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Veronica Mars (Blu-ray Review)

veronica mars whysoblu coverI guess if I had to consider my attachment to the original Veronica Mars series and how it came into play with the viewing of this film, I would say I was in a fairly decent position to review the film, without caving into the pressures of being a fan and alienating those unfamiliar with the show. Sure, I am a fan of the TV series, which I caught on Netflix, years after it was off the air. That said, I have not revisited the series since. Not that I do not have affection for the show, as I think Veronica Mars was a great series at its best, with fine performances from a large portion of its cast, which had a number of interesting characters and relationships, on top of a format that could balance comedy, drama, and mystery all in one. Having a new movie to experience, my best hope was that it could continue in that tradition, without feeling like it was pandering exclusively to those who loved it all those years ago. I never really thought it could stay away from that completely, but fortunately the film has enough sharp writing, aided by some nice lead performances, to make it worthwhile.

Film:

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The film provides a brief summation of what the viewer needs to know from the outset. Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) is a former teenage sleuth, who was able to solve the case involving the murder of her best friend, which also happened to ostracize her from most social circles. Despite having a loving P.I. father (Enrico Calantoni) and few dependable friends (Tina Majorino, Percy Daggs III, and Francis Capra), Veronica left her hometown of Neptune, CA, in favor of pursuing a life in the big city. Having left behind her young detective past, Veronica is now close to working as a lawyer in New York, only to be called back into action in Neptune. It appears her former boyfriend, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), is the prime suspect in a murder case, which happens to coincide with Veronica’s high school reunion. If ever there was a time to revisit the old days and possibly reopen old wounds, this would be it.

Given how this movie came about, I imagine there were a lot of high hopes for the fans and at most general curiosity for those that kept hearing something about some girl named Veronica and the lost basic cable station that was UPN. Getting through the early parts of this film, I was honestly a bit worried. While it was nice to see and hear from these characters again, this revisit was not doing a whole lot for me. It was nice to hear the back and forth banter, scripted out by writer/director Rob Thomas, but it honestly felt like a very average detective story that happened to have the gloss of a property, with attributes that only fans would truly love. I would not say I was bored, per se, but a low budget film with Kristen Bell’s pretty face and the general awesomeness that is Enrico Calantoni as Keith Mars was only getting me so far.

Fortunately, upon reaching the halfway point, which is when the film’s high school reunion takes place, I started to get a lot more onboard with Veronica Mars: The Movie. Maybe it had to do with the sudden spike in energy that extended beyond some witty quips, but the film started to click for me a lot more. While the mystery was not exactly the most complex plot ever put to screen (it is actually almost too simple), it was serviceable enough to keep me invested, while I watched Veronica reconnect with a lot of different characters, who all make a far greater impact, were one to have once been a fan of the series.

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This was always going to be the inherent problem with a fan-funded film and while the argument can be made that a lot of effort was put into making it a film that does not need to be watched with previous series knowledge, that does not automatically mean the film is still good on its own. Now I do think Veronica Mars works as a standalone film, I just can’t call it a great one. Yes, not knowing any of these characters does not hurt one’s understanding of the story or even the past relationships of the characters, but I can see it having a lack of much impact, if one really wants to invest themselves in this film, despite having no previous knowledge of what had took place in the past.

This actually hits at what I always found to be a minor problem with the original series – smugness. As I stated, Veronica Mars is a show that was great at its best. This came from tight plotting in the first season, some real ambition in its second, and all around strong character work from most of the actors. Putting that aside, the writing had a tendency to lean on how self-aware it was, given the neo-noir nature of the series that blended with a know-it-all lead character and an aesthetic placed firmly in modern times. That can be found in this film as well. Along with the obvious time taken to please fans, there are a lot of knowing winks to the film being aware of itself that did not so much ruin the experience, but did keep in me in the mindset of being the one of many who are watching a film made possible by fans, as opposed to being fully immersed in a story involving characters I happened to be familiar with.

Quibbles aside, for a movie that was released on VOD and only a few hundred screens, I am happier praising the achievement of its creators, given that that this thing exists. The story is very fitting of a Veronica Mars plot, despite the cavalcade of cameos (from both previous cast members and celebrities that Bell is friends with), the acting is solid, particularly from Bell (despite too much voiceover), Dohring (who I wish was a bigger star), and Calantoni (who is one of the best TV dads ever), and the filmmaking on display works as far as separating itself from its TV roots. Will it please fans? I am sure it will. Will it rope in new fans? Possibly, but there is a fun film to be found here, for the most part. I may have found it to be a bit ordinary, but Thomas does have a knack for writing good dialogue, which makes me hope he can work on new material fit for an original property that can find better success than his cult hits like this and the sorely underseen Party Down.

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So Veronica Mars has returned after its cancellation back in 2007. A movie like this is not something entirely new, as we have seen the return of cult favorite media in various forms. Firefly (Serenity), Arrested Development, Futurama, and Firefly more or less returned because fans would not shut up about it and now Veronica Mars has joined that fold as well. The fact that it had a massive Kickstarter campaign certainly provides a unique spin to this story, but the result is the still similar: the return of a canceled series in movie form. The real question is whether or not the movie is not only just satisfying for the fans, but a fine standalone film that anyone can enjoy. As some would likely figure, the more acquainted with the characters an audience viewer is, the more accepting they may be. This film may or may not kick start a huge revival for a cult-loved TV series, but it was a nice way to check-in with a series I used to be friends with.

Video:

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: Veronica Mars is a film that has its sunny setting in Neptune, but is happy to rest in the dark as well to fuel its mystery roots. With this video transfer, a fine job is done to keep things quite clear in any setting. While limited in scope, the details to be seen in this transfer still emerge well enough, with the film providing plenty to enjoy in the settings seen, given the low budget.

Depth: As a modern day picture that focuses largely on dialogue, with Southern California serving as background scenery, the foreground elements are separate enough to provide enough depth to be seen.

Black Levels: Black levels are quite strong throughout, given the amount of darkness and indoor scenes found in the film.

Color Reproduction: The color palette of this film is fairly muted, but some saturation used provides a nice look, fitting for the world of Veronica Mars.

Flesh Tones: Everyone looks good enough, with the textures providing for enough clarity in this department.

Noise/Artifacts: None to be found.

 

Audio:

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Audio Format(s): DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1, Dolby Digital French 5.1, Dolby Digital Portuguese 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics: The film is able to nicely balance the dialogue with the occasional scenes involving soundtrack cues or something heavier from an audio perspective.

Low Frequency Extension: The key scene is the reunion, which utilizes a lot of sounds, but a lot of bass in the way action and the soundtrack take over, making good use of a woofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: A find job is done to maintain the balance and spread it over an audio system.

Dialogue Reproduction: As this movie is mostly dialogue, it stands to reason that this area is loud and clear.

 

Extras:

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Not as expansive as I would have thought (no commentary), given the “for the fans” aspect of this film, but the features do emphasize how Kickstarer was a huge deal in regards to this film.

Features Include:

  • By the Fans: The Making of the Veronica Mars Movie – At nearly an hour, this is a nice tribute to the fans that goes over the Kickstarter campaign, as well as the lead up to the release of the film, as many fans are interviewed along with the cast and crew.
  • Deleted Scenes – Really just extended scenes.
  • Welcome to Keith Mars Investigation – Some fun with Enrico Colantoni.
  • Game Show with Kristen Bell and Chris Lowell – Cast members asking funny questions to each other.
  • On Set with Max Greenfield – A look at one of the key cameos in the film.
  • Veronica Mars’ Backers – A bit more time spent with the Kickstarter bacers.
  • It’s Not All About You, Monkey – Basically the making of a prank that is seen in the gag reel.
  • Young Veronica – A very brief featurette on a girl with some similarities to Veronica.
  • Gag Reel
  • UltraViolet Copy of the Film

Summary:

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Admittedly, Veronica Mars is a stronger watch on repeated viewings for me. I still find it to be a fairly average story, overall, which is benefited more by familiarity with the characters, but it is well made and acted, which I will not overlook. The Blu-ray is pretty solid, as it looks and sounds very good, and has a decent collection of extra features. For those looking for a neat little mystery, this film is a nice look at a series you should really check out. For fans, this is a satisfying film to help catch you up on characters thought to be gone.

Order Your Copy Here:

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com. Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS4.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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