Directed by: Joss Whedon
I am not a Whedon fan boy, at least not of the same level as a lot of people are -you could hear murmurs and chuckles in my screening whenever some familiar face from Whedon’s previous work popped up, and I only knew a few. What I have seen of his work, I have thoroughly enjoyed, and what intrigued me most about the latest adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is how a director goes from a massive superhero film, to a 10 day-shoot in his back garden of an old English comedy. I suppose it’s not the first time the superhero movies and Shakespeare films have shared common artists. Kenneth Branagh – famous for acting and directed many Shakespeare plays, having done his own version of Much Ado… with Emma Thompson – did direct Thor a couple of years ago, and people said that there was something Shakespearean about the family relationships of the Nordic Gods. If Branagh can switch between worlds, there’s no reason Joss Whedon can’t.
For those who don’t know, and should probably therefore read some Shakespeare, Much Ado… follows the love stories of Beatrice (Acker) and Benedick (Denisof), and Claudio (Kranz) and Hero (Morgese), over a few days, set in one big house. Claudio, Don Pedro’s (Diamond) right hand man, sees Hero, and instantly fall in love, and their wedding is almost instantly arranged. Don Pedro’s brother (Maher), however, is out for revenge, and looks for a way to break the engagement. Beatrice and Benedick on the other hand, do not fall in love so easily. Both are against the idea of love and marriage, but the other actors conspire to make them fall for each other.
The cast is absolutely brilliant. I know actual know a few of them, a couple were vaguely familiar, and the rest were completely new to me, and supposedly they all did it out of their friendship with Whedon. He’s quite lucky, in that from his group of friends, he can cast an entire Shakespeare play perfectly. I’m sure a lot of what makes this film work is down to Whedon and his vision, but if he had a different bunch of friends, God knows what this could have been. it’s difficult to really pick who stood out the most, but I think Nathan Fillion and Alexis Denisof will probably get the most laughs, but I hope Amy Acker gets some recognition too.
The film is completely in black and white, and it looks beautiful. It gives the film a sense of simplicity and rawness, which goes alone with the whole adaptation of the play. Whedon shot this in his own house, but if you didn’t know, you’d think it was built or scouted for exactly what he wanted to do. He has changed the setting of the play completely, and even adjusted a couple of characters a little, but he hasn’t messed with the words of the play (though obviously he cut a fair bit out, otherwise we’d be in for a much longer and slower film). I understand not wanting to touch the actual dialogues, but in not doing so certain things require the audience to either know the play well for it to make sense, or just a give him the benefit of doubt. I don’t know how much Buffy and Angel fans are into their Shakespeare, but from what I’ve seen of Whedon’s fandom, they’re probably willing to forgive him a lot of things.
Much Ado… as a Shakespeare play is considered a comedy, though not necessarily in the same way we think of comedies today. Whedon’s version, however, is the funniest production of the play I have ever seen, possibly even of any Shakespeare comedy. I don’t know how much he adapted in terms of writing a screenplay given how quickly he made it, but whatever he did worked. It’s not one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and there are parts of the story that I will never like in any production, but I think I preferred this one to any of the others I’ve seen. Because of its simplicity, it’s really down to the talents of Whedon and his cast/friends that makes his Much Ado About Nothing the adaptation everyone should watch.
Much Ado About Nothing is out on Friday 14th June, 2013.