In 2012 writer/director Joss Whedon slayed box office records with the Marvel Studios film The Avengers. So what’s next for a man fresh off of filming a widely anticipated summer blockbuster? Why, he films a movie adaptation of Shakespeare.
Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s most well loved and well known plays. The story of comedic shenanigans centers around the love lives of the feisty Beatrice, the cynical Benedick, the innocent Hero and the lovelorn Claudio. The story takes place at the home of Hero’s father and Beatrice’s uncle, Leonato. A politician and local celebrity, Leonato invites Prince Don Pedro and a host of guests to stay at his home. It’s immediately apparent that young Claudio and Hero are attracted to one other in the sweetest form of new love, and that Beatrice and Benedick’s venomous barbs slung at each other are filled with passion and attraction under the guise of animosity. Mistaken identity, manipulation, and melancholy follow in quick succession.
What makes this latest adaptation of Shakespeare’s work so interesting surrounds the movie-making process. Whedon, who is a king in geek culture for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly among others, is a man who loves fantasy stories, comic book heroes, and classic literature. Whedon regularly hosts readings of Shakespeare’s work with actors who often appear in his projects, so when The Avengers was coming to a close, Whedon and his wife, Kai Cole decided to spend their vacation making a Much Ado About Nothing movie. The cast and crew were quickly assembled and given two weeks to prepare for the shoot. The movie was filmed at Whedon and Cole’s house, which she designed and decorated, over the truncated course of 12 days. Many shots were done in one or two takes forcing the actors to embody a vivid sense of urgency and bring nothing short of their A-game. Amy Acker (Angel, Dollhouse) and Alexis Denisof (Angel, How I Met Your Mother) take on the leading roles of Beatrice and Benedick displaying their undeniable chemistry, first seen on Angel. Denisof’s over the top delivery of lines and hilarious physicality, including doing push-ups to impress Beatrice, is impossible not to love. Nathan Fillion (Castle, Firefly) and Tom Lenk (Cabin in the Woods) are hilarious as Dogberry and Verges, playing off of each other as “serious” police officers, especially when Fillion is repeatedly calling himself an “ass”. During the more serious sequence, Acker’s performance of the, “If I Were a Man” speech is the best dramatic moment of the movie.
Whedon directed and wrote the screenplay, based on Shakespeare’s play. The movie is rated PG-13 and is 109 minutes long. Fans of Shakespeare’s plays and movie adaptations will love this film. Fans of Whedon’s work and his gallery of regular stars will enjoy it if only to see Angel’s Fred and Wesley back together.
The DVD includes a making of featurette, “Bus Ado About Nothing” featurette about the cast and crew’s trip to SXSW, “Sigh No More” music video, and commentaries with Joss Whedon and the cast. The DVD can likely be found at FYE or can be ordered on amazon.com.