Much Ado About Nothing ReviewJuly 4, 2013
Although Shakespeare is not for everyone, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is a must-see film with superb aesthetics, a magnificent cast, and perfect comedic timing.
Joss Whedon is one of the most popular talents in Hollywood these days, and also one of the most versatile. Having already won over major audiences with his work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and Serenity, he then dropped bombshells in the forms of The Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers. Then, at the high point of his exploding Hollywood career, he decides to adapt a Shakespeare play on a miniscule budget? Sporting a cast made up of Joss Whedon’s close friends/ collaborators, is this modern version of Much Ado About Nothing relevant – and funny – enough for his fans?
Although this is a modern version of the play, the story and script is virtually the exact same. Much Ado About Nothing takes place in Messina, a port in Italy, in which the prince of the nation in control has just won a successful war. A messenger brings the news of the victory to the governor, Leonato (Clark Gregg), who then agrees to have the prince, Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) and his comrades over for a month to celebrate their glorious return. During the festivities, one of his men Benedick (Alexis Denisof) encounters Leonato’s neice Beatrice (Amy Acker), and they don’t care much for each other. At the same time, Don Pedro’s younger companion Claudio (Fran Kranz) falls in love with Leonato’s daughter Hero, who soon returns affections. Amidst all of this, Don Pedro develops a scheme to trick Benedick and Beatrice into falling in love with one another, while Don Pedro’s spiteful brother Don John (Sean Maher) plots his revenge.
If anyone ever told me that high cinematic art can’t be fun, I would probably slap them in the face and tell them to go see Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. This film is a great example of the best of both worlds – artistic vision and the sort of non-stop entertainment one can expect from the perfect comedy. While this film has its share of issues stemming the fact that it’s a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic comedy, I still feel that the original play fits quite well with the modern setting and is one of the most fun, pleasurable movie-going experiences I have had all year.
Of course Much Ado About Nothing has already been established as one of the great playwright’s better works, but Joss Whedon’s take makes this worth watching. He is a writer well-regarded for his comedic genius, and here he tosses in plenty of visual quirks and gags to make this play an absolute laugh riot. Under Whedon’s direction, the difficult Shakespearean dialogue is much more accessible, and I found it surprising that the themes of cynicism towards love and the negative side of human behavior are still relevant – considering that modern society has different views on sexuality than people of the late Renaissance Era. Plus, the addition of a photographer into Much Ado About Nothing suggests that Joss Whedon is aiming to criticize our gossip-obsessed society, which I found particularly fascinating. Any romantic comedy that can make me care for the relationships at hand without being sappy is a success in my book.
Of course, the cast deserves plenty of credit for making Much Ado About Nothing so great. Most people other than dedicated Whedonites won’t recognize a grand majority of the thespians on display (fans of The Last of Us may recognize Ashley Johnson, the voice of Ellie) but they all fit into their roles quite nicely. Each and every actor in this great ensemble has their own distinct qualities that sets each character apart, and they all contribute greatly to the excellent comedy of Much Ado About Nothing. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof are absolutely irresistible as the two leads, while Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson from The Avengers) and Nathan Fillion provide for some of the film’s biggest laughs.
Chances are that if you’ve been following Joss Whedon’s version of Much Ado About Nothing, then you likely know that it was shot in black-and-white. I was slightly skeptical of this choice at first, but ultimately I dug the style that Joss Whedon used for this film. The lack of color present in cinematographer Daniel Kaminsky’s work actually adds timelessness to the picture, and I felt immersed into the world of Much Ado About Nothing. The film’s location is actually Joss Whedon’s home – it surprisingly gives this film a great, unique sense of place. Another aspect about the film that I find outstanding is that it is truly a do-it-yourself film – not only is Joss Whedon is the writer, director and producer, he also edited the film and composed the musical score. He did a marvelous job with the score, as the music adds a great deal of pleasure and emotion to an already great film, while his editing works to the effect of timing the jokes just right and making the play more accessible.
Although I understand that Shakespeare is not for everyone, this is must-see film. With superb aesthetics, a magnificent cast, and perfect comedic timing, this is about as great of a modern version of Much Ado About Nothing that we could get. Is it perfect? No, but it is great fun, and it will also please anyone who is seeking a summer film with art and substance as opposed to the stock blockbuster. I guarantee that Joss Whedon’s take on the classic comedy will not only tickle your funny bone, it will stimulate your mind and senses. Isn’t that what any great film should do?