During post-production of The Avengers, Joss Whedon was contractually obliged to take a holiday. Instead of taking an actual vacation, the writer-director decided to recharge his batteries by making a small film with some acting friends, opting for a black and white adaptation of a Shakespeare play using the original text. Filmed in Whedon’s own home in under 12 days, the result is both refreshingly admirable and inevitably rather throwaway. Undoubtedly, it’s great to see such an established talent attempting a low-budget passion project, but the end product is still very much an acquired taste. On one hand, Whedon’s devoted followers are bound to find the whole affair utterly delightful, particularly if they also happen to be fans of The Bard. On the flip side, however, those who aren’t enamoured with Whedon’s work (which includes this writer) are likely to feel like they’ve been left out of an extended in-joke.
On the plus side, the performances are fine for what they are, and you’ve got to admire the DIY ethos. But while the modern twist works well enough, Much Ado About Nothing is ultimately a Joss Whedon movie without the thing that Joss Whedon does best: his own dialogue. In fairness, the Buffy creator does manage to imbue the text with his own snap and rhythm, while the film is clearly a labour of love for everyone involved. But as a filmmaker and a creative talent, Whedon has always been far more skilled in the writing department than anywhere else. As a scripter, he’s undeniably gifted. As a director, he’s fairly unremarkable. As such, a project where Whedon adapts someone else’s words – even William Shakespeare’s – is one that lacks what many viewers enjoy most about his work. Which is a shame.