whether or not I would have liked the Veronica Mars movie if I had never watched the series. (Side note: my mom watched some episodes of the series, watched the movie when I downloaded it, and thought the movie was “OK.” Also, my mom has really weird taste in movies, so I don’t know how to take that.) I feel as though I’m someone who can separate bias when I’m watching a film or a TV show, and for some disgusting reason I just expected the Veronica Mars movie to fall flat on its face, while still maintaining a sense of optimism.
It’s weird to be inside my mind.
But when the credits rolled during the movie and “We Used to Be Friends” began playing, I sat for a couple of seconds and tried to dissect the matrix.
The Veronica Mars movie is good. Like, objectively good.
I’m sure that 64 episodes of history with these characters have somehow shaped my opinion, and if that’s the truth, then maybe I can’t separate bias. But even when I watched it for the second time the Saturday after the “Fan Event” (which took place Thursday at 8 p.m. before the actual release) in the comfort of my own home — where I thought some of the sheen would be lost — it was still a good film.
The reviews, which I read beforehand, were generally positive, but many of them mentioned that it just feels like a couple of episodes of the show, or that it’s filmed like a made-for-TV movie. Either my fan goggles were on heavy when I watched (both times!) or the other explanation is that they were all wrong.
The Veronica Mars movie feels bigger than any episode of the show, which is strange and fantastic considering it’s the deepest into Veronica’s mind we have ever gotten. The film’s treatment of Neptune as a sort of infectious hellhole gave the movie the neo-noir primer that the series never truly managed to accomplish. Somehow, throughout that hour and 45 minutes (or so), I could feel the darkness of Neptune festering on the fringes of the frame. Rob Thomas’ use of symbolism has never been stronger.
The love triangle, which I was dreading, was even put to good use, though not everyone thinks so. The Veronica Mars movie wasn’t about a 28-year-old woman trying to decide between her drama-free boyfriend and her past flame. It was so much more than that. It was about a woman realizing that she was settling for something that she didn’t want out of life. Imagine Veronica working on a case with Jamie Lee Curtis where she has to defend someone who’s guilty. Ha!
The complexities of Veronica Mars as a character are so nuanced and before its time. In 2014, she fits right into the pop culture landscape. Here’s a woman who has a burning desire to make people actually suffer for their actions, who sees morality in black and white, but whose actual moral compass lives in grey. So when I hear people say that Veronica’s “addiction” in the movie was about Logan, it sort of grinds my gears.
At the points in the movie when Veronica decided to stay in Neptune instead of go to New York, it wasn’t about Logan; she had found a new lead. The first time, she saw Bonnie DeVille’s biggest fan and figured it might be easy to nail her to the wall, knowing the local police department didn’t care about getting the person who’s guilty. Imagine, being able to get the murderer while taking the Sheriff’s Department down a peg? And when Veronica realized there was a bigger conspiracy of rich, white people trying to get away with murderer and once again being able to get their way by throwing their easy money, she was hooked. She wouldn’t have that much control working in the corporate world.
Logan and Piz, to me, were a manifestation of those desires — whether she should aspire to salary intake and picture-perfect romance (while far away from the most important relationship of all, her father, plus her friends) or whether she should dive into the muck of her damaged town and remain damaged with it… all while taking down those who deserve to be taken down. Big fish, small pond.
And what I’ve always loved about Veronica Mars is still in full force during the film. The classism issues that plague Neptune create wildly satisfying B- and C-plots. I know that it may seem like they left a few threads untied, but the context of the sheriff’s department’s corruption and Weevil’s story paralleling with Veronica’s gave me a sense of a larger universe here (as well as a reason for Veronica to stay and fight the good fight). Veronica Mars tapping into the zeitgeist has always been true, but the Washington Post describes it better than I can.
Though, of course, the movie lacks in places. The whodunnit was not all it could have been. Pinning the murder on someone we had never met before felt so un-Veronica Mars, which used to pepper its entire season (and series) with characters and tidbits that eventually became larger storylines, felt almost like it was an afterthought. Then again, I’ve never felt like the whodunnits in the series were A-plus material. I could also have done with a bit more subtlety on the entire addiction premise, but all in all, the ways in which it works outweigh the ways in which it doesn’t.
And of course, I though the grown-up version of our characters were superbly written — and acted. Kristen Bell slips into her role while still making it feel like Veronica has aged 10 years. The MVP for me (besides Gaby Hoffman, of course) was Krysten Ritter, who I thought blended the elements of comedy, thriller, and noir so perfectly.
I jumped from my seat a couple of times, to boot: the car crash and Gina getting shot.
I even laud the film’s cinematography ($6 million and 28 days to shoot? It looks amazing).
Mainly, the Veronica Mars movie made me want to see another Veronica Mars movie. It’s not because there were any loose ends (I happen to like how it wasn’t all wrapped up so neatly), but because after so many years, it feels like Neptune has matured into a setting to mine countless stories from. And yes, as a fan, I just really liked hanging out with these characters. But what gets me even more excited is that, if this was the fan-service version of the film, imagine what Thomas and Co. do with a sequel, once the hysteria has settled. He mentioned he would have loved to do a thriller like Side Effects in the past.
Something about the notion of Veronica Mars in that setting, in that world, it just gets me all perked up.