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.