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A Veronica Mars Movie Review… and the Kickstarter Nostalgia Problem

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After Veronica Mars was cancelled, Rob Thomas tried to move the show forward with a proposed next season that had her in the FBI. It wasn’t perfect, but it was plausible. It might have even been interesting. And it would have moved Veronica forward.

But fans don’t fund Kickstarters to see a story move forward. They do it to get more of the same.

And that’s what Veronica Mars is. A hit of nostalgia. It’s not really a movie. More of an extended TV episode with a more famous cast and a few more expensive shots, mostly in New York.

Kirsten Bell tries her hardest and the old cast is good, but the story is lacking. The central mystery feels like a condensed version of the first few seasons with Logan as a murder suspect, a viciously hostile sheriff and a murder involving a rich girl.

There’s nothing new here. There’s nothing that even feels new. And it’s not nearly as good in backwash form.

The dialogue is sharp and funny, witty, knowing and clever in that self-referential way that caters to its fans. But the same can’t be said of the plot which is not only derivative, but gives you few reasons to care.

The movie relies on throwing in old characters and expecting the audience to care, but the murder mystery doesn’t matter, there’s no emotional hook except Logan’s legal problems and a secondary story involving Weevil’s shooting is awkward, as Veronica Mars’ attempts at social commentary usually were, and ends unfinished.

The movie is an excuse to put everything back the way it was and it’s unconvincing. Veronica Mars as an FBI agent was plausible. Veronica Mars as a corporate lawyer in New York isn’t. It’s there to set up a pointless choice that we know she will make between her life back in Neptune and filing legal documents.

It gives Veronica Mars a reason not to move on. And it convinces the audience that she wouldn’t.

Veronica Mars once felt new and fresh. It was sharp as a knife. Trying to recreate it in this way isn’t. It’s like a reunion tour for a group that rocked in the 70s. A few of the old standards with none of the old spirit.

There are other bad choices. A portion of the movie involving James Franco. Text messages appearing on the screen. A painfully long intro chock full of exposition that should have been relayed through the characters and has no reason for existing since anyone watching this probably already knows the bare premise of the show.

But they’re not the problem. The problem is that a show that was once fresh and new has become a nostalgia product. And maybe that’s what’s wrong with Kickstarter and with funding a movie through it.

Kickstarter allows people in their twenties and thirties to pay for more of the things they liked when growing up, whether it’s games or movies. But they don’t remember that what made them like those things was their newness. The way they rocked their world.

Veronica Mars, set around a reunion, is self-consciously a reunion. The old gang is back together. Everything is the way it was. Life hasn’t moved on. And it lets the people paying for more of the same pretend that life hasn’t moved on either.

As terrible as the Buffy season comics are, they are in their own awkward stupid way trying to move forward. Rob Thomas left to his own devices might have done that with Veronica Mars. Or he might have done it despite Kickstarter. But instead he gave the people what they paid for.

A ghost of what the show used to be.

Veronica Mars Does Some More Following in Buffy’s Footsteps?

Veronica MarsWith Veronica Mars deader than a stomped on Mars candy bar and all the Save My Show efforts come to naught, it looks like Rob Thomas will be taking the Joss Whedon route and following Veronica Mars to comics with a Veronica Mars comic book Season 4. Considering how often Veronica Mars has walked in the footsteps of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this isn’t entirely a surprise. DC is figuring out that they can cash in pretty well in the same way that book publishers have on fan nostalgia for a series with tie ins that can be much more satisfying than just series themed comic books but continuations of the story written by its creator. The idea of a Veronica Mars Season 4 comic book is a great idea, especially since Veronica Mars has often been all about telling complex stories beyond the sphere of what a TV series could support. On the other hand Veronica Mars also played to a somewhat different audience than Buffy the Vampire Slayer did and you tend to suspect that a lot of the teenage girls on board for Veronica Mars and doing their Logan and Veronica mashup videos on YouTube aren’t going to be browsing for Veronica Mars Season 4 and unlike Joss Whedon, Rob Thomas is set to be genuinely busy working as a showrunner on Miss Guided, which raises the question of whether he would actually be writing Veronica Mars Season 4 or approving stories and such.

And all the Mars Bars in the World

Veronica MarsAnd all the Mars bars in the world being dumped on the CW didn’t help. Veronica Mars is toast. Why this had to be dragged out for so long, I have no idea. Maybe to give the fans time to make stupid gestures like buying up Veronica Mars “The Bitch is Back” on iTunes and padding the CW’s pocket while generating some publicity. Of course as I’ve kept saying all along this was bloody well inevitable. Dawn Ostroff may say what she likes but it’s clear that Veronica Mars was on the outs with the third season and was genuinely disliked by the network at that point which mangled it and finally spit it up and destroyed it. Star Trek met the same fate once upon a time, also suffering a mangled and mutilated third season before being finally canceled. I don’t doubt that there’s some at the CW that might have wanted to keep Veronica Mars but I also doubt very much that one of them was Dawn Ostroff.

Now there’s discussions about a Warner Brothers Veronica Mars movie which could actually be pretty good, Brick style, assuming that Rob Thomas is given creative freedom and doesn’t go into PC overload.

But we’ll see.

Feed CW and CBS, Starve African Kiddies

Veronica MarsThat’s what I love about the misdirected passions of a consumeristic society. Over the past month thousands (hopefully not tens of thousands) have spent sizable chunks of their time, money and energy to ship massive amounts of nuts and now mars bars to CBS and the CW respectively (though they’re intertwined at the top anyway) to convince them not to cancel Jericho and Veronica Mars, respectfully.

Now I can take or leave Jericho and I had sort of a soft spot for Veronica Mars, despite it jumping the shark with the second season finale but really, when children are actually starving to death in Africa and large amounts of families in America are going without adequate nutrition, does anyone else see how insanely selfish this entire production is? What happened to just sending letters or emails or messages scrawled in your own blood?

It’s pretty sad that so many people can at short notice do the following:

Fan Deadline Monday, June 11. Because Monday 3 p.m. is the deadline to contribute to the Save Veronica Mars fund, the campaign hit some sort of fever pitch over the weekend, garnering half a ton of Mars Bars, Snickers and marshmallows. (Organizers bought out every Mars Bar in the U.S. within hours, and are reportedly close to exhausting available marshmallow supplies. My suggestion would be to add graham crackers so CW execs can create massive s’mores.)

but there are still children dying of malnutrition on a regular basis. You can’t help but think that this effort is significantly misapplied. Hey I’m a fan too but somehow the sight of using that much food as a gimmick to convince a TV network that people care is just downright repulsive in light of the fact that so many would kill for that food. I know America and Europe regularly waste tremendous amount of food anyway but you can’t help but feel sad that we can seem to rally this energy when it comes to our own TV entertainment but sit numbly by when so many suffer.

Killing Veronica Mars

Veronica MarsWell color me stupid, the Save Jericho Nuts campaign does seem to have worked. At least insofar as getting CBS to make a mini-order of a few episodes for next season. I’m thinking that CBS will try to run them more as a miniseries than anything else but it’s still more than fans of most shows have gotten.

AICN is using that to press a call for saving Veronica Mars. I don’t think one necessarily translates to the other. We’ve heard repeatedly that Dawn Ostroff is a fan of Veronica Mars but the CW’s treatment of Veronica Mars in Season Three speaks volumes otherwise. The show got the kind of treatment reserved for the original Star Trek in its own third season. A new proposal that pushes Veronica Mars 4 years ahead to her time at the FBI seems like a downright misguided proposal.

If CW is planning to kill Veronica Mars as a teen girl show, what are the odds they’d revisit it as Veronica Mars, 20 something FBI agent, a show concept that would really be more at home on CBS these days than the CW.

It was pretty clear that the CW was uncomfortable with Veronica Mars and wanted it gone. Killing Veronica Mars may have actually been Dawn Ostroff’s way to demonstrate that she had no loyalties or agendas but is prepared to ‘kill babies’ so to speak, in order to keep the ratings up.

Veronica Mars Series Finale The Bitch is Back – What Might Have Been

Veronica MarsFor a series and even season finale, Veronica Mars The Bitch is Back felt more like a mid-season episode at best. Of course the second half of the season had been thoroughly neutered thanks to the CW and the good offices of network president Dawn Whatsherface but it did manage to work in Veronica Mars’ sex tape and the Castle– both intriguing storylines that restored the series to its classic roots, with Veronica Mars on the outs at school, dealing with secrets and powerful enemies– including her old enemies, the Kaines and their security thug, while Keith Mars was forced to compromise his ethics and in doing so, destroy his credibility and lose his position as Sheriff.

If Veronica Mars for the first time in a long while, felt like Veronica Mars again– with even Logan Echols finally getting his balls back and going all medieval on the son of a mob family in the cafeteria– after going medieval on Piz, an act that any viewer who has had to suffer through the entire Piz storyline could only relish. It was too little and too late.

You could imagine a third season where Logan wasn’t Veronica’s whiny ex-boyfriend and a wimp and was instead the self-destructive vicious Logan Echols who charged in to save Veronica with a gun, who resented her and tried to control her and loved her at the same time, while still having his dead ex-girlfriend in his mind.

You could also imagine a third season in which the answer to the Dean’s murder would have lain in the secrets of the Castle that would have unraveled everyone’s dirt. You might imagine a finale in which Veronica had released the secrets only to see her father’s career destroyed by the powerful men in Neptune determined to stop her. I imagine that may have been something like the season Rob Thomas would have wanted. But it’s not the one that the CW wanted. The CW got part of what it wanted and killed the show.

I don’t look forward to any proposed future FBI series for Veronica Mars. Not unless Rob Thomas has the creative freedom to do it right. Take it to FX if needed. The Shield is out and the show will have viewers.

Veronica Mars: Weebils Wobble but Don’t Go Down

Veronica MarsPossibly not the best penultimate episode of Veronica Mars as a TV series we could have asked for. Part of the problem is that while Veronica Mars is perfectly capable of playing outside the political rules when it suits them, when it comes to race, Veronica Mars follows a blind path and it insists that Weebil is a great guy– never mind that little scene in the Veronica Mars pilot where he and his gang try to gang rape Veronica at the stop. The scene is underplayed but the intent there was pretty obvious– before Backup intervened.

A Weebil episode in which he’s accused of a crime might have taken the path it took before which showed that Weebil creatively pulled it off– or it might take the P.C. route. A few minutes into the episode it becomes clear that Weebil was the innocent victim and the real criminals will be a bunch of smug rich white kids– which is par for the course on Veronica Mars. It’s also tedious and it’s been done before.

We’ve already seen One Angry Veronica. We’ve seen the show in full blown P.C. mode. But then Veronica Mars has never been that stable anyway. Remember that sorority. Was it an evil place full of drunk blondes who hand over their newest members to the lusts of the frat house? Or were they a bunch of nice, misunderstood and supportive girls? Oh wait, no turns out they do have an evil mirror and got a girl to nearly kill herself. And that’s part of the problem with Season 3. No coherence. No consistency and in the end little reason to stick around.

Veronica Mars: Unamerican Graffiti

Veronica MarsIt seems that as some shows are dying, they do everything possible to make certain that fans don’t regret their passing in the least. Firefly certainly managed that trick churning out such stinkers as “The Message” and “Heart of Gold” for its farewell– and then bottling the cap with Serenity, the cinematic equivalent of taking every Firefly episode, pouring gasoline on it and setting it on fire and then dancing goofily around the flames.

Certainly some of Veronica Mars’ third season blues have been caused by the network, especially the lack of arcs which almost makes VM feel pointless. But it’s hard to justify Unamerican Graffiti by pointing to the network, unless Dawn Ostroff ordered Rob Thomas to do one of those post 9/11 episodes about Muslims and Arabs and make certain that people know discrimination is really wrong. Also terrorism. And underage drinking.

That’s the episode in a nutshell. Yes as in a typical Veronica Mars episode there are twists and turns, but most of them are telegraphed and each one is more politically correct than the next. Veronica Mars has been justly praised as a smart and edgy show that feels real– despite the fantastic material, but when it goes P.C., the series becomes painfully self-righteous and unreels every cliche in the book. That was One Angry Veronica, that was every episode and scene in which we were supposed to feel sorry for Weebil. It goes 300 percent for Unamerican Graffiti which ups the political correctness and the self-righteousness all the way up to 11.

And then there’s the underage drinking subplot. At least part of the appeal of Veronica Mars has been that it was subversive and that Veronica herself subverted a lot of norms and saw through the social hypocrisy. And then Unamerican Graffiti goes and presents the equivalent of that GI Joe episode where GI Joe and Cobra team up to fight drugs– because drugs are the real evil.

So a 19 year old college student gets drunk in a bar with a fake ID, stumbles out into the street and gets hit by a car. This sets off Keith Mars on a crusade against bars that cater to the college crowd. Now said college student could easily have stumbled out into the street at 21. But apparently in those 2 years, he goes from having no responsibility for choosing to drink or being able to handle alcohol– to being fully responsible. At 19 he’s supposedly a child and his accident is really the blame of the bar owners.

The self-righteousness hits really toxic levels when Keith confronts Veronica with her fake ID’s and she apologizes for letting him down. Seriously, I know Barry McCaffrey, Bill Clinton’s drug czar wanted script supervision in exchange for pulling compulsory ads, but is the Bush Administration doing the same thing? The entire scene is out of character for Veronica, tedious for Keith and downright silly. College students spend a good deal of their time drinking. The original drinking age Pre-MADD hysteria was 18. The episode’s hysteria on the subject is misplaced and stupid. Yes accidents will happen. And under 21ers are old enough to fight and die, which means they’re old enough to drink too.

Unamerican Graffiti was Veronica Mars’, Heart of Gold– the worst episode to date and not exactly giving anyone hope for a fourth season.

Suspense Over the Fate of Veronica Mars Continues

Veronica MarsGossip and rumor is playing yet more games over whether Veronica Mars will actually be renewed. Really for the CW it should be a no-brainer, it’s not as if they have a lot of great prospects on the horizon.

Almost without exception, the CW is relying on antique legacy shows like Smallville, One Tree Hill, 7th Heaven which has been dragged back for an 11th season for crying out loud, another tedious turn of the America’s Top Model TV series, Gillmore Girls has been canceled. If Veronica Mars was held responsible for not holding on to the Gillmore Girls lead… well GG itself didn’t do it obviously.

With Buffy long gone and Gillmore Girls canceled, Veronica Mars is also the only conceivable reason for critics not to start spitting on the CW the way they did on UPN.

The smart move is to renew Veronica Mars with a limited order of episodes. Let Rob Thomas do what he likes for that duration and then make a final decision. No more constant tampering with the series and no idiotic premises about having Veronica Mars do a series in the FBI. That will kill the show faster than Fearless– which incidentally never aired.

Heroines of Joss Whedon’s Universe

Joss Whedon’s innovation was to treat the female heroine as male heroes had been, creating female Peter Parkers, but also to recognize the painful reality this imposed particularly on the feminine psyche. The psychological punishment of loneliness and having to shoulder impossible burdens with no one to lean on is at the root of the Whedonverse heroines, as it is at the root of the Whedon influenced “Veronica Mars.”

The self-sacrifice of the heroines created by Joss Whedon is rooted in what they can never have. When in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episode “Anne”, Buffy abandons her responsibilities and escapes to L.A. where she works as a waitress and turns her back on her destiny, as she is drawn back to search for a missing boy, in her confrontation with a worker at a blood bank who had been feeding the names of healthy teenagers to a demon slave labor camp, Buffy says; “I don’t want any trouble. I just wanna be alone and quiet in a room with a chair and a fireplace and a tea cozy. I don’t even know what a tea cozy is but I want one.”

This is an attitude typical of Whedonverse heroines who remain girls at heart, wanting a more feminine life, wanting to be the princess, the girl in the schoolroom and knowing that they cannot, push away the heartbreak and get on with the job that needs to be done and the fight ahead that needs to be won. They do not and cannot look forward to a happy ending. In the Buffyverse most slayers finish up by being killed by that one Vampire or Demon who has himself, in Spike’s words, “A lucky day.” A day that comes about when the Slayer finally gives up hope and allows herself to be killed. They do not fight on out of hope, but out of the recognition that what they do must be done and that their own nature and the nature of the world around them has left them no choice but to go out and do it.

Read More here Buffy, River, Faith and Fray, Female Heroines in the Whedonverse

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