I would never expect a romantic comedy film to come from a man who created vampire slayers, cyberpunk psycho-thriller, write post-apocalyptic space western, giving a fresh take to the genre of horror, as well as elevate Marvel cinematic universe. Let alone a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedic play at that. But Joss Whedon shows that he can do almost anything he sets his mind to in his surprising career choice through Much Ado About Nothing.
Rather than going to the same period piece Kenneth Branagh did in the previous screen adaptation of the play, Whedon went to the total opposite. Contemporarise the play and stripping it to the core of its context, he updated the setting into a nowadays modern look. Whedon follows the path Baz Luhrmann took when adapting Romeo+Juliet (1996), in keeping the lyrical shakespearean language. The difference is, Whedon and the actors manage to keep the delivery in a very natural and casual manner, keeping it light and sounds just like how normal conversational exchanges happen nowadays.
Whedon took some creative liberties in his interpretation: changing the gender of one of the characters, switching a word or two, etc. But the most prominent one is the additional prologue that established a relationship between Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker). For me the addition established a deeper backstory, by showing the two had a one-night stand prior to their current reunion. Frankly made the relationship more relatable, especially in modern narrative, instead of just another form of instalove (not the instagram kind).
The decision to film in crisp black-and-white instead of color definitely works in good favor. As viewers i still see the modern, nowadays setting, yet felt that it evokes a sense of nostalgia and intimacy. The monochrome made the film feel warm and looked timeless. This production is Whedon love project. A personal one tackled with obvious budget and time constraints, yet it did not feel cheap, he put the same crafts and artistry as the one he had when he directed larger scale, million-dollars worth productions. Whedon usual collaborators decorated the scene, some better than others, like Clark Gregg, Nathan Fillion, and Amy Ackers. Each of them committed to their role, despite some formulaic plot as expected from the age of the source material. Whedon even created the music for the production himself, charming little number that worked well with the story and the overall charming atmosphere.
WHY BLACK AND WHITE? Whedon shot the entire film within 12 days entirely in black and white. A decision he does not regret, although he was considering to make certain scene or item in color before deciding it would be too expensive or complicated. He uses Red Camera for the filming.
I for one absolutely delighted by this piece. It felt easy and relaxed. A great interpretation of Shakespearean play and a good form of contemporary black and white cinema. I love that Whedon manage to squeeze sometimes to do a personal project like this. His love and passion for it is obvious, permeating in the end result. I wish more directors would do the same too.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (2012)
GENRE Comedy, Romance
DIRECTOR Joss Whedon | PRODUCER Joss Whedon, Kai Cole | WRITER Joss Whedon | CINEMATOGRAPHER Jay Hunter | MUSIC Joss Whedon | EDITOR Joss Whedon, Daniel Kaminsky | STUDIO Bellwether Pictures | DISTRIBUTOR Lionsgate, Roadside Attraction | COUNTRY United States | RUNNING TIME 108 minutes | RATING R for sexual references and language | RELEASE June 21, 2013 (US), Sepetember 8, 2012 (TIFF)
STARRING Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, Jillian Morgese, Riki Lindhome, Spencer Treat Clark
DID YOU KNOW? The shooting last for 12 days in October 2011 during the shooting for Marvel’s The Avengers (2012). The location used for the film is Wheedon’s own house in Santa Monica, which was designed by wife/co-producer, Kai Cole. Everyone in the film have worked with Whedon prior to this project, newcomer Jillian Morgese was an extra in The Avengers and encouraged by Whedon to try out for the part.