Much Ado About Nothing
Joss Whedon really needs to take it easy, he’s making all of us look bad. Not content with making the Avengers last year, he also found time to shoot this version of Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing. This was all filmed on location at his own house, with a bunch of his usual collaborators in the space of two weeks during, what was supposed to be, a break in Avengers post production. It all makes you feel a little unproductive.
This is the story of young lovers, Claudio (Fran Kranz, aka the stoner lad from Cabin in the Woods) and Hero (Jillian Morgese, you know uncredited woman in restaurant in Avengers) as they plan their wedding. While at the same time other family members are trying to trick Benedick (Alexis Densioff) and Beatrice (Amy Acker) into admitting their true feelings for each other, despite their protestations.
I’m sure to a lot of people this is a story that needs no introduction, but I am not one of those people. I have never seen the play, I didn’t study it at school (I only covered Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream GCSE related facts fans) and I’ve never even seen the Kenneth Brannagh/Denzel Washington/Keanu Reeves version. I went into this as a completely clean slate.
It’s all shot in black and white, and it looks great, it gives everything a film noir feel. As I have mentioned, this was shot in a relatively small space of time, with a group of friends and in Whedon’s own house but that doesn’t mean that this looks cheap. Quite the opposite actually. It really shows that these are people that Wheadon is comfortable working with (and who are comfortable with the material) because everything seems to just flow so easily. Shakepeare seems to really suit Wheadon’s style, for example the dialogue is sharp, full of energy and bounces back and forth at an incredible rate. If it weren’t for the occasional outdated language you could imagine you were watching an episode of Firefly or Buffy.
Everyone of the cast does a good job, with Benedick and Beatrice being two of the highlights for me. Alexis Denisoff seems to be really comfortable with the material and adds some great physical comedy into the mix, he manages to stay just on the right side of acting like a clown. Amy Acker is equally great as Beatrice, she plays a smart, independent and strong woman with just the right amount of vulnerability and longing built in. It’s another reason I can imagine Joss Whedon being drawn to this material, he really does like a strong female character and Beatrice definitely seems like one he would gravitate towards.
It’s good to see Sean Maher on the screen again, I’ve not really seen him anything since Serenity, and he’s very good as the ‘evil’ Don John who schemes and plots to undo the happiness of Claudio and Hero. Evil is a strong word really it is a comedy after all, he’s more the chief mischief maker.
The real highlight for me was Nathan Fillion as the bumbling Dogberry, the chief of the citizen police, who’s got more than a little Inspector Clouseau in him. Sure Fillion can border on the ridiculous sometimes but it manages to stay on the right side of silly, he’s dangerously close to stealing the show but Whedon is used to dealing with an ensemble and manages to give everyone their chance to shine.
When Shakespeare is updated to modern times it can sometimes be a little jarring, I really didn’t get that feeling here the integration of the modern technology works well and doesn’t feel forced at all.
This is the polar opposite of everything that the Avengers was, it’s small and intimate, there’s definitely no special effects I mean it’s not even in glorious technicolour but still it’s great. I just hope that during post production on the Avengers: Age of Ultron that Whedon manages to find time to take a crack at another one of Shakespeare’s finest with his buddies.