If William Shakespeare were around today, and after someone had explained to him what movies are, there is no doubt he would be very pleased with Joss Whedon’s interpretation of his comedy “Much Ado About Nothing.”
We have all probably read “Much Ado About Nothing” once, probably in high school. Allow me to refresh your memory. War heroes Claudio and Benedick have just returned home, where Claudio is reminded of his strong love for Hero, the daughter of the governor, and Benedick engages once more in a war of wit with Hero’s cousin Beatrice. Like any Shakespeare comedy, there is confusion and irony and a wedding, but I won’t spoil it all for you.
Whedon’s adaptation puts lovers Claudio, Hero, Beatrice and Benedick in a modern setting, a favored choice for most of today’s Shakespeare adaptations, but that’s where the similarities to most other adaptations ends.
The entire film is in black and white, which in this case only helps the viewer. Without the distraction of color, the audience can focus solely on the story, how the characters are interacting with each other and what the characters discover about themselves. We are able to pay more attention to the actor’s actions, which pays off marvelously in a critical scene of both Benedick and Beatrice (played by Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker, respectively) eavesdropping on separate conversations about their love lives. The easy-on-the-eyes gray scale also lets the dialogue shine through, as Whedon chose not to use modern-day English and instead stuck with the bard’s own words. This isn’t, of course, the first film to keep the same language. But the use of the original language and lack of color, both harkening back to older days of film, somehow give this film a very contemporary air.
There was a slight murmur through the audience when it became apparent the dialogue had not been updated, but it soon died down as everyone adjusted and settled in to enjoy the film.
And enjoy is definitely what you will do when you watch this film. Whedon offers a refreshing retelling of the story, something we have come to expect from this director. For those unfamiliar, Whedon brought us 2012’s Cabin in the Woods and the superhero blockbuster The Avengers, but is also known for television’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Many of his projects reach cult status due to his talent of creating relatable and beloved characters whose storylines raptly involve the viewers.
It is also a common fact that Whedon likes to reuse actors, so to say, and he chose an excellent cast once again for Much Ado. Aside from Denisof and Acker, the film has Clark Gregg (The Avengers) portraying a humble and doting father to Hero, Sean Maher (Firefly) as antagonist Don John, Fran Kranz (Cabin in the Woods) as lovesick Claudio and Jillian Morgese (The Avengers) as the quiet Hero. Perhaps the best boast Much Ado has though, is Nathan Fillion (Serenity) as Dogberry, the bumbling and asinine watch-guard for the family, who brought a round of applause when he first appeared on the screen and continued to bring the laughs every time the camera panned to him.
Each of the actor’s talent and Whedon’s directorial choices combine to tell an entertaining romance that engages its audience, never making them bored or annoyed, but instead anticipating and intrigued. There is no doubt that even the most stubborn moviegoer will find one thing he likes in this film, and can convince anyone that Shakespeare can be fresh and loved in any year.
“Much Ado” could make a great family outing, provided everyone in the family is mature enough to understand the language and sit through the few risqué scenes that grant a PG-13 rating. Overall, it is a must-see, while it is in theaters. Its limited release began June 21, and the film is yet another masterpiece from Joss Whedon.