Star Trek. Charlie’s Angels. The Brady Bunch. Sex and the City. Veronica Mars.
Question: Television shows or films? Answer: Why not both?
In what appears to be a gradually emergent Hollywood trend, Veronica Mars will become the latest TV series to experience a revival on the big screen. Following a seven-year hiatus, the neo-noir teenage mystery drama will be transformed into a feature-length film in 2014.
For those unfamiliar with Veronica Mars: the premise of the show centered on a high school student moonlighting as a private investigator under the tutelage of her detective father. Throughout three successful seasons, Veronica Mars (played by the talented Kristen Bell) entwined quick wit and street smarts with a badass, take-no-prisoners stance in her fight for truth and the disenfranchised. The Veronica Mars movie follows the titular character several years after the events of the final season.
A recently released trailer of the film offers scarce insight into the plot except for the fact that Veronica has left the sandy shores of Neptune (and with it her Nancy Drew ways) to pursue a career as a budding New York City lawyer. The opening dialogue of the trailer (with a guest appearance from Jamie Lee Curtis) however, reminds us that Veronica Mars remains unchanged: “Compulsive, clearly. Addictive personality. Possible adrenaline junkie.” This sets the scene for a return to Neptune High and an inevitable foray into a world of prodigiously tantalizing mysteries and high-octane drama.
Whilst producers were intentionally scant with details on the project, it seems clear that what they have attempted to do is conjure up an atmosphere of nostalgia and longing for the show – back to a time when it was at its most beloved.
Unlike other television series that were made into films, the idea for a Veronica Mars movie failed to garner support from any of the major networks. Consequently, creator Rob Thomas and titular actress Kristen Bell launched a fundraising campaign to produce the film through Kickstarter. Relying on the immense fan support of the show, the project amassed the required $2 million budget in less than ten hours and went on to raise $5.7 million, the highest film funded project in Kickstarter history.
The issue that then arises, however, is whether the film can appeal to those who are not diehard fans of the series and are unfamiliar with the nuanced depiction of the Veronica Mars universe. In order to be successful, the film must be able to stand alone as a complete piece of work – one that will not only appeal to the diehards but also impel a new generation of fans to delve into the archives of the original Veronica Mars and immerse themselves in a flourishing cult classic.
And that is precisely what films like Charlie’s Angels and The Brady Bunch Movie have done. Helmed by three strong, beautiful and independent women, the revamped Charlie’s Angels movie (2000) captured the essence of female empowerment (as well as the concept of Jiggle TV) that originated in the 1970s television series of the same name, magnifying it to even greater proportions on the big screen. In the same way, the 1995 film adaptation of The Brady Brunch remained true to the unrealistically wholesome and unrelentingly effervescent 70s TV show family. These adaptations represent a minority of films that have been able to find the perfect balance between homage and reinvention.
The translation from television into film has some obvious disparities, however, and it is the inability to infuse the quintessence and accessibility of a TV series into a film that has led to the denigration of this promising adaptive sub-genre.
Films like The Addams Family, Inspector Gadget, I Spy and The Dukes of Hazzard represent the worst in this growing field. These adaptations of classic television viewing failed to live up to expectations, resting simply on the laurels of their predecessors.
One film in particular, however, stands out as the most prosaic and reductive piece of cinema in recent history: Bewitched. Deemed “an unmitigated disaster” by the New York Times, the 2005 film vilified the image of iconic characters Samantha Stephens, husband Darrin, and the incomparable Endora from the original 1960s-1970s television show. Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell’s inept and uninspired portrayals will forever taint the magic of the endearing series. Thus, Bewitched will always hold a place in history as a cautionary tale to those who dare to transform archetypal television standards into shining paragons of the silver screen.
Only certain television series have the potential to successfully traverse the savage plains of Hollywood predictability. It is often a combination of several factors that will determine such prosperity: genre, relatable characters, an enduring story, and the ability to craft these aspects into a polished piece of cinematographic art. With this in mind, a splendorous return to glory seems imminent for Veronica Mars