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  • Well Joss, you have done something no one else has ever me to watch a Shakespeare film. And all I can say is what a treat! For years, I have read about your Shakespeare get togethers at your home and it is nice to see an extension of that on the screen. When I first read that you had filmed this at your home and in only 12 days, I thought it would be unpolished and only available online or via DVD purchase. It appears I was wrong on both counts. This is a great production for anyone that knows your work and the cast you have worked with so many times before. If they do not know your work and see this because it is Shakespeare, I don't believe anyone will leave the theatre disappointed. Congratulations also regarding North American distribution rights being sold at TIFF.

    Thanks again on an excellent bit of entertainment and congratulations to you and your amazing cast and crew!
  • summeriris30 June 2013
    This is such a great adaptation. The actors speak their lines with clarity and emotion. The cinematography is great, and the movie is in turns very funny and tragic. A lot will be written about how Hero would never simply die because she was accused of 'not being a virgin', well she didn't. For once when I was watching it I got a sense of what was driving Claudio, his sense of betrayal and hurt. What he did was reprehensible but you could understand that he did have what he thought was good reasons. And for once I got a sense of real threat from Benedict's challenge. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof made a delightful Beatrice and Benedict. You could feel the attraction there and you knew why Don Redro had such an easy time of it convincing his fellow conspirators to get them together.

    What really impressed me about this film is how obvious it is that the cast is having a good time. The acting seems to be effortless and it is all spot on, and Clark Gregg/Nathan Fillion/Reed Diamond are hilariously funny. I think this is how Shakespeare should be done, as simply great entertainment. When you have that, you have the complexities laid out before you and like Claudio's anger you can see the reasons for the actions of the characters plainly.

    'Much Ado About Nothing' has been very well served by Wheedon and his company of players, such a joy and that can be so rare in films nowadays.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I have to admit, part of me considered doing this entire review in Shakespearean English for added effect. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but there's a reason why Shakespeare is considered by many to be the greatest wordsmith of all time. He is the most human, human that there is and perhaps that there ever will be and quite frankly as a writer I will never measure up. So I figured I would save myself the incredible embarrassment and do a more traditional review, and I suspect by the end of this review I will be glad that I did.

    Anyone who has read my review of The Avengers knows that I am not a die-hard Joss Whedon fan. He's not always perfect and what he does may not always work. However when he does get a chance to do things well there are very few who can measure up in today's world of film. Shakespeare on the other hand has no equal when it comes to the written word (or spoken word, as his plays would most often be performed live in front of an audience). There's a reason why some of the biggest actors of note have a Shakespearean theatre background. If you can master Shakespeare, assuming such a thing is even possible in the first place, you can master just about anything that the world of art can throw at you. That doesn't always mean that you'll make the best films or you'll choose the best parts but at the very least you know what it is that you're doing when you get one.

    To put the words of Shakespeare into the hands of a filmmaker like Joss Whedon, a man who regularly invites his actor friends over to his house to act out scenes from The Bard's work, makes the possibilities endless. Speaking of his house, for those that aren't aware the film was entirely shot in and around his own house over a 12 day period during a break from his filming of The Avengers. That more than anything very much concerned me, how good could a film like that be given those extreme constraints? It doesn't matter how good you are as a filmmaker, rushed is rushed and unless you are extremely careful it can come off that way. In all honesty I was very nervous going into that theatre, wondering if I was in for another heap of disappointment.

    I could NOT have been more wrong. With Joss Whedon at the helm and a host of actors any semi-fan of his previous work would recognize in a heartbeat, Shakespeare comes alive in a way that simply has not been seen since The Bard himself was walking around. There have been many adaptations of Shakespeare's work in the last 300 years since then, and even more since the advent of film and television. Few can hold a candle to the film I just witnessed.

    Shakespeare had a subtlety of purpose in his words and a thoughtfulness with which he moved from comedy to drama to intrigue and deception. Using The Bard's original words but setting it in a somewhat modern time with cell phones and the internet, Joss Whedon puts it all right there on the screen for you to watch, and laugh, and cry at with equal measure.

    Each of the actors involved in this film are so perfectly suited for the roles which they play that they jump right off the screen at you. He plays the actors off the long time fans like nobody's business. Anyone who has seen all or part of his other works will love the fact that he put the characters in the roles they have in the film and I suspect the die-hard fans will feel incredibly vindicated in a number of ways, although because it's Shakespeare you don't have to be a fan of Joss' work to understand the chemistry between them.

    And then, Nathan Fillion happened.

    None of these actors are better suited for their roles then Nathan Fillion as Dogberry. Every moment that man is on screen you can't help but smile. Every time his character opens his mouth and speaks you're forced to laugh. No matter how many times Tom Lenk as his partner Verges threatens to steal the scene from Nathan, and he very nearly does throughout the film, Nathan slaps him down with another fantastic moment... metaphorically speaking of course.

    The title I used for this review is a reference to a sense of longing which I feel after having seen this film, much like the character I am paraphrasing, a longing for the fact that I can't go somewhere and watch this film right away again. It's been a long time since I have had that feeling about a Joss Whedon film, or any film for that matter, and it's great to know what that's like again.

    Thank you Joss for a masterpiece of film that as far as I am concerned should be taught in schools as an introduction to Shakespeare. Once a year Joss should take some time out of his schedule to adapt one of Shakespeare's plays and premiere it somewhere (hopefully at TIFF again) for everyone to see.

    It seems only fitting that I leave you with...

    Much Ado, Much Ado, Wherefore Art Thou Much Ado? Everywhere and nowhere... a pox on those who do not see it, a curse on he who speaks ill of it, may the wrath of Joss Whedon and William Shakespeare be visited on those that do both.

    You can read my other reviews I have done at:
  • I was lucky enough to see Much Ado at the UK premier last weekend, and I'm very glad I got the chance. I've been a big fan of Joss Whedon's work for a long time. However my knowledge of Shakespeare is very little, so I read the play first, which really helped me understand the text and the time period and appreciate some of the humour. I would highly recommend any Whedon fan who isn't familiar with Shakespeare to read the play before you see the film.

    Much Ado struck me as a lovely little independent film. It's a delight for fans of Joss, as we get to see many fan favourite actors clearly having a great time. Alexis and Amy both shine, and Nathan was hilarious and great, despite this being his first time doing Shakespeare. The acting from the entire ensemble is consistently engaging, and most importantly, the film is funny throughout. Filmed entirely at Joss's house, which is a beautiful location and made all the better in glorious black and white. This and the understated music really add an interesting atmosphere to the film. After all, it is a 500 year old play put in a modern day setting, so it's kind of other-worldly. As for what this interpretation adds to the much loved play, certainly there are some subtleties of the characters and their lives which Joss has expanded on.

    This film is the first to be released through Joss's independent production company Bellwether Pictures, and it bodes very well for the future of Joss's independent film work.
  • It really shows when a director is heavily interested in his project. It was clear to anyone that this was a very well thought-out and beautifully crafted rendition of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing".

    The script speaks for itself. Whedon kept his version honest to the script and didn't overplay anything, as you see in many other renditions. He also fitted his direction very well with the play, and it wasn't a forced modern adaptation.

    All the humor was genuine, and wasn't cheap at all. The humor from the script itself and the actions that the actors took really played well together, making it a very enjoyable movie.

    The pace made sense, and Joss really made this his own production. You could tell he knew how he wanted to see the scenes and how he played them out. The levels between the actors (which, for those who don't know, is the use of height with the actors to make a scene more interesting) was really well played in some of the scenes. The directing was flawless, and really told the story beautifully. It wasn't too fast or too slow, it was just right. The acting from everyone was really well done, and kept you absorbed in the film. The film also followed the theme that Joss chose perfectly, and the use of locations was incredible.

    If I haven't convinced you to see this film yet, I'm obviously not conveying what I want to say. This movie was a masterpiece, and very easy to enjoy. I would give it a ten out of ten, but I'll save that for when I watch the movie again (which should be very soon). Overall very easy to enjoy, light-hearted, very easy to understand, beautiful acting and directing, and probably the best modern adaptation of Shakespeare I've seen to date.

    Joss, please make another.
  • Transposed to an American setting, Joss Whedon's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING proves a highly entertaining romance. The two central characters Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) begin the film as deadly enemies, but it's clear they're attracted to one another. They are brought together due to a combination of clear-headed thinking and clever machinations by their friends. Denisof is very good with his body; in one sequence he stretches and preens himself in front of Beatrice, much to her disgust. Acker has an equally funny scene where she tries to conceal herself beneath a kitchen unit. The supporting cast are equally good: I particularly liked Clark Gregg's Leonato, concealing a passionate nature beneath a cloak of respectability, and Jillian Morgese's Hero, a well-brought up girl wrongfully accused of adultery. Shot in atmospheric black-and-white in a country house over a period of sixteen days, the film makes wonderful use of light and shade. The verse-speaking is clear and lucid, and the story abundantly clear. I really admired this film; definitely worth a second look.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Doing a Shakesspeare adaptation pretty much guarantees you positive reviews because most critics don't want to pan Old Billy because we equate Shakespeare with intelligence and refinement. So, me saying this movie looked cheap and looked more like it was made by a film student and NOT Joss Whedon will instantly get me some knee-jerk reactions and comments about how I'm "uncultured." "Much Ado About Nothing" is a very funny and entertaining play but I saw nothing unique in Joss Whedon's adaptation. Seeing Agent Coulson and Capt. Malcolm Reynolds reading the lines, pretty much verbatim, and setting them in black and white while filming them in your backyard looks less like the achievement of a world-renowned director/writer and more like the last minute creation by a film student who forget his final project was due in two days.

    Other than some barely passable acting by a few actors, the film doesn't do much wrong. I just didn't find it that special or unique.

    You can read a more in-depth review of this film (and other movies) at my blog at
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Note: This review contains spoilers, not just for Shakespeare's original plot but for Whedon's interpretation specifically.

    Much Ado About Nothing is my all-time favorite play, and Beatrice is my favorite character in all of literature. I've seen the play performed 5 times now, including the Branagh film, Shakespeare in the Park, in community theaters, and now Whedon's interpretation. I also studied Much Ado at length during a Shakespeare class in London. So, that's my point of view in reviewing this film: I know the play by heart, and I have strong ideas about how it should be interpreted.

    Joss Whedon's Much Ado is one of the loveliest interpretations I've seen. Forget Branagh -- I would never have guessed that Sandy Rivers from How I Met Your Mother would make such an excellent Benedick!

    The movie is filmed in black and white at Joss Whedon's actual house, which gives an intimate yet updated vibe, but he never establishes who the people are and why they're there. The relationship between the prince (Don Pedro) and Leonato is key -- Shakespeare's text implies a compelling and even affectionate backstory for them, complete with the complications of social rank -- but this is largely absent from Whedon's version. Unfortunately, without it, Leonato's horror at Hero's disgrace doesn't make as much sense later on. (Clark Gregg plays that scene so well that it's still breathtaking, but he's working without the necessary resonance the scene deserves.)

    In contrast to Emma Thompson's (overly) viperous portrayal, Beatrice is largely toothless in this version. Amy Ackerman delivers an emotional and charming performance, and her love scenes with Benedick are the most convincing I've seen. Still, I felt like I was missing out on the wit and really the *force* that is Beatrice. Ackerman's Beatrice is a gentler, more vulnerable one, perhaps more human than other versions I've seen. But it's hard to understand where Benedick is coming from when he says, "She speaks poniards, and every word stabs." Ackerman's Beatrice may graze Benedick slightly, but she's hardly leaving flesh wounds. Because of this, the audience misses out a bit on the magic of Beatrice's transformation for love.

    Some of the issue obviously comes from Whedon's direction. For example, Margaret and Benedick have a flirty scene where he compliments HER wit and beauty. This is played a bit too large in the film, taking away some of his connection to Beatrice.

    Likewise, in Whedon's version, Don Pedro's proposal to Beatrice is played as a joke, which I believe is a mistake. Don Pedro's line "Your silence most offends me" and later Benedick's comment ("Prince, thou art sad; get thee a wife") should demonstrate Don Pedro's actual interest in Beatrice. That offhand proposal scene is so important because it establishes how a man of taste, who can have any woman he wants, recognizes Beatrice's value. It also shows how picky Beatrice is -- one blush, and the prince would likely pursue her, but her armor is so strong that she puts even him off with humor. I don't mind that Don Pedro asks in jest in Whedon's version, but the line should also have a "secret truth" to it. Reed Diamond is certainly capable of delivering the nuance, but I guess not in one take.

    To that point, some of the actors have mentioned that Much Ado was filmed in 9 days without rehearsals. Basically, if they got their lines right on the first take, that was it. No trying a different interpretation. While I believe that some of the best art can be made under great time constraints, Shakespeare's work is too nuanced to cut-print on a first try.

    Some other notes:

    * Casting of Conrade as a woman – Riki Lindhome is so funny that she steals her scenes. While this is a great addition to the role of Conrade, and a nice showcase for the actress, it does distract from the menace of Don John. I never thought I'd say this, but Keanu Reeves' Don John seemed more capable of actual malice (despite dismal line readings). Sean Mayer makes a much better Don John -- his facial expressions, line readings, and voice are perfect -- and yet... I nearly forgot about him. He doesn't loom as large as he should, maybe due to editing.

    * Dogberry -- I know Nathan Fillion can do better than this. His Captain Hammer is a better Dogberry than his Dogberry is, if that makes sense. The audience laughed at his lines, but that seemed to be more a case of "Hey! That's Nathan Fillion playing a famously funny character!" He knows how to play an ass and land a joke. This performance seemed like he was doing it under duress.

    * As for Hero and Claudio, they didn't register as much with me in this version. Physically, they were perfectly cast, with Jillian Morgese the slightly less pretty cousin to Amy Ackerman and Fran Kranz the stalwart young man in love.

    So, those are my quibbles with Whedon's interpretation. I still enjoyed every minute of this movie. I just wish Joss Whedon had maybe taken off 6 weeks to film it instead of 9 days. Shakespeare is a smidge more complicated than Dr. Horrible, after all.
  • Much Ado About Nothing by Joss Whedon is the latest adaptation of the Shakespeare's comedy.

    The good. Excellent ideas. Very funny settings and actions. Nice choice of actors. With visual, it's always possible to add non spoken actions to original dialogs and Whedon made some clever extensions. Great photography.

    The actors. My favorite performance were by Nathan Fillion, Sean Maher, and Tom Lenk, although I came to appreciate those of Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof a lot.

    The bad. The concept of war as spoken in the piece doesn't translate well in modern time.

    The ugly. Nothing.

    The result. Solid entertainment for those who like modern transposition of Shakespeare's work, A must for any Whedon fan.
  • OK, using "Shadow" in the title is a poor attempt at a pun over the use of black/white film... Which never works because there's never enough contrast. There is no Black, there is no White... It's tedious Grey, start to finish. Comparing this to the 1990's version is completely unfair, as in spite of 20 years of technological upgrades, the "original" sounds, looks and just feels better. This is using a TV-actor cast, and it unfortunately shows, as it's just wooden. The charm, banter and wit of the original (movie or story) is completely lost because nobody looks like they are actually enjoying themselves - making for a very strange "comedy".

    I had to watch the Thompson/Branagh version as soon as I finished with this, just to get the poor taste out of my head - and I'm glad I did.
  • I really didn't like this version. Much Ado must be my favorite of Shakespeare's texts, and I saw a tremendous potential in a modern transposition. Sadly, it is poorly treated. Benedict and Beatrice sound like a pair of bickering, sourpuss ex spouses, rather than the witty, smart, fun pair they should be (how sorely I missed Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson!); "Sicily" is more like a California backwater, with CA plates on cars (barely out of focus) and large American style kitchen; one cannot just pretend that pouring rivers of red wine in all glasses starting at breakfast and filming in black and white will achieve Italian realism.

    Adherence to the original text is great, and I really appreciate it, but it require an acting tour de force the cast did not stand up to. It feels artificial, and all the fun is gone.

    One great scene, not sufficient to redeem the whole movie: the extravagant masked party, that comes together apparently effortlessly, and looks magnificent.

    Sad. I didn't even stay until the end.
  • If you love Elizabethan comedy and you also admire Joss Whedon, then his Much Ado About Nothing will send you over the moon. The Bard's language, in the hands of a smart director with access to accomplished actors and other film artists, is as lively, lovely and accessible as any contemporary rom-com might be.....Benedict and Beatrice have inspired many screenwriters, but few seem to have as much fun as Whedon does.

    The black and white budget makes other over-budgeted mainstream fare seem bloated. From the party scenes to the love scenes to the detective scenes, everything is perfectly pitched with cameras capturing the complexities of Shakespeare's comedy with clever but unobtrusive effort. The staging is simple but imaginative, and the costumes are hip without being too trendy.

    I'm delighted to see that today, June 23rd, is Joss Whedon's birthday. How lovely that he shared this pretty package with film lovers like me.
  • I love Shakespeare. I love Much Ado About Nothing so was looking forward to this, but was royally disappointed. The only really good thing about it was the Script, and hey-ho that was written by The Bard! Whedon's direction was all over the place and the actors - or talking props as I will hereafter call them - were just reading the words on a page rather than performing them with any character. Has no-one seen Kenneth Branagh's version? What a delight that was by comparison.

    What was with the black and white? This is supposed to be a joyous happy and exuberant play, and whilst it was set in modern times, it was decided to do it black and white. Why? What was the point? It added nothing and I think was a cheap attempt at "artiness!". The modern take largely worked well, and the grounds and setting of the house were very good but not one of the actors was stand out impressive for me. All were wooden and even Nathan Fillion's role as the Policeman Dogberry (one of the funniest roles in the play - in the Branagh version played brilliantly and filthily by Michael Keaton) was only funny because of the script and little because of delivery. The physical humour in the acting, which was sporadic, seemed incongruous given the serious-style of the rest of the performances, and just didn't gel with the overall story/humour of the piece. There were some terrible performances. Don Jon's dark and dastardly character had no threat or malice - no real darkness - and Conrad and Borachio didn't seem bad at all. Conrad as a woman too? What! I have see Much Ado done on the stage quite a few times and Branagh's version is a favourite, and this just didn't hold up next to it. Shakespeare (comedies) are bawdy, silly, witty, physical and over the top. This was trying to be Downton Abbey or something - heavy drama - with a few laughs. It just didn't work.

    Fans of Whedon will no doubt love the who's who of "actors I've formerly worked with" but he needed to find actors that could actually handle Shakespearean comedy to give it a run for the money. Such a waste of good material, and it was the material that saved this film from being one or two out of ten. I give it a four because most of the acting performances were TERRIBLE. Shame. Crying shame.
  • More specifically, a film specially made to suit the perfect answer that would be given by the perfect bourgeoisie individual to the question: What did you do last weekend, my dearest?

    Because I can't imagine that this film could fulfill any other purpose than that.

    ANY theatrical representation (including your daughter's school play)is much better that this piece of unexplained black and white garbage.

    The story is boring. The funny moments are VERY boring. And the acting is VERY, VERY boring.

    If Shakespeare name was not involve in some way in this film, NO one, trust me, NO one would ever remember this film.

    If you are not into actors hairdressing or interior home design, do yourself a favor and choose something else.
  • Much Ado About Nothing is a good title for this play. True love is destroyed by a jaded third party with baseless accusations. Two jaded wits fall for each other with the help of well-meaning friends...who make baseless accusations. Love is a real thing often created or ended through unlikely circumstances. Along the way, you'll enjoy beautiful language, brilliant insights, thought-provoking situations. None of this would have worked so effectively had it not been for smart direction and acting, displayed here in abundance. Everyone in the cast understands their lines, essential to make the antique language come alive. You might be surprised how many productions fail with clueless line readings. Apart from the movies of Kenneth Branagh, it's a rare achievement that a cast does this well. The preciosity of plays of this vintage was never more skillfully avoided. That being said, there is something about Much Ado that never seems to work. When life-and-death violence arrives precipitately wrapped in coal black emotions, it somehow rings false, almost embarrassingly inapposite to the champagne that has flowed before. This schizophrenia might be eliminated by figuring out how to direct the first two thirds of the play more like the denouement.
  • I should preface this with the statement that I enjoy Whedon's work. I was excited to see how he would direct actors from his previous series. I was especially excited about this being a play with which I was already very familiar. I also make allowances for the fact that it was filmed in a particular fashion, within a particular timeline, for particular reasons. I know that makes it "arty" and critically or technically better.

    That all being said, I found the film lackluster on several counts:

    First, the acting seemed flat. Shakespeare (the comedies in particular) is supposed to be bigger than life. It is supposed to be over-acted in some respects. The characters in this version act in a rather flat way, almost as if they are afraid of showing too much emotion.

    In some ways, this may be because the actors chosen were not necessarily ones who fit those particular roles. I liked all of the actors in other roles. Nathan Fillion, for example, would have made a wonderful Benedick. Amy Acker, similarly, seemed ill suited for the role of Beatrice and might have played a far better Hero.

    Second, and perhaps this was specific to the theater in which I watched the film, but the sound seemed rather flat. That may even have been choice, but the sounds just didn't seem very layered.

    Third, hearing Shakespearean dialogue done with a purposefully plain American accent is a bit harsh on the ears. That may sound petty, but the choices Shakespeare made regarding word order fit a British accent far better than an English accent.

    Finally... I really had a tough time with the setting. I don't mind a Shakespearean comedy being staged in a non-traditional context. In fact, I am very receptive of it. Unfortunately, this particular setting didn't really work. Don John has been apparently arrested for "standing out against his brother," but he gets free run of an estate. He is a guest of a government who cannot afford actual handcuffs, just zip-ties. This is just one example of how the setting didn't really seem fitting.
  • This Shakespeare adaptation hit the perfect tone for me. It felt intimate yet, after the story started to flow, was a delight to follow. Sometimes, Shakespeare on screen can be a labor for those with more modern sensibilities. That is not the case here at all. The first fifteen minutes or so were tedious but after those establishing scenes everything hit a great stride and became a delight to watch. Nothing seemed stuffy or pompous and everything flowed quite well. I'm very impressed with Whedon's ability to induce such a wonderful coupling of performance and story in just a few days worth of shooting. I'm not surprised given his intelligence and talent but it's still impressive. The cast was superb, every last one of them.
  • I love this play, and have seen many versions. I was even in a production in New Jersey.

    This is an unimpressive version of a great story, and the great moments come from the "writing"as the kids are saying nowadays. The leads may not be terrible actors, but they sure failed to move me here. Even Dogberry was pretty blah and that character can really uplift a failed production. Amongst an uninspiring cast, Don Pedro's character was the best of the bunch. I didn't mind listening to him at all. Even his moments with Claudio and Beatrice were bearable. The music was okay. There were some interesting staging choices, but that doesn't make this worth watching.

    I really can't get behind this film, and would recommend going to the theatre, or renting the other film versions.
  • "Shakespeare knows how to throw a party."

    While Joss Whedon was working on his big budget film, The Avengers, he was working on this much smaller but personal passion project. He only needed 12 days to shoot this black and white movie which consisted mostly of actors he had worked with in the past from his TV productions. He filmed this entirely from his home so fans of Whedon might appreciate how passionate he was about the adaptation of William Shakespeare's play. I am a huge fan of Shakespeare's plays, but I usually have a hard time enjoying the films that try to modernize his 16th century plays. That is exactly what happened here, I just can't conceive these characters speaking this way living at the present. It kind of throws me off as I would rather watch a version of this play centered around the 16th century. Much Ado About Nothing isn't considered as one of Shakespeare's best plays either. I didn't care too much for most of the characters and the comedy didn't work too well either. The main themes of the play still come through in this film however. We can see how easy it is to build love out of nowhere or destroy it with words. This is a very different film coming from Josh Whedon, but I guess one of the advantages he has for having so much success is getting to do films he is passionate about. Fans of this play might enjoy this more than I did.

    The governor of Messina, Leonato (Clark Gregg), is getting prepared for a much awaited visit from his good friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond). Pedro who has recently come out victorious from a Civil War is returning with two of his officers: Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz). Along with his brother Don John (Sean Maher) who was on the losing side of the War, they are all going to stay at Leonato's home. Love soon is in the air when Claudio falls for Leonato's only daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese). Leonato and Don Pedro make plans for their wedding, while at the same time they decide to try to get Benedick and Hero's cousin, Beatrice (Amy Acker), to fall in love with each other despite how much they hate each other. Meanwhile, Don John, who is still bitter about his defeat will try to do what it takes to make others miserable and therefor tries to break up the relationship between Hero and Claudio. Will love prevail or will Don John be able to destroy their love? If you've read the play than you know the answer.

    Some of the same basic complaints about Shakespeare's play can be heard here as well, such as how underdeveloped the villain (Don John) is here. He is perhaps one of the weakest villains from his plays. The love story between these two pair of lovers isn't something out of the ordinary either, but the actors give strong performances nonetheless. Fans of Firefly and Serenity will be pleased to see Nathan Fillion in the comedic supporting role here and he stands out from the rest. This is one of Shakespeare's lighter comedies, considering it doesn't end in tragedy, and it has some funny moments, but I just didn't like the way the play was modernized. I never got engaged with the story and I never felt the wit coming from Whedon's other works.
  • You either have to be a Shakespeare fan, or very familiar with the original play (or both) to appreciate this movie at all. Unfortunately, I am neither.

    I found the dialog very hard to follow and understand. The black & white presentation seemed like a gimmick that didn't do anything positive for me (other than make it more boring). And comedy? - I didn't even chuckle after watching for 20 minutes. My wife and I gave it that much time, and finally couldn't take it anymore. So you could discount my review since I could not stand to watch the whole thing. But unless you love Shakespeare, be forewarned! This movie is boring, difficult to understand, black and white, and not funny.
  • Chris Knipp23 June 2013
    As I watched Joss Wheedon's energetic yet flavorless black and white contemporary movie version of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing I found myself paying more attention to the set than to the actors. The film was shot at Wheedon's own house in Santa Monica. Wheedon directed Marvel Comics' The Avengers, which last year made $623,357,910 domestically, nearly tripling the production budget. Given that kind of bankroll, you can't help wondering where he chooses to bunk down. And this is a very nice house indeed, but quite free of conspicuous display. It's big, airy, light, pretty, tasteful. It looks like a great house for entertaining -- and indeed the play, as shot, unreels like a party, with characters continually pouring each other drinks from omnipresent wine bottles and bars. But the house also feels stripped of anything personal, as if "staged" for showing by a real estate agent to potential buyers. The pictures are bland, the chandeliers quiet. Contents of bookshelves look uniform. It's hard to tell if they contain books or DVD's. If they're books, does he read them, I wondered, or are they just filler? Outside there's a little hill and what could be a park beyond. It's luxuriously quiet. All very posh, understated -- and bland.

    This movie is bland and neutral too. The processed black and white images, "fifty shades of gray," typically for digital lack the voluptuous richness of classic black and white films. Wheedon has added bits of pop music and some energetic stage business, but not much excitement. The result has the feel like a dressy college or small town production -- the clothes don't look cheap -- with a few pro actors sifted in to help things going. Nevertheless at times the rhythm is gone (if there is any) and the action goes momentarily quite disconcertingly dead. The delivery of lines is generally fluent; an effort has been made. These are good looking people. Nothing extraordinary. Most of the cast are said to be Wheedon regulars, the whole production sort of a "stunt" or a "lark" executed in a couple of weeks.

    Of course one can only admire Joss Wheedon for spending his spare time in such a literate manner. But as I watched I was haunted by a damning memory of Cate Blanchett in a trailer of the new Woody Allen shown just before this film came on. The intense comic spin she put on her one or two lines blew away all the dialogue of Wheedon's Much Ado. Perhaps in the effort to shape it to contemporary American rhythms foreign to their original tone, the Much Ado dialogue is made curiously colorless. Clever ripostes lose their punch; elaborate parallelisms are muffled. To liven things up, slapstick gestures are added. Somebody falls down. A man flops around outside a window in a pathetically overwrought effort to make his eavesdropping comical. Someone has a cocktail in a swimming pool wearing diving goggles. Alas, a swimming pool adds nothing to Much Ado.

    Shakespearean texts aren't easy to follow at the best of times. They're full of words whose meanings have since changed. The comedies have tricky plots with a galaxy of curious Italianate names to learn like Benedict, Claudio, Borachio, Leonato. This time, it's even harder. The actors aren't very easy to distinguish. Color, and colorful costumes, would have helped, but are absent. All the visuals and action are bravely contemporary. But the dialogue, though trimmed, is still Shakespeare. Hence there is a disconnect. The look, the behavior, the intonations are so far from the Elizabethan world, the sensation is like watching a film while listening to an unrelated sound track. One can scarcely credit that these words are coming out of these mouths.

    I don't mean to imply that Wheedon's Much Ado is a total failure. Its neutrality may be seen as a virtue compared to such overbearingly baroque extravaganzas as Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. Its light touch explains how Anthony Lane of The New Yorker could choose to call it "a filigree of a film." Wheedon may take too much away, but he also doesn't add too much. In principle I would certainly totally agree with Lane in saying we should "laud the fact that this movie was made at all." Imagine the director of The Avengers, the violent high-concept horror film The Cabin in the Woods and TV series like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" bothering to make a movie, just for a lark, of a Shakespeare comedy. Lane is right, but quixotic, and doubtless tongue-in-cheek, in voicing the hope that "other large-scale directors will be inspired to launch similar ventures. Michael Bay does Congreve? J.J. Abrams blows us away with 'Lady Windermere's Fan'? Bring 'em on." Maybe. But it's not gonna happen.

    Still it's hard to see how this movie has received so many good reviews. The mystery is partly solved by knowing that Joss Wheedon is a "cult" director, and that the Toronto debut of Much Ado had plenty of has fanboys and fangirls on hand, laughing uproariously at every effort to draw a chuckle, delivering a final ovation on cue. Once the ball gets rolling, critical acclaim tends to follow. And the critics' hearts are in the right place: they want to encourage "culture" on US screens. But American film goers in search of the best in stage-to-screen entertainment might do better to watch one of those UK import "National Theatre Live" productions.

    Much Ado About Nothing, 107 mins., distributed by Roadside Attractions, opened in the US 7 June, with the UK release date 14 June 2013.
  • Say whatever you like about these actors and this director in general; in this movie, they have absolutely no ear for dialog. This is related to their problem in setting a comic tone (they don't), finding what's 'in play' at any given time, finding physical things to do, emoting believably (or at all), creating characters, and finding the heart in the play. They fail line by line, moment by moment, almost every scene. It is a study in professional over-confidence.

    As for the missing comic tone: I haven't read any interviews with Whedon on this movie, but there seems to be some belief that he was aiming at a dark, dramatic version of Much Ado About Nothing. I don't know what that means, it doesn't mesh with most of the scenes, and I don't buy it. If I knew this to be the case and I could give this movie a -1 out of 10, if it cost me a toe, I would do it. Even if it is the case that they were going for a 'dramatic' tone (which is an unspeakably dumb move), it doesn't explain the ham-fisted acting, trotting through the dialog in the most "now it's my turn, now it's your turn" interior-free way. Any given actor in this, with the possible exception of Fran Kranz, will take two lines of Shakespeare with five thoughts and emotions in them, and speak them like they're on a teleprompter. Shakespeare is more intricate than that. If you have to make a 1 hour 47 minute movie, make something else. If you want to make a short, dark Much Ado About Nothing with mafiosi, write a new movie.

    Watch the 1993 Much Ado About Nothing. It's not perfect but it's pretty darn good. The 1980's BBC version is not bad.
  • While I gave this a rating of 1, that does not even begin to describe how simply awful this film is. I was looking for a chance to rate it zero ( 0 ) or negative.

    This is absolutely the WORST film ever made. Bar none. I have seen some real stinkers, and this doesn't even come close to how good stinkers those were.

    It is hard to list all the things wrong with this film. The setting is all wrong, and insulting to the Bard. The language is a poor mixture of American modern day and olde English. The acting is totally flat and boring, with actors and actresses miscast. The sound quality is very poor.

    Normally, I would enjoy Whedon's work. But not this one which so totally misses the mark. For me, I require that a film must be entertaining. This is totally not.
  • high_king_auric27 September 2013
    Warning: Spoilers
    Firstly the setting is supposed to be 16th century Messina NOT in the present day. By messing around with the setting Whedon (who has only written one decent production since 1997 Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog) has completely removed the context for a lot of the events.

    Next the clumsy way of making Ursula have more screen time (by giving her some of Margaret's scenes) is irksome and confusing. In addition the changing of Conrade's gender so that "she" could be the bastard prince's lover was simply awful. Finally the acting in general was sloppy and unrefined.

    In summary a mediocre film written and directed by a hack.
  • Almost nothing works in Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing." It's hard to imagine how such an intriguing idea turned into such a lackluster film. Whedon's concept to set the story in modern day just doesn't work. Everyone is dressed similarly so its nearly impossible to tell the characters apart by their station - an important factor in the Shakespeare script. The use of black and white does nothing and actually robs the smart-looking production elements of any visual interest. Even when the characters venture into the back yard the film feels claustrophobic - like rainy day play-acting by a talented group of friends. Most of all, the 1600 story just doesn't ring true in the modern age. A previously rational father cries out that her daughter should die when she is accused of infidelity to her fiancé? In 2013? Whedon's attempt at physical comedy falls flat (pardon the pun). The parallel scenes of the men convincing Benedict that Beatrice loves him - and the ladies doing the same to Beatrice is clumsy and feels forced. After the first hour you start to realize Joss Whedon and his regulars are just amusing themselves - forgetting this is more than just a Whedon home movie. The only real reason to see this film is Amy Acker, who miraculously manages to find something in Beatrice that bridges the gap between the old Globe and Hollywood.
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