I’ve shared my skepticism in the past about the Veronica Mars movie, but that’s been related to how it relates to funding in Hollywood rather than the content of the picture itself. I’ve seen all three seasons, and while I felt it was diminishing returns, I can see it’s appeal, and it’s a world that could reasonably be adapted into a feature film. At today’s Comic-Con panel, we got a brief glimpse at the film, but it left me cold. Perhaps appropriately, this panel was for the fans rather than anyone else in Hall H even though Thomas stated that they want to open the property up to newcomers. Based on what we saw and heard, they still have a way to go.
Hit the jump for my recap of the Comic-Con panel. Veronica Mars is eyeing an early 2014 release.
Moderator Jeff Jensen brings the panelists on stage: Francis Capra (Weevil), Enrico Colantoni (Keith Mars), Percy Daggs III (Wallace), Ryan Hansen (Dick), Tina Majorino (Mac), Chris Lowell (Piz), who was wearing a “Team Logan” shirt, Jason Dohring (Logan), who was wearing a “Team Piz” shirt, creator Rob Thomas, and Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell.
We then lead off with a featurette and trailer. The featurette briefly goes through the Kickstarter campaign, shows some behind-the-scenes stuff (including some Kickstarter backers on set), some brief scenes, and then we lead into a teaser trailer. It opens with Bell in a job interview, which allows the picture to provide exposition about her character, but then we launch mostly into seeing the cast at a reunion. In terms of plot, it didn’t provide much. It was coasting mostly on fans just being excited to see the characters again, and I’m sure they got a thrill and laugh when Dick comes along and breaks out his belt-buckle flask. There was nothing particularly revelatory, and I hope it’s released online because this should be for everyone who backed the film, not just those who backed the film and had the money to come to Comic-Con.
Rob Thomas talking about the story and plot:
- “It’s a weird reference,” he says, but it has a Godfather III theme. We find Veronica not having worked as a P.I. since we saw her in season 3, so part of her is getting pulled back into her old life. He also feels that the story he wants to tell is the story that fans will want to see.
Bell recalling the show’s cancelation:
- Says she suffers from a bad memory and has probably “blocked it out”, but then she remembered she found out the day before she shot the scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall where her character said her show had been canceled.
The feeling of coming back to the role:
- There were jitters especially her first scene with Dohring because there was a sense of disbelief of it actually happening. Her first line back was: “Charming drink names. I can’t decide between ‘the beast between two backs’ and ‘donkey punch’. Ooh! Do you think they’d let me order a ‘virgin de-virginator’?’”
Majorino’s thoughts on reprising her role as Mac:
- - On her first day back, she was in the makeup trailer wondering when she was going to see everybody again. She got to see Kristen first, then Ryan, then Chris, then Percy, and so on. “Every day on the set has been so appropriate because this movie is about reuniting…so to come back to set and living as yourself and as your character simultaneously has been really exciting and fun.” Capra adds that it was unforgettable to reunite with everyone and thanks the audience, “You all brought my family back together.”
Colantoni on reprising the father-daughter relationship between Keith and Mars:
- It was easy since Kristen and he hang out a hockey games, and it’s easy for him to have a paternal feeling, and now that she’s a mother, there’s more for them to talk about.
- They shot it at Kristen’s friend’s house. They put it together quickly even though no one had asked them to put them together. Dax Shepard (Bell’s husband) then built her a little puppet set over the weekend with stuff he bought from Home Depot, and then she, Thomas, and others got together to create the puppet show (which was an interesting experience for Thomas when he brought the puppets through airport security).
On the expected fan reaction to Piz’ return and the fans’ animosity because he broke up Veronica and Logan, Lowell felt he had to prepare himself. He also says the character name has kind of stuck to the point where his friends rearranged the letters on his Prius so it would spell “Piz”.
If Bell did anything special the other day on set to celebrate her birthday:
- They shot until 5:00am on Wednesday, and at about 12:20 or so, Thomas made the whole crew sing Happy Birthday. “Other than singing and celebrating with people…that makes it sound really un-special, but it was really fun.”
How do you jump back into a character who is ten years older?
- Bell doesn’t feel like she struggled with getting back because there’s a very strong connection between her brain and Thomas’ brain. She says she’s never had that experience anywhere else. But something about Veronica’s voice has always been easy for her to jump into.
Their favorite moments from the show:
- Thomas was re-watching the first kiss between Logan and Veronica, and he kept rewinding it and rewinding it to the point where he started to cry because he felt that they had earned that moment.
- Hansen finds a way to swing this topic by revealing his “Team Dick” shirt, but he also says that he learned to cry by working with Dohring. “He hit me nuts,” says Hansen.
- Colantoni has a fond moment of watching seasons one through three with his daughter, and he kept catching his daughter looking back between her father and for Kristen. “And she’ll never have a dad like Keith Mars in her life,” deadpans Colantoni.
They finish shooting in two days. Thomas goes on to say that in terms of the budget, and the smart way would have been to do very few sets and guest starts, “and that’s not what we did. We made an incredibly ambitious, sprawling low-budget movie.” They had to move so fast that they only got three to four shots at a line reading, so they were always racing the clock in their 20-day-shoot. The moderator asks if they could get an extra million dollars, what would they get that’s not in the movie now? “More shooting days,” says Thomas.
“Who taught Jason how to smolder?” “The heavens,” Bell responds.
Regarding a question about improvising, Bell says there’s value in it, but a really good writer should be militant about his words. 99% of the time, Bell feels like she has an instinct for how Thomas wants the line read. “Our job as actors isn’t to try to 1-up what Rob has done, because it simply doesn’t need it. It’s already perfect on the page.”
Is there going to be any mention of characters who died during the show?
- “The big answer is no,” says Thomas, but there are plenty of Easter eggs for fans of the series. However, he didn’t want to weigh the film down with old references because he wants “the film to be the start of something” so it needs to appeal to the uninitiated. The most essential element is that newcomers understand Veronica’s odd job in high-school, and not get bogged down in “mythology.”
If the people on the panel could play any other character in the series, who would they play?
- Lowell: “Logan. Logan. Logan. Logan.”
- Hansen “Dick”
- Lohring: “Dick
- Percy: “Weevil”
- Colantoni: “Vinnie Van Lowe”
- Bell: “Dick”
- Thomas: “Principal Clemens”
The movie will come out in early 2014. The first of the new Veronica Mars books will come out soon after and pick up where the movie left off.
There’s nothing wrong with appealing directly to the fans, especially at Comic-Con, and by that metric, the panel for Veronica Mars was a success. Personally, I wanted them to get a little deeper into the film’s creation via Kickstarter, but that only extended as far as everyone saying how great it was to be back together again, which is obvious. However, fans will share in the joy of that reunion. The big question is if the film will be a big party everyone can come to, or if only fans are invited despite Thomas’ stated wish that the movie will open the doors to everyone.