When it came to blockbuster spectacle circa 2012, Joss Whedon ruled the waves. His reflective, genre-busting, The Cabin in the Woods had audience and critic alike lauding its equal measures of critique and entertainment. Marvel extravaganza The Avengers knocked it out the part, pulling off an ambitious superhero epic that fulfilled expectations and left us hungry for more. But what did Whedon do next?
Filmed across 12 days at Whedon’s home, this modernisation of the bard’s most humorous work is beautifully realised. His own taste for the comic picks out the silliest physicality and most subtle jokes of the play then relays in his sharp – yet light hearted – way. Much Ado seems to translate Shakespeare’s humour in a way that makes this feature one of the best adaptations to date.
Whedon has always been fairly character driven, The Avengers, for all its action and effects, was essentially driven by the balance of screen time awarded each of its larger-than-life characters. And thus Much Ado is made better time and time again by the band of talent committed to creating this balanced love-play. Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker shine as foe/lovers Beatrice and Benedick, relaying the thin line between love and hate with a vicious kind of tenderness. Clark Gregg threatens to steal the show as Leonato, his dominating presence and dry humour perhaps fit the script best out of all the cast. When the drama of the lovers perhaps starts to grate, Nathan Fillion professes a comic control second to none as Dogberry.
With this, surely a benchmark for performance has been reached within Whedon’s repertoire, for this is a near-entirely performance based feature. Though, the visual impact of the film is obvious, there are few scenes of genuinely touching image, bar the funeral procession which mixes Gothic imagery with the modern setting, the film can be a bit straight forward. However a tender laid back control of image means his monochrome Shakespeare is impressive and proves the director is just as at home with smaller intimate features as he is with mega-budget fantasy adventures.
A Sleek, sharp, excellently acted, and above all well-orchestrated update, Much Ado About Nothing explores love in all its cruelty and tenderness, whilst keeping intact that staunch element of humour integral to the play. It’s not Luhrmann’s Romeo +Juliet, but it’s definitely Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing
Dir: Joss Whedon
Stars: Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Fran Kranz, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg