Anyone who has read my review of The Avengers knows that I am not a diehard Joss Whedon fan. He’s not always perfect and what he does may not always work. However when he does get a chance to do things well there are very few who can measure up in today’s world of film. Shakespeare on the other hand has no equal when it comes to the written word (or spoken word, as his plays would most often be performed live in front of an audience). There’s a reason why some of the biggest actors of note have a Shakespearean theatre background. If you can master Shakespeare, assuming such a thing is even possible in the first place, you can master just about anything that the world of art can throw at you. That doesn’t always mean that you’ll make the best films or you’ll choose the best parts but at the very least you know what it is that you’re doing when you get one.
To put the words of Shakespeare into the hands of a filmmaker like Joss Whedon, a man who regularly invites his actor friends over to his house to act out scenes from The Bard’s work, makes the possibilities endless. Speaking of his house, for those that aren’t aware the film was entirely shot in and around his own house over a 12 day period during a break from his filming of The Avengers. That more than anything very much concerned me, how good could a film like that be given those extreme constraints? It doesn’t matter how good you are as a filmmaker, rushed is rushed and unless you are extremely careful it can come off that way. In all honesty I was very nervous going into that theatre, wondering if I was in for another heap of disappointment.
I could NOT have been more wrong. With Joss Whedon at the helm and a host of actors any semi-fan of his previous work would recognize in a heartbeat, Shakespeare comes alive in a way that simply has not been seen since The Bard himself was walking around. There have been many adaptations of Shakespeare’s work in the last 300 years since then, and even more since the advent of film and television. Few can hold a candle to the film I just witnessed.
Shakespeare had a subtlety of purpose in his words and a thoughtfulness with which he moved from comedy to drama to intrigue and deception. Using The Bard’s original words but setting it in a somewhat modern time with cell phones and the internet, Joss Whedon puts it all right there on the screen for you to watch, and laugh, and cry at with equal measure.
Each of the actors involved in this film are so perfectly suited for the roles which they play that they jump right off the screen at you. He plays the actors off the long time fans like nobody’s business. Anyone who has seen all or part of his other works will love the fact that he put the characters in the roles they have in the film and I suspect the diehard fans will feel incredibly vindicated in a number of ways, although because it’s Shakespeare you don’t have to be a fan of Joss’ work to understand the chemistry between them.
And then, Nathan Fillion happened.
None of these actors are better suited for their roles then Nathan Fillion as Dogberry. Every moment that man is on screen you can’t help but smile. Every time his character opens his mouth and speaks you’re forced to laugh. No matter how many times Tom Lenk as his partner Verges threatens to steal the scene from Nathan, and he very nearly does throughout the film, Nathan slaps him down with another fantastic moment... metaphorically speaking of course.
The title I used for this review is a reference to a sense of longing which I feel after having seen this film, much like the character I am paraphrasing, a longing for the fact that I can’t go somewhere and watch this film right away again. It’s been a long time since I have had that feeling about a Joss Whedon film, or any film for that matter, and it’s great to know what that’s like again.
Thank you Joss for a masterpiece of film that as far as I am concerned should be taught in schools as an introduction to Shakespeare. Once a year Joss should take some time out of his schedule to adapt one of Shakespeare's plays and premiere it somewhere (hopefully at TIFF again for everyone to see).
It seems only fitting that I leave you with...
Much Ado, Much Ado, Wherefore Art Thou Much Ado? Everywhere and nowhere... a pox on those who do not see it, a curse on he who speaks ill of it, may the wrath of Joss Whedon and William Shakespeare be visited on those that do both.