18 Reasons Why Joss Whedon's Newest Film Is His Most Unnecessary
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18 Reasons Why Joss Whedon's Newest Film Is His Most Unnecessary

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | June 11, 2013 | Comments ()


This weekend, Joss Whedon's small, sweet Much Ado About Nothing debuted in limited release and will work its way into your hearts and more screens on June 21st. Shot over a few days at Whedon's house, this featherweight adaptation of one of Shakespeare's most beloved comedies assembles many of our favorite Whedon irregulars: Fillion, Acker, Kranz, Denisof, Lenk, Maher, etc. And for that alone, for Fillion trying to Big Man In A Little Coat his way into Tom Lenk's jacket alone, I'd encourage you to see it. It's not a bad movie. It's a fine movie. It's obvious the director and his cast had a fantastic time making it and, seemingly, an even more enjoyable time promoting it.

But several months after having seen it, I'm here to tell you, it doesn't linger. It's not the kind of film that gloms onto you and you won't find yourself replaying sequences in your head for the pure, shivery taste of the language or the visual delights. The comedy is good. Fillion may be the best Dogberry I've ever seen. But the tricky balance of tragedy (a girl cruelly jilted on her wedding day and disowned by her father) falls flat. And that's okay! It's a sweet film, a fine film. The problem, however, is that a near perfect production of Much Ado About Nothing already exists and its sunny, boisterous existence casts a long shadow.

I'm an enormous Whedon fan. You people know this. But I'm also a massive David Tennant and Catherine Tate fan and that didn't stop me from being completely underwhelmed by their recent stage production of "Much Ado." Because, listen, Imma you Whedonites finish, but Kenneth Branagh's 1993 production of Much Ado About Nothing is one of the best Shakespearean film adaptations of all time. Dare I say the best? And, of course, just because an amazing film, book or play exists, that doesn't mean someone else oughtn't attempt it. I do wish, however, that Whedon had chosen a different comedy. "Twelfth Night" or "As You Like It," perhaps. Of course, given his well-established love for strong, feisty female leads, Whedon would be attracted to Beatrice. But I would have rather seen Whedon's take on Viola or Rosiland instead. Am I saying you shouldn't see Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing? Of course not. See it. See it for Nathan Fillion and for Clark Gregg. Enjoy Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon's frothy version of "Sigh No More." But then come home and watch the Branagh movie. It'll pour Tuscan sunshine into your heart. Yes, even Keanu. It's simply a better film. Here are * Reasons Why.

1. The Love Scenes

2. The Costumes

3. The Comedy

4. The Tragedy

5. The Fist Pumps

6. Wilson!

7. Because Sure Shakespeare Looks Fine In Black And White

8. But It Looks Better In Color

9. Because The Americans Do Just Fine

10. YES, Even Keanu

11. Because Both Beatrice And Emma Are Goddesses

12. Because Before Kate Beckinsale Was A Spray-Tanned Action Babe, She Was Cute As A Button

13. Because That's Emma Thompson's Mom On The Right

14. The Choreography Is Better

15. Because It Will Convert All Your Sounds Of Woe

16. Into Hey

17. Nonny

18. Nonny

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Montavilla

    I'd like to thank you for writing this article, because it's nice to share with someone who feels the same way I did.

    I love Joss Whedon. I think I've seen everything he's done, and I love the backstory to the film. I remember hearing about his Shakespeare readings and really wanting to somehow get to share that experience.

    So, I'm glad he made the film. And if it re-energized him, even better.

    But I spent far too much of the movie flashing back to the Branagh adaptation and thinking about how great that one was. Even in the most inconsequential details -- like how good Imelda Staunton was, even though she had maybe three lines in the whole film. And how they bothered to make her look a little like Kate Beckensale, so that you could see how she might be mistaken for her from the back.

    Or in the mask scene when Alexis Denisof channeled Branagh's cheesy foreign accent... I couldn't help but think, "Of all the great bits in the first film, you chose to steal that?"

    It's not fair to Whedon's film, which isn't bad in any way. But I felt that there were strange, lost opportunities -- mainly because of a lack of energy. And I can't unhear or unsee Branagh's version, from that great credit sequence with the heroic theme, and the leather pants, and the horses, and every single person in the film suddenly tearing off their clothes... to the grand overhead shot of people dancing.

    If I didn't know better, I would have sworn that Branagh's film was the one done in 12 days by a bunch of old friends for the sheer love of it.


    But I will say that I liked Nathan Fillion better than Michael Keaton and Tom Lenk just as much as... was it Ben Elton? And I thought it was smart to cast a woman as Conrad. And it cracked me up that all the soldiers had to sleep in rooms filled with dolls and stuffed animals.

  • sardonical

    I heard there was a production in 1723 of "Much Ado" in Bulgaria that was supposed to be amazing. Therefore, Kenneth Branagh should never have made his movie.

    Jesus Christ... it's Shakespeare... it's supposed to be done over and over with a million different twists, spins, and ideas. To write off one version solely because you liked a movie 20 years ago is shortsighted and annoying.

    I hate stupid articles like this...

  • Anne At Large

    I like to think of it more as a love note to an amazing film. Which I now need to go watch again. And yes, I will see the new one. But seriously, have you been here before? This is kind of what we do.

  • pancake bacon

    Honestly, for me Keanu did better than Robert Sean Leonard. His earnestness was painful to endure! Still, Kenneth is an awesome director making Shakespeare come to life for modern ears. It's harder than it seems!

  • Neon

    I cannot form an opinion until I hear Alexis Denisof give his line-reading of this:

    "Ha. 'Against my will I am sent to bid you come into dinner.' There's a double meaning in that."

    That is a line that can make or break a Benedick. Branagh nailed it.

  • e jerry powell

    I cannot look at Kenneth Branagh. His visage makes my gay ovaries explode.

  • Guest

    I don't want to poop on anyone's parade but Kenneth Branagh has no lips. Look at his face. Where are his lips? They are nowhere to be found. Advantage: Whedon.

  • Trixie

    Also, lovely men in leather pants on horses always wins!

  • Az

    Much Ado is my most favorite of all the Shakespeares. And Emma is my most favorite of all the Beatrices, myself included.

  • AM

    A thousand times yes!!! This is my favorite Shakespeare film adaptation of all time (and as a high school Brit Lit teacher, I've seen quite a few). It's joyful and genuinely funny. Michael Keaton as Dogberry KILLS IT!!

  • Devil_Dinosaur

    Michael Keaton as Dogberry was an embarrassingly bad performance that ended his career. I assume that's what you meant by "KILLS IT!!"

  • Mrs. Julien

    I adored this movie.

  • Jennifer Schmennifer

    Keanu's Canadian, not American. (Unless he became American...It's possible. I don't really pay attention to things like that.)

  • Devil_Dinosaur

    You obviously do.

  • Jennifer Schmennifer

    Oh, I pay attention to where people are from. I just don't pay attention to whether they change their citizenship.

    But I did actually look at Keanu's Wikipedia page after that previous post and it says, "He is a U.S. citizen through his American father, and also holds Canadian citizenship by naturalization; he grew up as a Canadian and identifies as such." So Keanu didn't "become American" because he was already American.

  • Denzel never looked as magnificent as he did in that movie. Damn.

  • Tinkerville

    I love Branagh's version as much as the next person, but I completely fell in love with the simplicity and the unassuming nature of Whedon's. It was just delightful on every level and it was so obvious that they were having an insane amount of fun. There was no over-thinking of performances or style. It made me feel all aglow and twitterpainted. I don't see why we have to boost up one version to tear down another, is what I'm saying. They're both great IMO, just very different.

  • Devil_Dinosaur

    "Twitterpainted?" Did you mean, "addlepated?"

  • Tinkerville

    Nope. Please go on Netflix and order yourself a copy of Bambi posthaste. (Granted it's twitterpated and not twitterpainted, but that's what I grew up calling it and that's what it remains to me.)


  • BWeaves

    Emma's bouncing breasts are mesmerizing, and I'm a woman.

    That said, replace Keanu with anyone else, and then it's the perfect movie.

    Also, is that Joss Whedon in photo 2, as the monk?

  • Anne At Large

    Rewatched it last week. Still my favorite Beatrice and Benedick ever. And my god, what a visually stunning film.

  • Slash

    Goodness, Denzel Washington is super-hot in that picture.

  • Devil_Dinosaur

    Thanks for contributing.

  • Important Film Maker

    Denzel is quite the stud. Wouldn't you agree, Devil Dinosaur?

  • $2786243

    The whole Branagh film is so, so good, and we watched it a million times in college. Emma Thompson is just aces in it, and when she gives this speech?

    "Is he not approved in the height a villain, that hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? O that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they come to take hands; and then, with public accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour, --O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place!"


  • John G.

    One has Keanu, the other doesn't. Your arguments are hereby invalidated.

  • Siege


    Even Keanu. Because Lord knows, he is trying SO HARD. And he was obviously so desperate to be a guy who does Shakespeare, not just a guy who is Ted.

    But Thompson and Branaugh are really where it's at. That scene where she is swinging and he is romping in the fountain always gets me right in the feels. (Confession: Branaugh is also my favorite Hamlet, even though the movie is like four hours and he is clearly too old for the part.)

  • Devil_Dinosaur

    "....he is clearly too old for the part."

    Take a look at who has played Hamlet, from Richard Burbage to today. This is a silly idea you have.

  • Siege

    It's my opinion that ALL of them have been too old. Hamlet as written comes off as closer to 18 - 20, while Branagh was 36 at the time he made that film. Perhaps this is just a personal thing, but I think Hollywood ALWAYS casts too old for Shakespeare.

  • Devil_Dinosaur

    Richard Burbage wasn't cast by Hollywood. He was the first actor to play the part. He wasn't 18 - 20.

    I really think it would be best for you and for all of us if you took your "personal thing" and rammed it straight up your arse.

  • Meli_V

    I'm looking forward to seeing Joss' "Much Ado About Nothing" but I am not going into it expecting to fall in love like I did with Branagh's vision.

    And now after all those fabulous gifs I must go pull out my copy and re-watch this fabulous movie.

  • annie


  • Michelle Belden

    "ALL THE MUCH ADO" - this brings me great joy.

  • bonnie

    I love Kenneth's Much Ado so very, very much. I think Emma Thompson elevates what could have been just a fun film into something great.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I'm pretty sure no one told Michael Keaton it was a comedy, so Keanu might have some competition.

  • AudioSuede

    Keanu is the WORST in that movie! I mean, I love everything else about it, and I'm usually first in line to defend Keanu against dickery, but I can't give him a pass for that one.

  • Devil_Dinosaur

    Keanu has ruined so many films, I can't imagine what any defense could possibly be.

  • Jim

    After being through so many series with Joss' cast, they're like family. Consequently, I couldn't NOT see his Ado any more than I could skip my cousin Marie's wedding.

    That said, if it doesn't live up to Branagh's, I won't criticize.

    Besides, Branagh was a hot piece back then.

  • baxlala

    I fucking love Branagh's "Much Ado," so fucking much. Fuck!

  • Samantha Klein


  • sean

    Dammit, now I have to watch Branagh's Ado again. For about the 40th time. It brings me great joy each time I see it. It looks like they had such fun making it.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    Ooo... yeah... I love me some Kenneth.

    But Henry V is still my favorite.

  • Henry V has long been my favorite Shakespeare play, followed closely by 'Macbeth.'

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I haven't seen the Whedon yet. But I have to say it's funny to me that the NYTimes had an article both on a) how Whedon doing Much Ado rejuvenated him, allowing him to finish The Avengers when he was mentally fatigued and b) says the Whedon movie is *better* than the Branagh.

    Also, it's not like Viola and Rosalind aren't also feisty. But Beatrice and Benedick are perhaps the most mature set of sparring lovers in Shakespeare, and that's the appeal, casting-wise.

  • JJ

    Not Wilson. Want an extra twist? Try watching Robert Sean Leonard's Claudio as if it were being performed by Neil Perry from Dead Poets Society.

  • foolsage

    Oof, right in the feels.

  • JoannaRobinson


  • Mrs. Julien

    I'm with that woman who steals Monica's identity on this one.

  • Guest

    I always get super envious when people can intelligently discuss Shakespeare, his many adaptions and differentiate the plays from one another successfully, all while dissecting the merits of each.

    I am not that man. I mean I read 'em. But... Not being an English major, none of it stuck for very long.

  • Devil_Dinosaur

    I'm sorry that you're sad that you're dumb. Read all of them, did you?

  • Important Film Maker

    May you forever continue to be a dick, mon amour Dinosaur.

  • Sarah

    So your main argument against Whedon's "Much Ado" was that Branagh's "Much Ado" was awesome?

  • Samantha Klein

    Do you really need another?

  • Sarah

    Yes. Because it's motherfucking Shakespeare.

  • the dude


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