Sunday, April 5, 2015

Much Ado About Nothing (live action movie), on DVD

I only bought this version of Much Ado About Nothing because I recognized (and love) so much of the cast, and because Joss Whedon adapted and directed it. I've maybe seen the Kenneth Branagh version, but I don't remember much about it, and I don't think I've ever read the play.

I was a little concerned I wouldn't be able to follow along with the story, and, during the first half hour of the movie, it looked like my concern was justified. I kept getting confused about who everyone was, how they were related, and what their motives were. It all just looked like a big, messy party that happened to include a bunch of people I knew from other things. For a while, Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof were just Fred and Wesley in my head, and not Beatrice and Benedick, and Agent Coulson occasionally joined them.

But then I hit that 30-minute mark and things started to click. I still couldn't remember most of the characters' names, but I remembered who they were and their relationships, and things finally began to make sense. Well, except for the fact that I still don't understand why Don Pedro brought Don John, Borachio, and Conrade with him if he already knew he was going to need zip ties just to get them all the way there.

Anyway, this version reimagines the play in a modern day setting, but still with the original lines. Which was sometimes a little bizarre (only one of the cops/security guards/watchmen knew how to read and write?), and sometimes horrifying (OMG, Leonato saying that it would be better if Hero were dead, and then everyone conveniently forgetting his reaction later on). I got frustrated with how easily Claudio kept being fooled by Don John, and Don Pedro really should have known better. While, in the end, I enjoyed watching this movie, I didn't really like the overall story. Beatrice and Benedick's romance was amusing, but I found myself wishing Hero could have ditched Claudio.

It was amazing that this movie wasn't a complete mess. It was filmed in only 12 days, and nearly everyone involved only had maybe a couple weeks to prepare. One of the big reasons it all worked out, I think, was because several of the actors had worked together before, or at least worked with Whedon before. There were so many talented people in this movie, although my absolute favorites were probably Nathan Fillion as Dogberry (any scene with him and Tom Lenk was golden) and Reed Diamond as Don Pedro.

It also helped that everyone was clearly having fun, despite the tight schedule. The whole movie felt like one giant party (with so much drinking – and apparently all the alcohol on set was real). There were lots of nice touches, like Dogberry, Verges, and the car keys, the scuba mask scene, Beatrice and Benedick's hilarious physical comedy, and Don Pedro and Claudio's fist bump upon finding Benedick mooning over Beatrice's picture.

Although I wasn't a fan of Hero and Claudio's romance or Leonato's reaction to the accusations against Hero, I still ended up enjoying this (once I got past the first 30 minutes). It was fun and had great energy. I only wish Dogberry had had more scenes.

  • Director's commentary - This was the last extra I tried. As far as the stuff I was actually interested in went, most of it had already been covered in other extras. One thing I hadn't realized: Whedon decided that Borachio's motivation for breaking up Hero and Claudio was that Borachio was in love with Hero. My interpretation had been that he was just a horrible jerk who only admitted to what he'd done because he'd never intended for anyone to actually die.
  • Commentary with Joss Whedon and a large portion of the cast - This was hilarious, but everyone talked over each other a lot.
  • "Much Ado About Making Nothing" - A 22-minute "making of" featurette. Highly recommended. It explains how, why, and under what limitations this movie came to be made.
  • "Bus Ado About Nothing" - A 6-minute featurette about Whedon and the cast's trip, via bus, from California to Texas for the film festival showing of the movie. I'm guessing everyone was running on adrenaline and laughter.
  • "Sigh No More" music video - Dreamy music, plus a full video of the trapeze artists from the film.

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