Much Ado About Nothing (2013)


Would have been a lot cooler if this was the direct sequel to the Avengers.

English major or not, I think it’s safe to say that most of us out there know the general basis of Billy Shakespeare’s most famous comedy. Beatrice (Amy Acker) and her cousin Hero (Jillian Morgese), live with their guardian, Leonato (Clark Gregg). Hero is planned to wed a man named Claudio (Fran Kranz), but he comes with two of his fellow comrades, Don John (Sean Maher) and Benedict (Alexis Denisof). The former is a bit of a trouble-maker who likes to see drama occur right in front of his own, very eyes, whereas the latter actually had a past-fling with Beatrice, one that she still has not fully gotten over just yet. By the end of this crazy weekend, things might change for everybody involved.

You would think that with all of the moolah Joss Whedon (director of last year’s smash-hit The Avengers, maybe you heard of it?) raked in, he would have more than plenty of time to just sit back, chill, relax, swim in the pool, get the creative juices flowing, and take his time with life, so that he could get ready for the sequel and make it as awesome as it promises to be. Which means that you wouldn’t at all think that it was in the realm of possibility that he would not only create another movie to work with, but film it during his break. That’s right: in 12-15 days, Whedon not only created a movie (based off of Shakespeare’s most famous), but cast it, filmed it (in his LA home, by the way), and got it all locked and loaded for the festivals.

And you complain about how you couldn’t figure out how E = mc2. Big whoop!

Love at first fight. And yell. And scream. And ounce of hatred. And scold.
Love at first fight. And yell. And scream. And ounce of hatred. And scold.

What’s so strange about Whedon actually adapting a piece of work that was mostly made famous by Shakespeare (that is, if you don’t want to include the adaptation with Denzel), is that the dude is so used to writing his own material the way he wants it to look, sound, and feel, that it seems like he would be totally out-of-place doing somebody else’s, especially something by Shakespeare that is literally word-for-word from the original text. However, Whedon does quite well with this material because it isn’t all about how the and what words are said, it’s more about the style and feel of it being said, emoted, and felt. That’s all Whedon gives to us here in order to keep us away from all of the Olde English, and it works surprisingly well.

Everything about the original text is here, and here to stay, but the way the film is shot, the way it looks, and the way it feels; makes you forget that you are watching a bunch of people re-enacting Shakespeare. For the first half-hour or so, I couldn’t stop trying to take in what everybody was saying, what it meant in modern-English, and how it attributed to the performance of that actor/actress delivering that line of dialogue, but after awhile; I just forgot about it and got into the story. The story isn’t anything new I haven’t heard before (hell, I read it in high-school), but what makes this adaptation stand-out among the rest is that it actually shows to us how modern and hip Shakespeare’s stuff can still be to this day, given the right cast and crew to deliver it to the masses.

You see how a story about people that love to play love games on one another, get joy out of other’s misfortunes, and can’t help but be evil and slimy  still resonates with our world of movies and reality today, so it only seems proper that Whedon shows an abundance of joy and delight for what it means now. Whedon and the cast he has assembled all seem to be enjoying themselves making a movie, just for the sake of making a movie, but they also make it fun to watch Shakespeare, no matter how hard you try to put your finger on what “howareth” actually means.

If there is anything positive I have to say about this movie, it’s pretty plain and simple: it’s a fun adaptation of Shakespeare’s work. That’s something I don’t usually say since it seems as if every adaptation tries harder and harder to modernize the hell out of the material with poppy-tunes, flamboyant tricks, and style-points galore. Basically, I’m talking about Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet. Sorry to single you out, Baz. At least you still taught me the importance of wearing sunscreen.

But as fun as everybody may seem to be having with the material, it doesn’t always work out for each and every one of them. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof fit okay as Beatrice and Benedict, even if it feels like they didn’t display much of a chemistry when they were together. I get it, they are supposed to despise one another for awhile so that you feel as if they never have the chance of rekindling their love and going back at it, but in order for that to work, I needed more of a sexual-chemistry between the two where I could feel the flares blowing up between the two. I rarely felt that between these two and even though they seemed to have fun all by their lonesome selves sometimes, together, they didn’t do much.

Like, why is he wearing that? So drunk!!!!
Like, why is he wearing that? So drunk!!!!

The other players in this movie are good, but not as great as you’d expect. Clark Gregg is good as the odd-ballish Leonato and doesn’t really know whether or not to make up his mind if he wants to be a bad guy or not; Sean Maher seems to be really enjoying himself a tad too much as the easily-despicable Don John; Fran Kranz plays Claudio with the right amount of vulnerability and awkwardness that I imagined reading the character back in the day; and Jillian Morgese is short, sweet, and a pretty face as Hero, even if she never gets a chance to say or do anything worth being remembered for.

However, none are lead-up to the one person who steals the show from everybody else and that is the one, the only: Nathan Fillion. Fillion plays Constable Dogberry and rather than having him be this self-serious, strong, and determined dude that was all about the law and finding out what was right and wrong, Fillion does us one better and changes things up by going the goofy-route. A route which, mind you, had me laughing the whole damn time he showed up on-screen. It’s abundantly clear that Fillion seems to be channeling his inner-Mal Reynolds, but it’s also abundantly clear that the guy gets the role that he’s playing, and makes him seem like an idiot from a bad TV cop show. Fillion knows that he’s adapting Shakespeare and has a butt-load of fun with it, which makes me understand even more why the hell the guy is so loved and adored, no matter what the hell it is that he does next, negative or positive.

Consensus: Though a word-for-word adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous works of all-time isn’t the most original step people might suspect from Joss Whedon, Much Ado About Nothing still seems to have fun with itself, by giving us a glance at what you can do with a modern-day version of an old-play, if you just stick it straight-laced and not try to go all crazy with your control and creativity. Just keep it simple and let that be it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Yeah, you better run." (Has nothing to do with this picture, I just wanted to say it.)
“Yeah, you better run.” (Has nothing to do with this picture, I just wanted to say it.)
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15 comments

  1. Glad you liked this one! Clark Gregg seemed off spewing Shakespearean lines from the trailers, but perhaps that might have been just the trailers. Too bad the leads apparently lack chemistry. That is the whole point of the story imo. Still, it’s a film I definitely want to see just because of its style and how awesome it looks.

  2. For some reason, my local cinema isn’t showing this movie, which is really annoying me, because I was so looking forward to this film. Good review, though… I am even more determined to hunt this movie down now haha.

  3. Although I’ve never been a huge fan of Shakespeare, I really enjoyed this film. Most adaptations either use big name actors or try to modernize the Bard’s work to the extreme, but this one bridges the gap between those two methods: moderately known players and just enough updates. It’s been a while since my last Shakespeare play, so it took me a little while to get into the language. Eventually I slipped back into understanding everything and had a blast. The actors really do some funny stuff with the language and Whedon does a fantastic job recreating the feeling of the theater without actually being there. He’s much more effective at doing it than Tom Hooper was with Les Miz. Whedon uses the setting (his house) and a very personal camera to create that dialogue with the audience you find in live performance. The best example is probably the jogging scene where Benedict is talking to us as he’s exercising.

  4. I am so looking forward to this one! My niece caught a free advance screening at NYU earlier this year and raved about it, but it’s not opening wide until this weekend so I haven’t had a chance to see it yet. Both of us are Whedon, Fillion, AND Shakespeare fans, so it’s a must-see.

    Great review.

  5. Nice review dude. I agree with you about Nathan Fillion — he was simply great as Dogberry. He and his partner were just total goofballs and I thought made for some of the best scenes in the movie. I really think Whedon had no other option BUT to go with a word-for-word adaptation because if you were to change up even a couple of lines, I’d think the rhythm and the tone of the original play would be completely thrown off. Who knows, though. Maybe one day we’ll get a completely new rendition that uses only contemporary language, a bunch of LMFAO’s and text messages to get Shakespeare’s point across…!

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