Adapt and Make New – Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Much Ado – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon (screenplay) and William Shakespeare (play)
Stars: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz, Clark Gregg, Jillian Morgese.

There is something about Shakespeare’s comedies that make for good adaptations. 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s The Man, O, The Lion King, etc, have all taken on new looks of Shakespeare’s plays. And then there is the cinematic versions of the plays such as Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999), Othello (1995) etc. A good adaptation can be one that is true to the original text, or one that develops the ideas and narrative into a new setting. Joss Whedon has done both with his version of Much Ado About Nothing.

The film opens with a single piano note. A note that tells the audience that love is a thing that will cause both joy and sadness. It is with this simple note that the entire mood is set for the film. The film is shown in black and white, preparing the audience to see the blurred lines of grey in all the lies the characters tell one another, whether for good or for evil. And with the opening scene of Beatrice and Benedict as lovers you know you are in for an interesting take on Shakespeare’s tale of love, deception, rumours, and purity.

The best thing about this adaptation is Joss Whedon and the cast’s comedic timing. Much Ado is meant to be funny. It is a battle of wits between Benedict and Beatrice but here you see so much more of the comedy as played by all the characters. From little moments like Leonato (Clark Gregg) falling asleep/hung over in the kitchen and then being knocked awake and into speech, or Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark) standing creepily at the end of Don John’s bed. The comedy in this film is exceptional.

The way the film is shot is really interesting because of the different camera angles. The shots looking down from heights to where the characters are creates a voyeuristic feel. The audience is another member of the party and is privy to closed door conversations and monologues of characters. It feels very much like an amphitheatre at points, providing the film with visual cues back to the original play.

There are just some films that grab you from the first moment and don’t let you go until the credits roll. Much Ado held me through the laughter and the tears and made me want to revisit Shakespeare with a new passion. This film will make you laugh; it will make you question how you talk of others; it will make you question why you listen to rumours; and above all it will make you want to fall in love with innocence and joy.

5/5

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Action without narrative – Man of Steel

Man of Steel - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Man of Steel – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Man of Steel (2013)

Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: David S. Goyer (screenplay and story), Christopher Nolan (story), Jerry Siegel (Superman created by), Joe Shuster (Superman created by)
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon.

A good action film should have some great action sequences but there also should be a good story controlling the action. To have action just to show off a character’s abilities and special effects is not justification for action in a film, especially not a blockbuster. There have been lots of films that have done just that. They’ve also probably made a lot of money. But it doesn’t make them great films. It makes them bad films. With so many action films being pumped out each year it must be hard to compete and come up with new and exciting ideas for how to construct a good action film. With Marvel and DC Comics competing on the big screen there is a lot of speculation and comparison. After The Avengers making box office history last year and the Batman trilogy being a big success, Man of Steel was always going to be under scrutiny and highly produced. So why did it end up being so pathetically average?

The moment the film lost me was when Superman was trying to fly and smashed through a mountain. He could’ve missed it, hit the top of it, skidded along the side, but the movie makers decided that sending Clark Kent through the thing was the better option. And coming out the other side unscathed, yep that’s a way to win a human audience over. This was basically what the majority of the film was, unnecessary action sequences to show that Superman was indestructible and so was his enemy, so how do you defeat an indestructible enemy? Oh yes, you try to smash him into every building you’ve ever seen, because that’s really going to make a difference. It wasn’t that the film was bad, it was just that the action was so unnecessary that it detracted from the film.

Man of Steel takes a different kind of look at Superman’s story, his origins, and how he became the hero. It covers different ground than previous Superman films and gives Clark Kent a broader scope of character. Henry Cavill cannot be faulted for his performance as Kal-El (Clark Kent’s Kryptonian name) and Amy Adams brilliantly portrays the strong and determined investigative reporter Lois Lane. But their characters, the narrative development, and the character development are overlooked and the action takes first priority in the film. I expected more from the guys that brought us the Batman trilogy.

Man of Steel lacks substance. It lacks reality. It lacks faithfulness. If you looked simply at the narrative scenes and were able to re-cut the film so that the action was removed you’d have a far better film. This film is the perfect example of how big budgets can wreck beautiful films.

I feel a bit sad that I didn’t enjoy this film because deep down I really wanted to love it. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams were perfect on screen, and I’m usually a big fan of Christopher Nolan’s work, but Man of Steel is just one big indestructible disappointment.

2.8/5