Out of all the times I’ve read and watched different versions of Much Ado About Nothing, I do have to say that Joss Whedon’s version takes an interesting view on the Shakespeare play. Like several other directors and writers tried to do with other Shakespeare works, Whedon takes the play and places it in modern times, but keeps the Shakespeare language intact.
Now, I always have mixed feelings on this. The first time I’ve ever seen it done was in the 1996 Romeo + Juliet movie directed by Baz Luhrmann and I did not care for it at all. Which was one of the reasons why it took me over a year to see Whedon’s version of Much Ado About Nothing, despite my love for Whedon’s directing and screenwriting.
Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s comedies about love and how two couples see love differently. Hero and Claudio meet and fall in love at first sight, while Benedick and Beatrice mock and make fun of each other, choosing to ignore their feelings for each other until they are tricked into realizing it.
While I did enjoy Whedon’s version more than I thought I would, looking at it as if I had never heard of the play before I did think it was confusing. You really don’t know who the characters are, or why they are all gathering together at Leonato’s house. Is there a celebration of some kind or are they all just friends getting together? It was also difficult to keep up with who was who and what their titles were and how they knew each other. I guess that’s where reading the play would come in handy, although those plays are really best watched to fully understand the context.
What I did love was that it was shot in black and white. I think that helped bring some of an old time movie feel to it, keeping it from being too modernized. I also thought the acting was well done. The actors made sure to keep the production comical, even when it becomes upsetting at some points. The delivery of the lines was similar to the 1993 version starring Kenneth Branagh, which is probably my favorite version of the play.
Something I thought was a bit weird was that they changed one of the character roles from a male role to a female role. While it did work, the lines in the play were kept the same making some parts of scenes awkward and a bit confusing, but comical at the same time.
So while Joss Whedon didn’t completely change my feelings on the modernization of Shakespeare plays, he didn’t completely disappoint me.