Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing doesn’t feature Kenneth Brannagh or Laurence Olivier, and there may be no elaborate sets or costumes, but both Whedon fans and Shakespeare enthusiasts can enjoy Joss Whedon’s production of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy.
In Much Ado, Whedon, the creator of popular television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, and the director of the blockbuster hit The Avengers, turns his attention to the story of witty rivals Benedick and Beatrice. In the context of an impending marriage between two other characters, Claudio and Hero, the characters of Much Ado decide to make Benedick and Beatrice fall in love, while the play’s villain, Don John, attempts to foil any happiness.
Whedon filmed Much Ado at his home in Santa Monica during a two-week production break. The movie is filmed in black and white, and the small home setting provides an intimate feeling and a chance for creativity, which Whedon certainly seizes upon with artful cinematography.
One of the most enchanting aspects of the film is the cast. This is perhaps the greatest allure to Whedon’s fans. Much Ado feels like an all-star game, featuring actors who have all appeared in previous Whedon productions. Amy Acker, from Angel, Dollhouse, and Cabin in the Words, is witty and funny as Beatrice, with Alexis Denisof, Buffy, Dollhouse, and The Avengers, as her rival turned lover Benedick.
Much Ado also features Whedon-alums Fran Kanz, Reed Diamond, Clark Gregg, Sean Maher, and the incomparable Nathan Fillion. All of the actors give stellar, and often funny, performances. The actors all have good chemistry with each other, whether they are conspiring with each other or romancing someone. Though Shakespeare can be difficult to follow, the actors make the scenes very understandable.
On a more edgy note, Whedon makes a previous sexual encounter between Beatrice and Benedick the reason for their animosity at the beginning of the film. Whedon changes Conrade into a girl who is involved with Don John, and the characters are also almost always drinking alcohol, which certainly makes the love scheming more believable.
There was really nothing I did not enjoy about the film. I really like the physical comedy, executed mostly by Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, and Nathan Fillion. The music, consisting of the original songs from Shakespeare’s play adapted by Joss Whedon’s brother as well as some piano music, made the play feel modern despite the original language. I am glad, though, that they kept the original language and I thought the actors handled it well.
As a fan of both Shakespeare and Joss Whedon, I enjoyed seeing some of my favorite Whedonverse actors bring the bard to life in a creative, artistic, and humorous way. If you are a fan of Firefly, Dollhouse, Buffy, or The Avengers, then Much Ado About Nothing is a must-see.