Monday, June 17, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

Disclaimer: While I generally like Shakespeare's plays, and have seen quite a number of them on stage or screen, and have read a few of them, I am not an expert. I am, however, a fan. I am also a fan of Joss Whedon, though I don't have the slavish worship that some people do.

Warning: This film is in black and white. This seems to annoy some people. It does not bother me in the slightest - my favorite film of 2011 (The Artist) was in black and white, and in both that case and this I find it refreshingly different.

Second warning: The dialogue is almost entirely Shakespeare's own. I had some trouble wrapping my head around the first scene, which has quick, witty, and wordy banter. After that I was okay, but if you're not used to Shakespearean language, this movie might be difficult.

Review: This is a brilliant movie. Much of the credit for that goes, of course, to Shakespeare, whose gift of wit and wordsmithing is on full display in this play. The rest of the credit goes to Joss Whedon, his crew, and the fantastic cast. Whedon is best known for his fantasy and science fiction fare - Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly, Avengers - but even while filming those projects, he frequently hosted Shakespeare readings at his house. This movie exists because Whedon loves Shakespeare, and is crazy. He shot the entire thing in his own house, in twelve days, with almost no budget.

The result is amazing. Whedon tends to collect actors, and nearly all of the actors in Much Ado have worked with him before. For Amy Acker, who plays the female lead Beatrice, this is her fourth Whedon project. For Alexis Denisof, who plays the male lead Benedick, this is his fifth. Both of them are superb. Newcomer Jillian Morgese is solid opposite the brilliant Fran Kranz (on his third Whedon project) as the other romantically-inclined couple, Hero and Claudio.

Nathan Fillion deserves special mention. His delivery of Dogberry's bizarre dialogue is so good that it's almost distracting.

I do have two problems with this film. The first, and very minor, involves the decision to change the gender of  one of the secondary characters. While this allowed for a very interesting interpretation of an early scene, it was slightly problematic with respect to pronouns later on. The second problem is that it was difficult to figure out who the characters were, and what relations they had with each other. The interactions between Don Pedro and Don John did eventually make sense, but there was some early confusion.

If you are a Shakespeare fan, see this movie. I think it's a lovely adaptation which loses nothing by having modern sets and costumes.

If you are a Joss Whedon fan, see this movie. It features actors you know and love performing at the top of their craft.

If you are neither of these, think about giving it a try anyway. It's good.

1. Much Ado About Nothing
2. Now You See Me
3. Star Trek: Into Darkness
4. Oblivion
5. Iron Man 3
6. Jack the Giant Slayer
7. Beautiful Creatures
8. Oz the Great and Powerful
9. Epic
10. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
11. Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters
12. The Great Gatsby
13. This is the End

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