by Page Forrest
What do The Avengers, Firefly, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer have in common? They’re all amazing pieces of cinema or television. And they were all directed by Joss Whedon. The director has a tendency to jump all over the place, going from genre to genre, project to project. So it wasn’t really a shock to many when Whedon announced he was tackling Shakespeare next.
Given most of the nation’s high expectations of Whedon, Much Ado About Nothing is no let down. Not only does the movie succeed by normal cinematic standards, but Whedon also manages to preserve and beautifully present the original text of the play. He adapted the script for the screen, maintaining almost all of the original text to keep the interpretation as pure as possible. Without the flash and glitz present in so many modern movies, and even other Shakespeare adaptions (check out Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet if you don’t know what I’m talking about), the focus is on the text and the acting.
While Whedon does have a tendency to reuse the same actors over and over, they’re a spectacularly talented group of people. Amy Acker and Alexis Denishof, both alums of previous Whedon productions, bring new clarity and depth to the roles of Beatrice and Benedick. Their chemistry is always visible, and it’s apparent even to those not familiar with the story of their relationship from the beginning. Other actors also shine in their roles: Fran Kranz makes the ordinarily disliked Claudio lovable; and Nathan Fillion, currently known for his work on the television show Castle, is consistently hysterical delivering Dogberry’s quips and rambles.
The actors aren’t the only exceptional quality of the film. With how beautifully the production aspects of the film are pulled off, one would not suspect the movie to have been filmed in 12 days at the director’s home in Santa Monica, California. Rather than forcing the film into a modern era, the location creates a sort of timeless quality. This is only aided by Whedon’s choice to shoot the film entirely in black and white. Combined with the close-up camera shots, and intimate angles, the entire movie gives off an incredibly personal feel.
Overall, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is a stunning balance of simplicity and beauty, humor and depth. Both longtime fans of Shakespeare’s works and people who didn’t even know that Much Ado was originally a play have come out of the film satisfied. It’s difficult to do Shakespeare well in cinema, but when done correctly, especially with a director such as Whedon, the play shines.