Spielberg did it after Jurassic Park, Scorsese is doing it after The Departed and Joss Whedon has done it after The Avengers, the third biggest grossing film to date. The directors all followed huge, commercial successes with passion projects – Spielberg’s Schindler’s list, Scorsese’s Silence (2015) and Whedon’s modern take on Much Ado About Nothing.
The screenplay, just like the popular Shakespearean drama, is rich in humour, romance and naturally, given the playwright, tragic elements. Fear not, the plot will come flooding back to those who have studied the play and for others it’s a heady mix of emotions surrounding two couples and their approach to love. Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) tout the tough love camp and Hero (Jillian Morgese) and Claudio (Fran Kranz) wear their hearts on their sleeves.
Whedon has said that adapting the play, along with an adaptation of Hamlet, which he is contemplating, has been on his wish list for some time. He settled on his take on the film before wrapping on the intense, lengthy Avengers shoot. Keen to reconnect with family and friends, many of whom he had worked with on a mix of Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Dollhouse, Dr Horrible and The Avengers he decided to cast them (Denisof, Acker, Fillion, Kranz, Gregg, Maher) in a movie, shot in his own home! Not only that but with his wife’s blessing, he filmed it in his holiday time post the Marvel mayhem.
The tight budget and four-week shoot/edit schedule also influenced this decision and his decision to film in monochrome, that dramatically cut wardrobe costs – as an added bonus he has said that the look complimented his noir comedy.
Unlike Baz Luhrman's fast-paced, jaw-droppingly different reawakening of Romeo and Juliet, Whedon has gone a more conservative route; the drama remains in the confines of the house and there is very little action.
Whedon’s reoccurring themes of strong female role models and the story arch of the helpless becoming empowered through justice being enacted are ever present here. They’re delivered in a refreshing dose of humour with a number of great comedic scenes, with Denisof and Fillion in particular. The cast is wonderful, Whedon’s production and direction are spot-on – he even composed the music. Box-office wise it’ll boil down to one simple thing: Like Shakespeare/Whedon? Love this. Don't? Won't.
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