21 June 2013 617 Views

“Much Ado About Nothing” Review: Joss Whedon’s Take On Shakespeare Is Energetic & Fun

by Michael Lee

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Following his stellar directing efforts on The Avengers, Joss Whedon decided to do something smaller in scale as his follow up, so small that it took him less than 12 days to complete principle photography, and all of it shot in his beautiful Santa Monica home. For his follow up, Whedon decided to shoot an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s dark romantic comedy, Much Ado About Nothing. A review of this film would really be a review of the play itself, because Whedon’s adaptation is quite close to the original source material.

But really it’s like Whedon is the Shakespeare of our generation, wheareas Shakespeare could have possibly been the Whedon of his generation. We may never know, but the two share the same tastes in terms of romance, humor, wit, and killing their characters. Hit the jump to read the full review.

Just in case you are’t familiar with Shakespeare’s play, the story center’s around a pair of lovers, Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker) – the main couple -, and Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese) – the secondary couple. With the latter couple engaged to be married, Benedick and Beatrice are involved in a very “merry war” with each other, each of them proclaiming their disdain for love. So Claudio, Hero, Leonato (Clark Gregg), and Don Pedro (Reed Diamond), conspire to make Benedick and Beatrice fall in love with each other.

Much Ado has been making the film festival like the Toronto International Film Festival and South By Southwest arounds as of late, and critics agree that it is one of the best adaptations of the material to date.

As you may have noticed, a majority of the cast are filled with actors and actress who have worked with Whedon in the past, most notably his efforts before The Avengers. There is a sense of the cast being one big happy family, no matter where they came from in the Whedonverse and no matter which side of the family they are on. The adaptation is very playful and energetic, and at times, it can be down right silly. But that really plays to the affect that love has on us, we do very strange things when we are in love, and watching Benedrick and Beatrice go through the motions of being in love is a very funny thing to watch.

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For the most part, Whedon stays very true to the material, only changing a few words in the film. Also changed is the the setting. With such a strict time constraint he and the rest of the cast had, there was no time to make props or costumes, so instead he set it in modern day Los Angeles. But a story like Much Ado is timeless, and it speaks to everyone who has been or is already in love. It’s almost as if Much Ado was actually written by Whedon and not Shakespeare.

Even in its Elizabethan language, the context of the film could not be expressed more clearly, despite the somewhat slow start. The film opens to unestablished characters and an unfamiliar way of speaking, but only to those who may not be familair with the actual play itself. However, once the film starts to start rolling with the comedic dialogue, physical humor, and obvious emotional cues, the audience will start to comprehend what is going on. So credit to Whedon for sticking to his belief of staying true to the source material without having to resort to any drastic changes like completely changing the lines.

Adaptations like Much Ado is truly something that humbles directors like Whedon, especially after coming off a big tentpole film like The Avengers. It’s not something that should be practiced after every project, but it’s something that should definitely be considered.

In the end Much Ado works very well for Shakespeare fans, and is probably one of the best adaptations to introduce to new and young fans alike who are being introduced to the famous playwright.

(4/5)
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