How do you follow up The Avengers? A big, star-filled CGI blockbuster, Joss Whedon’s Marvel team-up triumphed with fans while smashing box offices like Bruce Banner during a temper tantrum, leaving everyone curious as to what the writer-director would do for an encore. The answer, as it turns out, was to do something completely different. And by completely different, this meant an intimate, black and white adaptation of a Shakespeare play using the original text. Filmed in Whedon’s own home in under 12 days using his close acting friends, Much Ado About Nothing is a far cry from big-budget, alien-battling superhero antics.
But while the idea is refreshing and admirable, the outcome is very much an acquired taste. For those who love Whedon or The Bard (or, ideally, both), it’s bound to prove entertaining. On the flip side, however, those not enamoured with either’s work (which includes this writer) will be left waiting for the end credits. Whedonites will geek out over the sight of Mal from Firefly (Nathan Fillion) and Agent Coulson from The Avengers (Clark Gregg) pottering around Whedon’s house (“That’s his actual bathroom!” you can hear them cry). But all your average viewer will see is a monochromatic play starring a host of half-familiar faces from shows they’ve never seen.
On a positive note, it’s witty and you’ve got to admire the DIY ethos. But while Much Ado About Nothing is clearly the product of a group of people who’re passionate about their subject (Whedon regularly organises readings of Shakespeare), it would have been far more enjoyable had the Buffy creator not used Shakespearian language. The performances are fine (if a little distracting for those of us who know these actors from their other work), as is the modern twist. But since Whedon’s strength is his dialogue, doing it this way means he’s essentially handicapping himself, and robbing us of what we enjoy most about his work.