Maybe you’ve heard of this guy… He’s an acclaimed writer with a twisted sense of humor, an obsessive fan base, and a penchant for killing off scores of characters, only to bring them back in interesting ways, if only to torment the living to create even more pathos…
What a guy that Shakespeare was. It only makes sense that a man of similar qualities takes on his work and makes it his own, as if he hasn’t already been doing it in one form or another over the last decade and a half on television. Joss Whedon just never bothered to use iambic pentameter when he did it… until now.
For the uninitiated, Much Ado About Nothing really is the Shakespeare play presented in a modern day setting, shot entirely in black and white over 12 days in Joss’s back yard with a select group of friends and colleagues during an Avengers production break. To say this was a labor of love would be redundant to anyone who knows what Joss Whedon is all about, but it’s true nonetheless.
For Whedon fans, and fans of what they call the Whedonverse, this film is a dream come true. Stars from his various television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and even one or two from Marvel’s the Avengers show up in this pseudo-indie tale of love, loss, betrayal, and manipulation: all the things that made Shakespeare great. To list them all would take too long. If you know who I’m talking about, I don’t need to tell you. And if you don’t, the names won’t mean a thing. Either way, it’s pretty damn cool that they’re all in one movie together.
But if you’re not a Shakespeare aficionado, you can still enjoy the film, even if you only understand every third word or every third sentence. In fact, from talking to hardcore Shakespeare lovers who saw the film with me, it kind of helps your enjoyment of the film if you’re NOT a nitpicky purist. Whedon takes some liberties with the structure of the story and even some of the characters, swapping the sex of at least one of them. Some characters’ roles are reduced while others are given more screen time, either due to the actor playing them (*ahem* Nathan Fillion) or the purpose of the character in this iteration of the classic play. But, again, if you don’t understand the language of Shakespeare’s day without constantly having to re-interpret the words you understood in your head, the tone of the voices and the physicality of the performances is more than enough to keep you in the game. It translates. Of course, it was the first time for many of the actors wrapping their tongues around the Shakespeare dialogue, so it may bother some purists hearing it coming out of the mouths of those who appear to not really understand what they’re saying (according to a purist friend of mine, as I am not one of those people). But one thing that did make a certain purist happy was the contemporary reinterpretation of the Shakespearean era songs, including one performed on screen by Joss’s sister-in-law, Maurissa Tancharoen. It was a little thrill for this Whedon fan too.
Much Ado About Nothing isn’t exactly your standard summer fare. If you’re out on a date with the significant other or significant other to be, and they have no knowledge of or care for Shakespeare, don’t expect that saying “it’s from the guy who made the Avengers!” will help woo them into seeing this over The Purge this weekend. But for lovers of all things Whedon and the Bard, this is the perfect moviegoing experience, whether you understand it or not. It’s got the funny and the sexy and the Whedonverse star power we never dreamed we’d ever see on the big screen. That alone is worth the ticket price.
Much Ado About Nothing arrives in limited release June 7th, nationwide June 21st.