It says something to the quality of the writing that a play penned over four hundred years ago, “updated” enough to change pronouns where necessary as appropriate but otherwise leaving the work untouched, is not only understandable when put into a modern context by location, dress, and mannerisms but also can be related to by a modern audience. I am, of course, talking about Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing.
It also says something that my wife went and paid full price for admission and liked the movie so much she did so again to watch it with me last night. I think this may be a first since she and I started dating almost seven and a half years ago.
For those unfamiliar with the work, Much Ado About Nothing is a play by the Bard himself, William Shakespeare. Set in Spain, it is the story of two couples and how the people around them conspire to bring them together or try to confound their relationships. I’m not going to go into a synopsis of the plot, there are any number of summaries available online, but I want to talk about why I love the fact that Joss Whedon picked this play.
Joss, IMO, is a master when it comes to building relationships with his characters. Consider Firefly and the complicated relationship between Mal, Zoe, and Wash, especially as those difficulties, and the bonds between the three of them, were highlighted in the “War Stories” episode. Consider the relationship that built over the course of years between Xander and Willow to the point where, as she’s about to destroy the world out of grief, Xander is able to talk Willow down and bring her back. In Avengers you can see the group come together and gel, their friendship showing clearly at the end of the movie in a simple scene as they sit and share a meal, exhausted (or in the obvious friendship Banner and Stark almost from the beginning, highlighted in Ironman 3).
in this movie those relationships are easily shown when the cast is made up of Joss’ actor friends so much so that it’s like a family reunion of all his past, cancelled shows. There’s Clark Gregg as Leonato (who Michelle and I couldn’t help but refer to as Agent Coulson), Nathan Fillion as an inspire Dogberry, Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof from Angel cast as Beatrice and Benedick, Sean Maher from Firefly, people from Dollhouse and each and every one of them cast excellently well. Every role was superb and I can’t think of anyone who gave a weak performance in this film and it was a little sweet, although apparently unintentional, to see Wesley and Fred finally have their moment.
Honestly, if you like Shakespeare, or even if you don’t normally like Shakespeare but like a good comedic drama, then go see this. Pay full price. Pay full price twice. Waiting won’t cost you anything, it would lose nothing on the big screen except that you might miss some of the more subtler physical acting that was done, but why wait? This is an excellent movie, go see it.