|Much Ado About Nothing
Starring Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Nathan Fillionl Fran Kanz
What does one do, in this case, Joss Whedon, after directing not only the biggest Marvel but the 3rd biggest movies of all time? You take 12 days our of your schedule and shoot, in black & white, a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, at your house…duh. What else are you going to do? All kidding aside, Whedon took his clout and made what some are dubbing his labor of love, which for the record is better than a passion project, although they can be seen as the same thing, the labors of love usually end up with better results…weird right? Okay, where was I…oh yeah, Whedon decided to gather some of his old friends and make a modern update on Much Ado but keeping Shakespeare’s dialogue. Bad news Avenger fans, there is no end credit scene teasing the next Avengers movie nor does Iron Man show up to portray the films main man Benedict. But how cool would that have been?
Okay, seriously, all kidding aside, Much Ado About Nothing, the Whedon version, wins you over with its charm, its unexpected humor that doesn’t come from anything that Shakespeare wrote and with performances that show how much everyone involved really wanted to make this movie work. Whedon has his pre-Marvel fans, lots of them and they won’t be disappointed with what Whedon & company have done. For the Shakespeare fan, this telling is way better than the Kenneth Branagh 1993 version that starred Keanu Reeves. For movie fans, this is pretty good way to spend a couple of hours. And for fans of Nathan Fillion, yep he’s here and he steals the show.
Whedon, outside of using all mod cons due to the present day setting for the film, faithfully follows Shakespeare’s story and dialogue. Leonato (Clark Gregg), the Governor of Messina, is having a gathering and much of the story takes place here. Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) has come with his villainous brother Don Jon (Sean Maher), Count Claudio (Fran Kanz) and Benedict (Alexis Denisof). Claudio is taken by Leonato’s daughter Hero (Jilian Morgese) & would like her hand in marriage. Benedict, a man who would rather see death than marriage, is quite taken by Leonato’s niece Beatrice (Amy Acker), although he won’t admit it. She feels the same and like Benedict, would rather exchange in a war of words with Benedict than express her true feelings. The guests of the party painfully see this and come up with a plan to get both of them out of their shell. Don Jon meanwhile, has plotted against the marriage of Claudio and Hero and has devised a plan to thwart the nuptials.
One would think that using the language of Shakespeare in the modern setting would be a little, for lack of a better term, goofy. But because Whedon is pretty masterful at dialogue, he’s able to use the beats and cadences quite effectively to draw out the best of what Shakespeare probably intended without the whole affair coming off as silly. Coupled with the fact that the cast is so invested in making this work, nothing ever seems strained or forced between their interactions. The use of black and white also works effectively well, drawing the focus entirely on his cast. Then there’s Fillion, as Dogberry, the local law enforcement, who while his appearance is somewhat brief, is directly involved with two of the funniest scenes in the movie.
I really wasn’t expecting much walking into this movie, but I’m glad I saw it. And outside of This is the End, you’d be hard pressed to find a movie where the actors are having so much fun with what their doing. Whether or not you’re a fan of Shakespeare’s work, if this movie makes it to your neck of the woods, I recommend you check it out.