The Kickstarter campaign for the proposed (and now fan-funded) "Veronica Mars" movie reached its $2 million goal in about ten hours. Assuming that Warner Bros. stays true to its word, shells out the rest of the cash (99.9% of movies cost way more than $2 million, after all) and goes forward with the project, it looks like we're indeed going to get a "Veronica Mars" movie. But in looking at the history of television dramas that went on to have feature film adaptations, is that necessarily a good thing?
One thing that's definitely going for the "Veronica Mars" movie is it's a film made for the fans -- and, thanks to Kickstarter, by the fans. Those who watched and loved the "Veronica Mars" television show will always be -- in theory, anyway -- a formidable and influential presence during the film's development. That certainly wasn't the case with "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" (1992), a film that enraged most of the followers of the cult television series as it replaced what was expected to be a satisfying, all-questions-answered conclusion to the show that was abruptly cancelled -- just when the story was really getting started -- with an even more fractured and bizarre nightmarescape. Now over 20 years later, "Fire Walk" is more well-received upon the realization that it's much more a "David Lynch film" than a "'Twin Peaks' movie," but at the time of the release, you could hear the cries of betrayed fans all the way inside the Black Lodge.
Sometimes the whole TV-to-movie thing works. The first film of "The X Files," released in 1998, made for a terrific piece of summer movie entertainment, holding its own against such heavyweight competition as "Armageddon" and "Saving Private Ryan," and going on to make a domestic gross of almost $84 million and a worldwide gross of over $189 million. Keep in mind, though, that the film was released while the show was still on the air -- and, arguably, at the top of its game, with the film serving as a bridge between the fifth and sixth seasons and focusing on the series' main alien conspiracy plotline.
It didn't work nearly as well with the second film, "The X Files: I Want to Believe," released ten years later in 2008. The story made for a stand-alone "Monster of the Week" chapter in the series' mythology, focusing on a psychic pedophile priest (huh?) and an underground East European organization that murders people and steals their organs. The film just doesn't work on any level; even fan service like seeing Mulder and Scully in bed together comes across as awkward and too little, too late.
Timing was perhaps the main problem, as "I Want to Believe" was released five years after the conclusion of the television series. "Veronica Mars" concluded its series run in May 2007; assuming that the earliest we'll see the film is 2014, it will have been seven years since we last saw Kristen Bell's young private investigator do her thing. Sure, there are enough people out there still passionate about the property to shell out $2 million in ten hours, but it could prove to be quite the different scenario when it comes time to tear one's self from the TiVo and actually go to a movie theater.
However, if there's one thing that Veronca taught us, it's that cynicism will get you nowhere. Our prediction? The "Veronica Mars" movie will turn out the way "Firefly" did when it hit the big screen. Joss Whedon's sci-fi western series lasted only one season but gathered enough loyal fans (it's Joss, after all) and subsequent DVD sales to warrant a feature film with a budget of $39 million. "Serenity" (2005) is not only a great "Firefly" movie, it's a great science fiction movie, period, a film that stakes its own claim in the genre while giving the fans what they want: a true sequel to the TV show they loved so much.
"Serenity" -- which, for the record, was released a little over two years after the last "Firefly" episode aired -- barely broke even during its theatrical run, earning just under $39 million in worldwide box office, but you can bet almost every one of those dollars came from someone who was really, really passionate about spending them.
That's the key to a successful "Veronica Mars" movie: give the fans what they want, and they'll give the love -- and, with a little luck, even a few more dollars than the $2 million they've already handed over.