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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Fantasy in the real world – Dollhouse

Dollhouse - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Dollhouse – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Dollhouse (2009-2010)

Creator: Joss Whedon
Stars: Eliza Dushku, Harry Lennix and Fran Kranz

I have recently become a little obsessed with Joss Whedon’s work. After falling in love with Firefly and then The Avengers, I’ve now taken up the task of watching his body of work. (Although I may skip most of Buffy as vampires have never been my thing). I first heard about Dollhouse from a couple of my nerd friends who were having an Avengers marathon at the time and were talking about Whedon’s work. I put off watching it for a while as I didn’t really know that much about it. And then I got sick last week. And I watched the entire first season in two days. Oh my word. Joss Whedon is a genius. No really, there is nothing this guy can’t execute brilliantly.

Dollhouse is based on the premise that there is a exclusive, secret organisation that fulfills people’s fantasies through the use of “actives” or “dolls”. These dolls are people that have volunteered for the program for five years, had their memory wiped, and are imprinted with another person’s traits, abilities, characteristics, desires, etc, in order to fulfill the fantasy of the client. It sounds weird, it is, and it is fraught with ethical dilemmas. Whedon knows this and explores this in a really interesting way throughout the show.

Our journey in Dollhouse is centred around Echo, or Caroline, played by Eliza Dushku. She is one of the best dolls in the dollhouse and the story follows her life in the house and on jobs with clients. She has the ability to adapt in the imprint though and this unpredictable nature of Echo brings her under closer inspection. It is through Echo that we see the world of the dollhouse as what it is and what it does. I came to really love and care for Echo as she was tormented with the half-remembering of her past and the passion to find what really happened to her. It is characters like Echo that is the reason I love this kind of show. It has a unique ability to transport you into the world and to question what you know about your own world. It harnesses the power of the unknown and gives you a glimpse into how the pure can be corrupted. It transports desperation into peace, all with the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach of knowing that it isn’t quite right. And it grabs you and pulls you along for the ride through each episode with the excited and nervous anticipation of what will become of these people.

Maybe that’s just me, maybe I get too involved in TV characters and the worlds writers create for me to escape into, but I do love it. I live vicariously through them as they do things I would never do, things I wish I could do, and things I know I would love to do. And then when each episode ends I long to return with them into their world, to be one of them, and to experience life in a dramatic and exciting way. But as I pull back from that world and the main titles fill my screen I’m brought back to the fact that I am sitting on my couch, sick and tired, and that the world I’ve been transported into is not real and that I would much prefer where I am to the bruises and ethical dilemmas that the characters experience in that world. I suppose that is why I love TV so much as well, because you can escape that world when you need to. If only it was the same for life sometimes. And maybe that’s why Dollhouse has grabbed me so much, because the dolls live in an escaped world, where they experience something and then come back from the real world to their haven of tranquility to forget and escape the horror of the real world. Is it the same for entertainment? Is entertainment our haven?

Assemble and Flirt – The Avengers

The Avengers - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Avengers – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Avengers (2012)

Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon (screenplay), Zak Penn (story), and Joss Whedon (story), Stan Lee (comic book) & Jack Kirby (comic book)
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson

This movie could not have been more awesome if it had tried. I have raved and raved about this film to my friends and I’ve seen it multiple times at the cinema and will continue to go back for more. There is something about it that just works. I grew up watching action films with my brother and so have a bit of a love for comic book hero stories. This, however, is the first time that I’ve fallen in love with the evil dude as well as cheering on the good guys. I don’t know what Tom Hiddleston does to get into Loki’s head but he can keep doing it forever in my head. That man can play evil and you still want to take him home and introduce him to your mum, and he has the most wonderful smile. As well has the wonderfully evil Loki, Joss Whedon’s creation of the Avengers and his script are perfection for an action film. It has the crazy evil plot, the heroes fighting against one another which only makes them come together even more, it has humour, it has a hot Scarlett Johansen in a tight black lycra body suit, it has the best Hulk/Stark dynamic and it has the enigmatic Agent Coulson. There are so many moments in this film when I caught myself wriggling in my seat with a massive grin on my face thinking “THIS IS SO FREAKING GOOD!!!” and getting so excited about the film even as it was happening. Even now I get excited jitters about how incredibly good this film was. It’s hard to explain the euphoric feeling that The Avengers gives me. It’s like being a teenage girl in love with a crush and having them pay you a compliment, you go all gooey inside and can drift through the next week in a daze. That’s how the Avenger’s makes me feel, like a stupid, cupid-struck, teenage, fangirl… and it feels amazing.

If you don’t see this film you will be missing out on one of life’s great blessings. I want to thank Joss Whedon and Marvel for bringing together such an incredible cast, a good scriptwriter and director and for spending the big bucks to make this film all we could have ever asked for and more.