This Thursday the Cape Breton Island Film Series serves up Much Ado About Nothing, Joss Whedon’s take on the classic Shakespearean comedy. This should be something to see: two brilliant minds collaborating to create one lighthearted romp about how easy and fun it is to fall in love.
At least I assume that’s how it will go. This is one of the few Shakespeare plays I haven’t read or seen, so I won’t spoil it for you, if you won’t spoil it for me.
Let’s be honest though, when we hear that another movie has been made that’s based on a Shakespeare play, we roll our eyes a little, if only for a split second, because we cannot help but recall the great honour roll of film directors who have brazenly destroyed the wonderful stories we all know and love.
My personal trauma returns me to the series of answering machine messages left by Ethan Hawke as Hamlet, telling Ophelia to get herself to a nunnery. The beeps interjecting like hyper silences, squawking for attention. Even now, I shudder to think of it.
Then again, some of the greatest Shakespeare we’ve ever seen has been on film. Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet comes to mind, and I’ve always been partial to Ten Things I Hate About You, a popular ’90s retelling of The Taming of the Shrew.
We all have our favourites, and a thing or two to say about the rest of them. Shakespeare is so engrained in us culturally and psychologically, that we all seem to feel especially entitled to be critical of its reproduction. And we are, to a point, but our criticism has nothing left to do with Shakespeare. Any adaptation of his work instantly becomes a mirror, a reflection of ourselves and the time we’re in, and of the bold director who took the project on.
This is exactly why you should be very excited for Much Ado About Nothing. Joss Whedon is arguably one of the greatest storytellers and filmmakers of our time. I’ll argue it right now. If you didn’t love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you should have, and you also loved Firefly, or else you never saw it, because FOX canceled the show after one year. And just in case you mistook Whedon for a lightweight TV guy, he decided to make The Avengers, and blow us all right out of our box offices.
I’m not saying I’m impressed by the razzle and dazzle, although I do like shiny things… but the emerging truth here is that Joss Whedon can do it all. He can sing, he can dance, he can charm you with his wit, and he can keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
The script of Much Ado is unaltered, so you don’t have to worry about cowboys or vampires sneaking into the mix. Anyway Whedon doesn’t need to dress up like a superhero, he just likes to. Shakespeare is the superhero here, and no one need put tights on to make the point.
This is a match made in film lover’s paradise. Much Ado About Nothing is the archetype of the modern day romantic comedy, and Whedon’s specialty is in paying homage to old standards and classic forms. He plays out timeworn mythologies in new paradigms, revitalizing folklore while offering brand new (shiny!) contributions to the canon of current pop culture. Buffy was his flagship, the perky blonde cheerleader compelled to battle against ancient evil and the undead. Whedon is a master at bridging the gap between the old world and the new. Maybe not since Shakespeare has an author so masterfully celebrated tradition while restructuring and redefining it in the process.
Maybe I’m just a little excited about Joss Whedon.
You should be too.
Come see what all the fuss is about this Thursday at Empire Theatres Studio 10, at 7pm. And if it turns out to be nothing, well you can’t say you weren’t warned, can you.