Much Ado About Nothing

PLOT:

The plot of the film is largely unchanged from that of Shakespeare’s original play. Differences include the modern-day setting, the switching of Conrade’s gender, and expanding Ursula’s role slightly by giving her some of Margaret’s scenes. Whedon’s film imagery advances an unusual interpretation of the text, that Beatrice and Benedick had had a one night stand before the plot unfolds. This interpretation emphasizes four lines from Act II, scene i, where Beatrice, responding to the accusation that she has “lost the heart” of Benedick, answers,

“Indeed my lord, he lent it me awhile and I
gave him use for it–a double heart for his single one.
Marry, once before he won it of me with false dice;
therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.”

Whedon overlays these lines with images of Beatrice and Benedick as lovers, opening the way to seeing the pair as finding their way back to a lost love, rather than finding it for the first time. The scene demonstrates how film techniques can add nuanced interpretation to the text. The movie is filmed in black and white, which helps tie it to the screwball romantic comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, such as His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby.

REVIEW:

Geek lord Joss Whedon is a very, very busy man these days, what with being one of the major players in the Marvel universe. Somehow, though, in the little bit of down time he has, he brought together many of his friends and usual suspects in Much Ado About Nothing, a Shakespeare play that was cut and paste into modern times.

What is this about?

In Joss Whedon’s modern take on the Shakespearean comedy, Claudio’s love for the beautiful Hero makes him a target of his friend Benedick’s mockery. But as Benedick trades barbs with Hero’s cousin Beatrice, he just may be falling in love.

What did I like?

Shakespeare. In high school and college, I dreaded the time of the year when we would get to the Shakespeare units. The confusing, advanced, for lack of a better term, dialogue is what turns myself, and a lot of other people off. This films uses Shakespearean dialect, but the modern setting somehow makes it more bearable, or funny, depending on how you look at it.

Coulson. I have to give it up to Clark Gregg. He’s been around for quite some time, even had some starring roles, but his recent role in the Marvel universe as Agent Coulson is what has made him more of a bankable star. The guy has some acting chops, but he really gets to flex them here. I was really impressed with how competent an actor he actually is.

What didn’t I like?

Whedon vs. Shakespeare. William Shakespeare was a master of dialogue in his day. Back in those days, though, attention spans were longer and people were more focused, as opposed to today where we can’t even make it an hour without needed to see something flashy or exploding. Whedon’s strength is in his ability to weave witty dialogue (as well as creating rabid fanbases). Put these two together and it works…or does it? I’m not sure, since this is more or less just a Shakespeare play put to film, I don’t really feel the Joss touch, and I felt like it would have been nice to get that touch.

Black and white. The decision to put this in black and white is a mystery to me. Now, I’m a huge fan of those old black and white films of yesteryear and, as we saw recently with The Artist and awhile back with Clerks, its a technique that audiences can respond to. Apparently, this was done to capture the slapstick tone that was prevalent in the 30s and so forth. That would be all well and good, except that this doesn’t really have any slapstick!

My friends, colleagues, and dear readers, I must apologize for this curt review of Much Ado About Nothing. I was struggling to stay awake throughout, thanks to an extra long day/night. That being said, this is something that should be seen, if for no other reason than to see what Joss Whedon can do outside the realm of science fiction. Give it a shot if you get the chance!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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