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Film / Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

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Much Ado About Nothing is a 2012 black and white American romantic comedy film adapted for the screen, produced, and directed by Joss Whedon, from William Shakespeare's play of the same name. The film stars Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, and Jillian Morgese.

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  • Adapted Out: Leonato's brother Antonio. Whedon was hesitant but ultimately cut him since he really serves no purpose in the plot.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Benedick delivers one to Claudio, challenging him to a duel to defend Hero's honor.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Hero watches the funeral set up to fool Claudio. In his commentary, Whedon explains that this was added as an attempt to make it more palatable that Hero would forgive him, as she gets to see how truly repentant he is for what he did to her.
  • Brick Joke: Benedick had written a poem on a scrap of paper - and tossed it over a wall. This comes back to haunt him later.
  • Call-Forward: Boracchio is seen seducing and making out with Margaret in the background of quite a few scenes, which would explain why she agreed to have sex with him in Hero's clothes later. Also, when Don John tells Claudio that Don Pedro is wooing Hero for himself, Claudio immediately believes him and is extremely distraught until Don Pedro sets him straight. This scene establishes exactly how gullible and impetuous Claudio is and makes his later betrayal of Hero more believable.
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  • Deliberately Monochrome: Mostly because shooting in B&W considerably decreases the time required to light and set up a shot, which is useful when you only have 12 days for rehearsals and principal photography. At least one critic commented that shooting in black and white gave the movie the feel of such classic relationship comedies as His Girl Friday and Adam's Rib, which suited the performances of Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker who demonstrated a Tracy/Hepburn level of on-screen chemistry.
  • Dream Team: The cast is clearly something of a real life example for Joss Whedon. Almost all of the principal cast are stars from other productions of his.
  • Flashback: The text implies a past love between Benedick and Beatrice (Beatrice says, "Marry, once before he won [my heart] of me with false dice"). Flashback scenes show that she and Benedick once slept together, only for things to fall apart. This helps explain why they constantly engage in a "skirmish of wit" whenever they meet, while proclaiming their intentions never to be married. It also makes their inevitable Love Epiphany more believable.
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  • Fourth Date Marriage: Averted by insinuation, as both the prologue scene with Benedick and Beatrice shows that those two obviously have a romantic history with each other. Also, more subtly for Hero and Claudio, as seen with Claudio's speech (that is usually cut out for time of many productions) to Don Pedro about having feelings for her before going to war, and Leonato silently teases Hero about Claudio in their first scene together shows that she obviously reciprocated his feelings back then too.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Benedick trying to hide while eavesdropping about Beatrice's love for him.
    • Beatrice eavesdropping about Benedick's love for her.
    • During the party, Benedick carries on a conversation without noticing that his marshmallow has caught fire.
    • When filming the scene where Dogberry and Verges hand Borachio and Conrad to Don Pedro, Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk acted as if they had locked themselves out of their car. This was originally not even on-camera, but when the crew found themselves cracking up at the two, Whedon insisted that it was filmed and added in.
    • invokedAt the second wedding, Claudio says he will marry the disguised Hero "were she an Ethiope". A black woman is standing behind him looking unamused as he says this line, and behind her Benedick screws up his face in embarrassment after Claudio says it.
  • Gender Flip: Both Conrade and the Sexton are women in this version. In the former's case, Whedon states outright on the commentary that it was purely so he could make Don John's initial conversation with Conrade more interesting by having them discussing their Evil Plan in the middle of sex.
  • Glasses Pull: Dogberry and Verges are constantly putting on sunglasses under the mistaken belief that it makes them look cool.
  • Handshake Substitute: When they have proof that Benedick's finally realized his feelings for Beatrice (they see him gazing lovingly at her photo) Don Pedro and Claudio fist-bump each other.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: It seems like everyone is slightly drunk for the whole movie. This could cross over into Truth in Television; Joss Whedon and several of the cast members have all implied that every time you see a character with a drink in their hand, the liquid in the glass isn't exactly water, if you know what we mean.
  • Highly Visible Ninja: Benedick dresses as one at the masquerade ball, which was chosen because Denisof had already shaved for the film's second half. It also may serve as Foreshadowing for his attempts to eavesdrop on the Zany Scheme.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: When Claudio and Hero are about to get married, Benedick sees that Claudio is angry and tries to subtly pacify him. When it becomes apparent that that isn't happening, Benedick heads straight to the bar for a drink. Whedon explains on the commentary that this was to justify his not speaking up as the argument gets nastier.
  • Kick the Dog: After Don John ruins Hero at the wedding, he hangs back to steal the cupcakes meant for the reception.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Rather than cut or alter Claudio's controversial "I'll hold my mind, were she an Ethiope" line when accepting his 'mystery bride' at the second wedding, Whedon instead has a black female guest standing right behind him who visibly glares at this point. Doubles as a Funny Background Event / Moment.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: The film opens with Benedick doing this to Beatrice.
  • Setting Update: Moved to the modern day, with the implication (by costuming) that the soldiers are spies (or, as at least one reviewer suggested, that the war the men are returning from is a corporate war or even a mafia war). This allows for clever use of a smart phone as a way to relay action, but also serves to highlight the nasty sexual politics of the original play. This being Joss Whedon, one could suspect that was partly the point.
    • Actually, it seems like a mafia war would be the most likely out of the three settings proposed above. Legitimate corporate executives don't generally haul around their defeated opposite number in handcuffs or carry firearms in their suitcases, and spies or federal agents wouldn't bring arrested convicts into their homes or let high-profile photographers take pictures of them. The mafia theory can also be supported by the film noir-ish black and white, the characters' Italian names, and the fact that half of the male cast are named Don something-or-another.
    • Clark Gregg once stated outright that it was a mafia war in an interview that also included Joss Whedon, and Whedon said nothing to contradict it. Make of that what you will.
  • Sexposition: As described above, Don John's "plain-dealing villain" speech is turned into this.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Dogberry takes his job as the supervisor to a squad of rent-a-cops with comical seriousness and pomposity. Although the behavior of Filion's Dogberry appears to be mostly driven by his insecurity developed from having to hang around legitimately cool characters all day.
  • Spit Take: Hero does one when Don Pedro suggests that Benedick and Beatrice would make a good match.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: After Conrade gives her "You are an ass!" rant to Dogberry, one of the watchmen restrains her by lightly grabbing her shoulders. Granted she seemed more interested in slapping and screaming at Dogberry than escaping, but that doesn't really explain why touching her shoulders was enough to stop her from doing that. Lampshaded in the DVD commentary, when the cast wonder how that constitutes "restraining" her.

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