Ever since I heard that Joss Whedon was going to be doing an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing I've been heavily anticipating it. I mean, the sharp wit of the play matches perfectly with Whedon's style and many of the cast members he's recruited sound perfect for the role, mainly Nathan Fillion as Dogberry. After watching the film, my anticipation was worth it, this is one of the finest adaptations of Shakespeare I have seen.
I don't really think there's any need to go over the plot since pretty much everyone knows it but it's the way in which it is presented that is interesting. The film is set in the modern day, keeping all of the original dialogue intact, and filmed at Joss Whedon's house in black and white. This minimalist approach to the play really works when compared to the more bombastic approach of other adaptations, such as the Kenneth Branagh adaptation, and fits the mood of the play really well. This goes along with the black-and-white look and the beautiful design of Whedon's house to make for one of the most minimalist yet best looking adaptations of Much Ado About Nothing to come out.
Furthermore on the technical side, the brilliant work for all the camera angles, shot composition and the overall design of everything specifically for the film is astonishing when you consider that filming only took 12 days. There are professionally filmed blockbusters that do not look as good as this film, but what else was to be expected from Joss Whedon. This style also extends to how involved Whedon is in all aspects of the film, not just as director and writer but also in other roles like editor and even did the score for the film while his brother did the songs. This gives a great sense that this is a film that Whedon wanted to make for a long time and he put all of his passion into the film.
The main success of the film though is in the acting. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof are brilliant as Beatrice and Benedick, they are both able to do wonders with the dialogue and each of them have their own ways in which they best the other, Denisof with the physical comedy and Acker with the witty dialogue, although both get a chance to shine in the other way. Due to her success with the dialogue I think that Acker comes across the best out of the two and gives the best performance of the film. However, this is a hotly contested title between her and Nathan Fillion as Dogberry. What can I say, Dogberry and Fillion are a perfect match, there are all the little touches in Fillion's body language that just flow naturally with Shakespeare's dialogue for Dogberry that I don't think anyone else could play a better Dogberry. The other actors also do a great job, Fran Kranz is excellent as Claudio, being really sympathetic and likable at the start and growing more insecure as the film goes on, even if he is stuck with some of the more outdated pieces of dialogue (one of which is made fun of in a nice little gag) and he also has really great chemistry with Jillian Morgese as Hero. Clark Gregg is instantly likable as Leonato, there is just something about Gregg which makes all of his characters really likable, a mix between his really deadpan style of acting and his warm presence. As Don John, Sean Maher is a natural villain and Riki Lindhome and Spencer Treat Clark as Conrade and Borachio work brilliantly both with Maher and with Fillion. Every other actor in the film does a great job from Reed Diamond as Don Pedro to Ashley Johnson as Margaret to Tom Lenk as Dogberry's deputy. I cannot fault the acting one bit and it is a testament to the overall acting skill and Whedon's direction that Beatrice and Benedick do not dominate the film, every single actor in the film gets a chance to shine and all of them interact with each other incredibly. I cannot find any fault in the acting in this film.
Overall, this is an excellent adaptation of the Shakespeare play. In the hands of a lesser writer/director the film could come across as a lazy cash in on Shakespeare's name but with Whedon at the helm and the incredible troupe of actors he has assembled across the years, this adaptation comes across as a deeply personal work for Whedon and is a joy to watch for those who know the play like the back of their hand or to those to whom this will be their introduction to the world of Shakespeare, surely an adaptation that Shakespeare would be proud of.
My Rating: 5/5