I love Shakespeare. That being said, I think Shakespeare’s works are very difficult to adapt for the big screen. However, Joss Whedon, director of hit movie “The Avengers,” has absolutely no trouble adapting and directing “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Filmed in twelve days and entirely at Whedon’s Santa Monica home, “Much Ado About Nothing” is able to do what other Shakespeare adaptations have not: combine the carefully written lines of Old English with a modern-day setting. So many Shakespeare adaptations fall short in the modern-day when their directors bring in contemporary aspects in an attempt to relate to viewers. Unlike Baz Luhrman’s failed revamp of “Romeo and Juliet” in present day Verona Beach, Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” features just enough modern details to allow viewers to connect. The cast wears modern clothes such as classy suits and dresses, listens to music on iPods, drives fancy cars and cooks in a kitchen full of electrical appliances. Combined with the fact that the film is shot entirely in black and white, these details add up to a wonderfully modern Shakespeare classic.
So many of us have only been exposed to Shakespeare in the classroom setting where we were made to read aloud or listen to audiobooks. We then get so caught up in trying to understand what’s going on and what the characters are saying that we lose the emotion, feeling and meaning behind the work itself. Though meant for the stage, “Much Ado About Nothing” is a perfect example of how Shakespeare is supposed to be experienced. While watching the movie, instead of getting lost in the heavy and archaic Old English, we follow along with ease because we can see what’s going on. Instead of wondering what the characters mean, we see it on their faces and in their actions.
The actors, most of whom are familiar faces from Joss Whedon’s other projects, take on Shakespeare with ease. They produce Shakespearean lines so convincingly, you forget while watching that people don’t actually talk that way today. Although the acting is good on all accounts, Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof), as I’m sure Shakespeare himself intended, steal the show with their wonderful onscreen chemistry. They are the typical, in-love yet forever bickering duo, who have far too much fun poking spite at one another to admit their true feelings to themselves or anyone else. Their trials and tribulations, all part the “merry war” and “skirmish of wit” that Leonato (Clark Gregg) describes between them, are hilariously fun to watch.
A happy reminder that Shakespeare’s works weren’t all tragedies, this retelling of the classic comedic tale is a delightful treat. “Much Ado About Nothing” is exactly how Shakespeare should be experienced; if you watch only one Shakespeare adaptation, let this be it. I can only hope that Whedon and Shakespeare will meet again soon.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is on the MUvie Channel for the month of November.