Saturday, August 13, 2011

OLD vs. NEW: Much Ado About Nothing

The world must be peopled!”

So, what do we have here? First of all let us clear and get it out of the way, I love each and every BBC miniseries. They are all great bright ideas with a perfect execution. If you fancy English writers, be sure to check them out (many already available on DVD!).
That said, in 2005 the BBC produced 4 Shakespeare plays reimagined in the 21st century, called ShakespeaRe-Told, they were Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Much Ado About Nothing. What I believe you should do is watch the Kenneth Brannagh’s version first, and afterwards the one from 2005. So let us do that now!

Much Ado About Nothing is basically a tale of how very thin the line between love and hate is. After the right words said, it both can easily convert into the other one. The story shortly is the following, pay attention; the title is given for a reason!

The Prince Don Pedro and his men after the war reside at the houses of Signor Leonato of Messina. With the Prince came three, among all other soldiers, who play an important part in the story. Benedict, the Prince’s right hand, the brave Claudio and Don John the bastard, the Prince’s brother, in his life previously accused of treason. All men, besides a chance to rest after the war, are seeking wives. In the house we have the only daughter of Signor Leonato, Hero, and her two cousins, Beatrice and Margaret. Benedict and Beatrice hate each other, to the point that they start to irritate pretty much everyone. So the Prince comes up with the idea of telling the two, that the other one is in love with them and to disguise their affection, and act as if they hated the other. This plan works perfectly and the two declare love for one and the other later on. On the other hand, Claudio falls in love with Hero. But Don John is highly bored and decides to mess with their heads. After Claudio proposes to the fair Hero, one of his men seduces Margaret and while they are committing adultery, Don John takes Claudio and the Prince to see, acting as if Margaret was Hero and she were cheating. They were easily deceived and at the wedding Claudio makes a scene. Afterwards they decide to lie, and tell the men that Hero had died out of pain in her heart. Two basically idiots, the comic relief guys in the story happen to be two losers seeking to become detectives and they catch Don John’s men. The plot is then discovered, but it is too late, since Don John has already fled. Claudio is destroyed by the thought of having killed her beloved Hero and decides to take whatever punishment Signor Leonato chooses. He tells him that he shall marry his brother’s daughter. But that ends up to be Hero and they live happily ever after.

Actually, the two main characters are Beatrice and Benedict, their reactions and actions are thoroughly followed throughout the story, but the main plot, the title itself reflects more on the wrong doings of Don John (who at the end is brought to justice), and the actions of Claudio.

As I mentioned earlier, this movie was directed by Kenneth Brannagh, giving us a taste of what William Shakespeare had in mind, it is one of the most beautiful love stories ever told and the actors are simply fantastic in it.
This brings us to the 2005 version. I really much liked this one, because it highlights the important characters in the story and at first it might don’t seem, but there are a couple of plot holes that it makes sure to fix.

We are now at a television station, precisely in the office of the channel’s daily broadcast show. Beatrice and Benedict were dating, but he broke it off with her by being a no-show at their date. Therefore Beatrice despises and hates him. The producer of the show, Leonard (=Leonato), must demote their director Don (=Don John), because he is a drunk and keeps messing up. Also, the co-star of Beatrice gets fired and there is need of a new one. For this reason Leonard calls back Benedict to work for them and an old director of theirs, Peter (= Prince Don Pedro). Hero of course is Leonard’s daughter and she tells the weather forecast while Claude is the sports presenter. But, Hero has a past, she has once slept with Don, because she felt sorry for him, and Don ended up falling in love with her. When she starts to date Claude and he asks for her hand, she says yes. Don hears her confess to actually disliking him, when talking to her friends and decides to get his revenge. Of course, Benedict and Beatrice hate each other very much, to the point that actual feelings are hurt. Leonard doesn't know what to do and asks Peter to come up with something; he is the director after all! He plots a way to make one realize the other one is in love with them. Of course the fools fall for it and they fall in love. But Don is not done, he sends himself messages from Hero’s phone, he steals a couple of pictures and signs them in her name, and Claude is deceived. He asks Hero in church to deny sleeping with Don, which she can’t of course and all hell breaks loose. Of course, in this case, our two little detectives are in the form of security guards of the building and they follow all of Don’s actions and after the wedding reveal his plot to Benedict. Claude realizes what he has done, tries to apologies, but Hero doesn’t care, she only wants to confront Don. They fight, he pushes her, and she hits her head into a wall and is brought to the hospital. Hero gets better but tells Claude off, she shall never marry him and Beatrice and Benedict live happily ever after. This one is basically a tale of how your workplace can become a second home to you and your workmates your family. And just like at home, in your workplace as well, if there is something that matters, that will reflect on your mood and daily performance, you try to keep that in order… many times with little success!

What I definitely love about this story is Don. Why? (Besides the fact that this movie was made back when Keanu Reeves could still act and his face produced emotions!) Don John, when you watch it, you don’t realize that he is evil because he decides it is in his nature. He does it because he is bored, he is that badass! But if you think about it, is that OK? You are pretty evil dude and they should keep you locked up! Don on the other hand was just left by his wife, he feels humiliated by the women at his workplace, he isn’t loved back and to top it all he has been demoted. That would drive me insane as well! So, as far as motive goes, I prefer the 2005 version. On a second note, I loved the fact that Hero won’t marry Claude. If he is so easily deceived and can’t trust me, I wouldn’t marry him either! Of course in the original version it was important to have a happy ending so they can all sing and dance at the end, and that was way back when marriage had a different meaning, not like nowadays. So yes, the movie took a more 21st century like approach to it and I liked that a lot. As far as Benedict and Beatrice go I love both versions. The actors have great chemistry, they are believable and lovable, and it is just as much dramatic as it is funny. Well done.

Look at these two clips in comparison, so you can see why I like it how they preserved the original while bringing it to a more futuristic version:

I can honestly say these two movies you should definitely check out! As far as Shakespeare adaptations go, these are home runs!

Until the next item on my list!

Benedict – Kenneth Branagh
Beatrice – Emma Thompson
Hero – Kate Beckinsale
Claudio – Robert Sean Leonard
Signor Leonato – Richard Briers
Dogberry (Detective) – Micheal Keaton
Don John – Keanu Reeves
Margaret – Imelda Staunton
Prince Don Pedro – Denzel Washington

Benedict – Damian Lewis
Beatrice – Sarah Parish
Hero – Billie Piper
Claudio – Tom Ellis
Leonard – Martin Jarvis
Mr. Berry (Security guard) – Anthony O'Donnell
Don – Derek Riddell 
Peter – Michael Smiley


  1. Here's another great movie version you should check out: What amazes me about it is that it, in my opinion, competes with the other versions, but was made entirely by high school students!

    1. Hi! Sorry for not answering for so long, I tried to view the video, but it says that it's private :/ do you know how I can get to see it? Thanks