The Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter defied all expectations when it rolled out last year, setting a number of funding records and making filmmakers and the filmmaking industry reconsider how movies could be bankrolled. The delivery of the final product can’t help but pale in comparison, but it still represents the culmination of some incredible timing and effort, not to mention the devotion of a passionate fanbase.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Run Time: 1 Hr. 48 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 05/06/2014
It’s practically cliché for fans of a discontinued TV show to dream of its return in the form of a theatrical or TV movie. For hyper-popular programs like HBO’s Sex and the City or Fox’s 24, the chances are much greater, but for shows with more modest success (though arguably more devoted followers) the resurrection-via-movie idea usually remains a grand notion, especially if things ended from an abrupt cancellation vs. planned obsolescence.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
The paradigm got a major shake up in March of 2013 when Rob Thomas, creator of cult TV show Veronica Mars (VM), used Kickstarter – a crowdsourced funding model where the general public is asked to contribute dollars in exchange for various incentives – to finance a movie that would bring back the beloved VM characters, not least of which is the titular wisecracking, private detective’s daughter played by Kristen Bell. With a financial goal set at $2 million, the campaign handily met that amount in under 10 hours, then proceeded to break time records for meeting $1 million and $2 million funding levels. After 30 days had passed, the project had netted $5.7 million through 91,585 backers, the most contributors of any single Kickstarter project at the time (full disclosure: I personally gave $25 and received a t-shirt, stickers, and a copy of the shooting script for my contribution). And Thomas and company ultimately made good on their promises, delivering a completed VM movie to theaters less than a year after the close of its fundraising project.
Understandably, the endeavor garnered all manner of publicity for its record breaking performance, leading observers to wonder what crowdsourced funding would mean for both studio and independent filmmaking. After the dust settled, it became clear the funding model wouldn’t work for everything, as other directors, like Spike Lee and Zach Braff, soon followed in Thomas’ footsteps with much less dramatic results. And since the VM Kickstarter, no other off-the-air TV show has attempted to do the same thing. That’s not to say there won’t be future attempts, especially with cult candidates like Firefly, Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies still bouncing around people’s heads, but the general impression seems to be the VM movie project was lightning in a bottle, something Thomas and the other producers couldn’t repeat, even if they tried.
As to the movie itself, the most critical question is whether it’s any good, but that’s inextricably linked to whether it appeals to anyone besides the existing VM fan (AKA Marshmallows). With the latter, I can’t deny my affiliation, as I became an immediate follower of the show when it began in 2004 and mourned its demise when the CW Network didn’t renew it for a fourth season, leaving a number of threads unresolved. That the film doesn’t try to revisit those third season subjects makes it more accessible to the general viewer, but let’s be honest – this movie was made for fans and is going to appeal, and make the most sense, to them. In that respect, the film is solid, and of course great if you’re an unfaltering fanboy, but it’s not the vehicle to be introducing the character to the uninitiated.
Taking place about nine years after the events of the third season, Veronica has sworn off her crime solving ways and has instead poured her energy into her education and happy cohabitation with boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell). She’s just finished interviewing with upscale New York City law firm Truman-Mann when her hometown of Neptune and former, “it’s complicated” nemesis-turned-paramour Logan (Jason Dohring) begin pulling her back to the life she left behind. Pop star Bonnie DeVille, a high school classmate of Veronica’s, has been found murdered and Logan, Bonnie's boyfriend, is the prime suspect. Logan calls Veronica looking for legal advice, but a two-day consultation for an old friend quickly becomes another investigation as Veronica can’t ignore the evidence that Logan was framed. While lingering in Neptune is the last thing she wants to do, especially as her visit coincides with the high school’s 10-year reunion, the pull (and thrill) of old habits easily trumps Veronica’s more sensible thoughts, planting her in the middle of not just a murder conspiracy but a veritable crossroads in her personal life.
For the most part the VM screenplay, written by Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero, strikes a good balance between fan-pleasing callbacks and character reunions and the story that provides their impetus. Veronica’s encounters with old friends, enemies, and annoying acquaintances happen organically, avoiding a sense of outright contrivance or pandering, but still so brimming with chemistry that it’s easy to feel more excited about who’s on screen than where the story is going. But then that’s always been true of the VM TV show – what endeared viewers was not so much the complexity or cleverness of the crimes Veronica found herself investigating, but the route she took in solving them and her interactions with people along the way. With the movie, that’s more true than is ideal, especially if there’s an interest in pulling in more than just Marshmallows. That there’s an unmistakable whiff of foregone conclusion in the air makes it doubly hard to recommend the movie to general viewers. Without a compelling mystery to draw them in, what does it have to offer them that isn’t better acquired through three seasons of the TV show?
As it is, the VM movie is the ultimate gift to fans – ironically, one they paid for themselves, but a gift just the same, and the likes of which disgruntled followers of other properties would be just as keen to support. As a nonobjective Marshmallow, I’m glad the movie got made, that I was able to make my own, small contribution to it, and that seven years after cancellation, a cult TV show was able to make such a huge splash in the industry. As a critical observer, however, I’m skeptical whether anything like this will happen again. From all appearances it wasn’t just the funding model but a combination of the timing, the show’s fanbase, and its appetite for closure that made it possible. Anyone looking for those stars to align with another TV show or movie will have their work cut out for them, if not a very long wait.
Framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer boasts deep blacks and a high contrast picture, though some shadowy scenes look more opened up than preferred. Colors are deep and nicely saturated, with flesh tones trending warm, but staying natural. Sharpness and detail tend to fare better in close ups; wide and medium shots have a slight softness to them that keep the picture from really standing out. Still, compression or processing artifacts are negligible, making for a clean and generally satisfying picture.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp, clear and intelligible. Surround channels tend to provide light support for music soundtrack cues, but a couple scenes with crowd noise and directional gunfire provide some added depth. LFE is non-existent, but bass notes in background music have the requisite depth and fullness.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
Special Features Rating: 4/5
- By the Fans: The Making of the Veronica Mars Movie (55:43, HD): Documents the record-setting Kickstarter campaign that funded the production, introduces some Kickstarter backers who were awarded with being extras in the movie, goes behind the scenes of the whirlwind production schedule, and explores the ramifications of crowdsourcing on studio and independent filmmaking.
- Welcome to Keith Mars Investigations (2:54, HD): Enrico Colantoni gives a tour of Keith’s office, with behind the scenes antics from the set.
- Game Show with Kristen Bell and Chris Lowell (4:30, HD): Bell and Lowell answer goofy questions about themselves and their characters.
- On Set with Max Greenfield (3:10, HD): Greenfield talks about his experience working on the film.
- Veronica Mars’ Backers (4:45, HD): Interviews the film’s various financial backers from the $10,000 contributor to those who gave more modest amounts.
- It’s Not All About You, Monkey (2:59, HD): On-set pranks involving a monkey suit.
- Young Veronica (:58, HD): Actress Nora Sakal talks about her brief role in the film.
- Deleted Scenes (4:20, HD)
- Gag Reel (4:35, HD)
- UltraViolet Digital Copy: Redeem by May 6, 2017.
Warner Home Video delivers a solid HD presentation for the Veronica Mars movie, a groundbreaking project in terms of its funding, but ultimately just a well executed reunion film that will appeal most to fans. With the inclusion of an interesting making-of documentary and some entertaining behind the scenes footage, it’s an easy title to recommend for existing followers, but the uninitiated would be better served seeking out the first three seasons of the TV show instead.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Cameron Yee
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