Joss Whedon made a big splash last year with The Cabin in the Woods which premiered at SXSW and The Avengers which is now one of the highest grossing films of all time. During the time he was making The Avengers, he took off twelve days (instead of going on his 20th anniversary vacation) and filmed Much Ado About Nothing in his own home in Santa Monica. Janet Pierson, Producer for SXSW Film, called the production DIY and said it was therefore a great fit because that is what SX is about.
The film opens to Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) waking up together but with an unclear relationship.
We are first given context in Leonato’s (Clark Gregg from The Avengers) house and are introduced to his daughter Hero (Jillian Morgese). Benedick and Claudio (Fran Kranz from The Cabin in the Woods) are soldiers just returning from war who will be staying with them. Both intend to live the life of a single gentleman, but Claudio is instantly taken with Hero and it is not long before they are betrothed much to Don John’s (Sean Maher) dismay. Things get really complicated when Leonato, Hero, Claudio and Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) decide to set up Benedick and Beatrice. Various schemes and plots are planned and things go wrong at every turn as we re-discover the twists and turns of one of Shakespeare’s finest comedies.
Anyone who knows Shakespeare will recognize the language as his own, but set against the backdrop of cell phones, guns and Santa Monica, it takes on new meaning. At times, it is clear that the words are being slightly shifted to represent something new, but Whedon also recognizes the naturally comedic script that was written hundreds of years ago. By far, one of the most common criticisms of modern Shakespeare is that, when thrown into a modern context, it sometimes loses the humor that was intended. Much Ado, however, contains all the slapstick, plays on words and sexual jests found in the play and adds a few jokes for today’s audiences as well.
The Verdict: The language sometimes feels awkward, but Whedon captures the timelessness of Shakespeare’s comedic love story.
Opens: June 21, 2013
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Reed Diamond, Clark Gregg, Tom Lenk