Flashback to the 1500s and you’ll see male actors performing women’s roles. Fast forward to 2013 and you’ll notice the leading ladies in Joss Whedon’s films.
Much Ado About Nothing is a Shakespearean comedy that illuminates a unique way of people falling in love. Claudio and Hero are the epitome of the cliched “love at first sight,” while Beatrice and Benedick have two extreme personalities that unfold into an undeniable romance.
In his adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, writer/director Whedon highlights the “merry war” between Beatrice and Benedick, the obstacles that the two lovebirds Claudio and Hero encounter and the importance of appearance. The audience laughed to Shakespeare’s dialogue; that much is true. However, I’m not fully convinced the audience laughed because of Whedon’s execution of the film. The pacing of the film was too slow for a quirky, witty comedy.
As a viewer, I became disengaged when the dialogue was clearly meant to be funny and the actors almost delivered. Cheesy elements were thrown into the film that added satire, which worked, but only to some degree. Most of the time, I sat there thinking about food or when the next scene would happen because it was that slow and the lines weren’t that entertaining. Whedon could have easily made his modernized adaptation into a gaudy, theatrical film like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Instead, he brought something new to the table.
The film was shot in black and white, which added flair to the modernized comedy. As a viewer, it was an interesting juxtaposition of Shakespeare’s classic text combined with a 21st century setting. The contrast of the black and white film added a vintage Hollywood aesthetic. It worked. His choice of combing all three elements gave distinction to his filming style.
Another element Whedon incorporated was the use of a strong, empowering lead female character. He’s used this theme from Sarah Michelle Geller literally kicking ass in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Scarlett Johansson literally kicking ass in The Avengers. Both women, especially Johansson’s character as Black Widow, could have easily portrayed the cliched role of “damsel in distress.” In Much Ado, Beatrice (Amy Aker) is the snarky, brutally honest character whose feminist traits give her an edge to the overly repeated vulnerable female roles in other films.
Compared to Whedon’s other films and television series, he failed to live up to his hype. However, for a film that was shot in the span of 12 days in his home with realistic costumes and realistic props, he delivered. He took a step back from the anticipated huge box office film The Avengers and yet took two steps forward with his talent to create a film with his friends in such a short time
Watch the official trailer for Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing below.
Note: This post was updated to include the recently released movie trailer, among other minor changes.