The fanboys love Joss Whedon. They’ll follow him everywhere, so I think that it’s rather cunning that he has tackled William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Will they follow him here? I hope so.
Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s lighter plays. It features the quarrelsome couple Beatrice and Benedick (Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker), caught in a will-they or won’t-they relationship. They’re always in a verbal battle of wit and subsequently their friends decide to set them up, so that they will finally recognise their true feelings for each other. Meanwhile, another couple, Claudio and Hero (Fran Kanz and Jillian Morgese) are set to marry, but the evil Don John (Sean Maher) conspires to ruin everyone’s fun.
Whedon keeps to The Bard’s tone and original text, deciding (along with cinematographer Jay Hunter) to shoot the film in black and white (in his own home), and roping in his friends. He shot the film over twelve days during a break in making The Avengers (it even features Agent Coulson himself, Clark Gregg as Leonato), and the quick pace has helped to inject energy into Shakespeare’s words. It’s always a bit worrying when Americans tackle Shakespeare in their own accents (although should it be?) but the cast rise to the occasion. Denisof and Acker make a good Benedick and Beatrice – although the former should never have lost his beard mid-way through the movie!
Whedon’s Much Ado is low-fi; it’s a fun home movie, using Shakespeare as the starting point. It’s not flashy on the visuals – Whedon is a writer and he knows the importance of dialogue – words are key. However, the single location makes things a little claustrophobic. It could have been opened up, just a little. It’s a small niggle, but it would have taken the film away from appearing to be a group of friends just having a bit of fun.
It would be good if Much Ado About Nothing brings Shakespeare to a whole new audience. It’s light, fun and accessible. Much Ado About Nothing? Thankfully it isn’t.
Joss Whedon delivers and chatty and informative commentary. It’s nothing earth –shattering, but it’s a good talk track.