There’s a certain logic to setting Shakespeare plays in strange locales compared to their stated location. Everything the Bard wrote was written as if was happening in his London, regardless where on the globe it was putatively set. So now we can do the same.
Joss Whedon had some downtime right after he finished shooting The Avengers, so he did a modern-day version (though still using the original text) of Much Ado About Nothing, one of Shakespeare’s frothy romantic comedies. The cast is a cavalcade of ‘hey, I know that actor’ appearances, faces which will be familiar to any of Whedon’s fans: Acker, Denisof, Fillion, Gregg, Maher, Diamond, etc. Thankfully, it never feels like Whedon is simply shoving people he knows into the roles. The performances are all spot on, from Acker and Denisof’s pitch perfect wrangling, to Maher’s stony nihilism, to Fillion’s self-important grandstanding. And a special shout out to Clark Gregg, still one of my favorite actors.
I don’t know if filming the whole thing in black and white gives it a timeless quality, or if it just seems needlessly artsy, but I guess it works. Overall, the result is a show that may not have the giddy joy of the Branagh version, but it carries more of a dramatic punch when necessary.
In any case, it’s a great adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s seminal works.