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MOVIES - Veronica Mars and Why Neptune Still Matters

When Veronica Mars went off the air nearly a decade ago it was not without a fight from fans or those working behind the scenes of the series. Creator Rob Thomas offered The CW a presentation featuring a retooled version of what season 4 could have looked like, with Kristen Bell starring as Veronica several years later and working for the FBI. At the time I was desperate for them to move ahead with the series in any format. To this day there’s really nothing else like it on television, and despite the fact that it seemed that the reworked series would see the loss of several main characters (not to mention the town of Neptune, a character unto itself in the series) I just didn’t want to lose Veronica. Of course, the series did not move forward: Veronica Mars as we knew it was canceled after three seasons, first on The UPN and later The CW, in May 2007. Over time awareness of the show has grown through DVD releases and online streaming - when I watched live I only had one other friend who kept up with the series. Now, years later, I have a group of friends eagerly awaiting the film incarnation of Veronica Mars, set for release tomorrow. When I spoke to my fellow SpoilerTV writers about the show I found both long-time fans as well as those who started watching after the announcement of the Kickstarter project just last year. So what has kept Veronica Mars and the seedy town of Neptune so important to fans for all of these years, and relevant to a new generation of watchers as well? Relatable characters, to start, and dialogue that rivals the wordplay of Whedon (a fan himself, Joss appeared in a brief but hilarious season 2 cameo). As the movie release approaches, I talked to fellow fans of the series and sought out what has made Mars matter for so long - and what the film needs to do to keep that legacy going.

Trying to get friends to watch the series based on my descriptions alone is usually a losing battle. Yes, I realize the premise of a teenage detective named Veronica Mars solving crimes in a town called Neptune sounds ridiculous. So do the writers. But if you put any great series in a nutshell the premise should sound a bit strange. What made Veronica Mars so appealing from the get-go was how surprisingly deep and dark it was. The characters were identifiable, the dialogue out of this world, and the stories were expertly plotted out and always entertaining. Kristen Bell was given the best material of her career as our titular heroine, and her performance was one to remember. The first season was startlingly strong, setting up nearly impossible standards for the following two to match. Of course if you’re reading this you probably know the premise by now - Veronica, once part of the in-crowd, became an outcast after the murder of best friend Lilly Kane. With the wrong man behind bars and the entire town of Neptune against her & her father, Veronica sets out to bring Lilly's true killer to justice. The reveal at the end of the first season was nothing short of breath-taking, and it redefined how well a 22-episode network series could unfold a mystery. Now with the film on its way, a similar high bar looms over the movie incarnation of this beloved series. Can it possibly live up to the original 3 seasons and nearly a decade worth of fan affection? I think so.

Many of my favorite episodes of the series aren’t the “event” episodes, but rather exciting smaller cases with great character moments and progression towards the larger season arcs. Thomas’ ability to make the case-of-the-week stories as exciting as the larger mysteries of the series was a great strength, and I’m sure it came in handy when crafting Veronica Mars as 110-minute feature film. When Arrested Development returned for a long-awaited 4th season last Summer VIA Netflix, some fans were put off by the new format of the series (which, granted, was vastly different from the original series run and featured the cast appearing together sporadically in single-character-driven episodes). Another advantage Thomas has here was his ability to get the entire cast back together for one big hurrah -- setting the film at Neptune High’s 10 year reunion is so damn obvious that it shouldn’t seem genius. But it does. It is. The class politics of Neptune and Neptune High were always a huge part of Veronica Mars’ storytelling. The haves vs. have-nots. What better way to examine that now than seeing where the children of the rich and famous have ended up all these years later? Rob Thomas never shied away from examining the town of Neptune as one with a great class divide, but he was also careful to explore every viewpoint. Aside from that, though, there’s the awesome fan service aspect of it all. Supporters of the series spoke up and forked over the budget for this flick (proud backer here), to a degree Thomas had to make sure the people who brought the film to life would happy with the end results. That means a parade of past characters, nods to favorite episodes and, of course, some Veronica and Logan action. Wait… what? SHE’S WITH PIZ??? (Just kidding. The internet had that meltdown 5 months ago. Think they leaked that bit early to avoid hysterics at early screenings?) When I spoke to other fans on the SpoilerTV team I was glad to discover that, more or less, we were all hoping for the same out of the flick. Fellow contributor Justyna Kubica said she hopes that the film “stays true to the show and its characters and gives us the ending we never got to see when [the series] was cancelled. Also great dialogue, and action, [and a] generally entertaining movie… Oh, and I would like to see a Veronica and Logan reunion!"

Christopher Reilly shared his own reasons for being a fan of the series since 2005 stating, “It’s a fun show with great characters, mysteries, performances, and writing. And I’m always a sucker for shows that really build a community of recurring players who weave in and out, which Veronica Mars did exceptionally well.” While much of the promotion for the film has dealt with filling us in on what Veronica has been doing since we last saw her (soon-to-be hot shot New York lawyer) we’ve yet to get much info on our recurring cast. Much of my excitement for the film comes from seeing what Veronica’s father Keith has been up to since presumably losing his race for sheriff to Vinny, or discovering where Mac and Wallace have ended up, or whether Weevil left behind his life of crime. Is Madison still a bitch? Is Dick still… a dick? (okay, the trailer answered those two.) The body of characters built in the series was always a huge bonus for the whodunnit aspect of the show and I’m sure it will lend itself nicely to the film's premise, which centers on Veronica returning to Neptune to clear Logan’s name in the murder of two former classmates.

As I prepare to see Veronica Mars at a fan pre-screening tonight, my hopes are high. From what I’ve seen the film aims to stand on its own, but also truly please die-hard fans of the series. The mystery is, after all, built around a character from a case-of-the-week in the first season. If you don’t remember Carrie Bishop, go back and watch “Mars Vs. Mars” before you watch the movie. In terms of film quality, SpoilerTV contributor Caitlin Anne Rice summed up fans expectations well telling me, “I hope that the end product can live up to the hype. The cast and Rob seem to think that it will and I pray that it does, but there's always that little bit of worry in the back of your mind.” Indeed, while there may a bit of worry in the back of every fans head after all this time, we have every reason to trust that Veronica Mars the film will not only live up to the series before it, but add to the shows legacy as well.

More ambitious, even, are the hope that this film will lead to a larger life for the series either as films or VIA online streaming. There are already two books written by Rob Thomas set to follow the film, continuing the narrative in hopes of bridging the gap between this and whatever the next live-action Veronica Mars we see may look like. I’ve collected some fan-favorite quotes from the series and shared them below, hit the comments and let us know what you’re hoping to see in the film and why you’ve loved Veronica Mars for so long.

SpoilerTV Veronica Mars Fan Survey - Favorite Quotes

"It's all fun and games til one of you gets my foot up your ass." - Veronica
Chosen by Wilson Crawford

"I thought our story was epic, you know? You and me... Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined, blood shed. Epic. But summer's almost here and we won't see each other at all. And then you leave town, and then it's over."
- Logan
Chosen by Jamie Coudeville

"I think we all learned a valuable lesson about faith. You give it to the people you love. But the people who really deserve it are the ones who come through, even when you don't love them enough." - Veronica
Chosen by Justyna Kubika

(Reading something written on a recovered bill) "Veronica Mars is... smarter than me." - Sheriff Don Lamb
Chosen by Christopher Reilly

Veronica Mars is in select theaters tomorrow, Friday March 14th.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter for updates on Veronica Mars and all my other SpoilerTV work.

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