I don't propose to be any sort of Shakespearian expert. It's not an area in which I'm particularly well-versed. There are good Shakespeare adaptions and awful ones. Though, one thing's for certain, there will always be adaptions and reworkings of his work. This time around, famed director and, at the moment, pop culture icon Joss Whedon is the latest director to take on one of Shakespeare's famous plays in his modern retelling of 'Much Ado About Nothing.'
Whedon shot his version of the comedic play during some 'Avengers' down time. It had apparently been a passion project of his and (according to IMDb) his wife insisted that he film it instead of going on vacation. So Whedon filmed the entire thing in 12 days with a gaggle of his acting buddies. The result is a refreshingly charming, fun adaption.
I hesitate to cover the movie's plot since 'Much Ado About Nothing' has been done and redone so many times that if you don't know what it's about by now then there's something wrong. The cast is strong, filled with extremely likable actors, giving it their all when it comes to reciting Shakespearian lines. Cute Amy Acker ('Cabin in the Woods') plays Beatrice while her counterpart Benedick is played by Alexis Denisof ('Angel'). Clark Gregg ('The Avengers') is the stoic Leonato. Playing the innocent Hero is newcomer Jillian Morgese. Fran Kranz ('Cabin in the Woods') is the lovestruck Claudio while Reed Diamond ('Dollhouse') inhabits the role of his right-hand man Don Pedro. Rounding out the dinner party of lovers and connivers is Riki Lindhome ('Hell Baby') as Conrade, Spencer Treat Clark ('The Last House on the Left') as Borachio, and Sean Maher (' Serenity') as Don John. I purposefully saved the best for last though, because when you see Nathan Fillion ('Firefly') as Constable Dogberry you'll realize exactly why this adaption is so damned amusing. He's hilarious in the role, providing much needed comedic relief after the story gets to the more emotionally meaty scenes.
The decision for Whedon to film the proceedings in black and white adds to the movie's charm. The film navigates Whedon's personal home with deftness, catching wonderful views and finding great places to perform some of the most beloved scenes. Watching it you really get the sense that this is immensely fun for him and the filmmakers. Without the stink of studio meddling it feels like a bunch of professionals got together and said, “You know what would be fun?” Watching this version of 'Much Ado About Nothing' gave me the same giddy feeling I got when I saw Whedon's 'Dr. Horrible' for the first time. A talented and creative filmmaker doing what he wanted to do without anyone telling him how to do it.
The wonderful thing about this contemporary version of the story, which is pretty much directly lifted line for line from the original, is that you don't have to be a fan to enjoy it. There's a cinematic attraction delivered here with the shots, the subtle facial expressions, and Nathan Fillion's hilarious David Caruso impressions, that will keep you interested whether you enjoy Shakespeare or not.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Much Ado About Nothing' comes to Blu-ray via Lionsgate. It comes on a 25GB Blu-ray Disc with a code included for a UltraViolet Digital Copy. There's a slipcover included.
Shot digitally, 'Much Ado About Nothing' has an crisp artistic black and white appearance. It's a great looking 1080p transfer that features a lot of visual detail. Shading, gradients, and shadows are all ideally rendered to give the movie the look it's going for.
The gray scale in the movie is spot on. Shadows are perfectly delineated. Even with the digital photography, the image appears to have a great sense of depth. Crushing is never an issue here. The gradients of grays are presented smoothly without the slightest hint of banding. Also, contrast is spot on.
In the detail department, hair, freckles, and even tears can be seen on the actors' faces. Fine texture of suit coats and glitter-encrusted dinner party masks are easily visible. The black and white presentation is splendidly done.
The movie has been provided with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which is a product of the movie's talk-heavy nature. Most of the film's sound is centered up front, focusing on the dialogue. There's some nice melodic music that bleeds into the rear channels, along with some nice ambient noise from a dinner party. There isn't much in the way of immersive-ness to this sound mix though.
I wasn't expecting a whole lot anyway. The voices are always clear and every line of dialogue is spoken with pristine clarity. LFE is left out for the most part, because there's really no need for it. There's nothing technically awry with the audio mix, it's just that this is a very subdued movie that doesn't need a lot of audio wizardry to entertain.
This movie encompasses something for everyone. If you like the way Joss Whedon makes movies then you'll like it. If you enjoy Shakespeare adaptions then you'll like it. If you love watching Nathan Fillion be absolutely hilarious, then you'll love it. It's a charming little film that feels like fresh air when compared to many of the stuffy, generic Hollywood products that crowd movie theaters these days. With great black and white video, solid audio, and some interesting extras, 'Much Ado About Nothing' is certainly recommended.