Synopsis: Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) stars as Billy, A.K.A. Dr. Horrible, a budding supervillain whose plans for world domination continually go awry. His two goals: getting accepted into the Evil League of Evil, and working up the guts to speak to his laundromat crush Penny, played by Felicia Day (The Guild). The only thing standing in his way is Captain Hammer, Billy’s superhero archnemesis played by Nathan Fillion (Firefly). With one big score, Billy could get into the E.L.E. and earn the respect of Penny, but only if he can keep her away from the dashing Captain Hammer…
“I cannot believe my eyes,
how the world’s filled with filth and lies.
But it’s plain to see,
evil inside of me
is on the rise.”
I had originally ignored this one based on the title alone. But a friend, who long ago adopted the nickname The Horrible Dr. B, was given this DVD by his girlfriend. It then occurred to me just amusing this was and, after reading a few ecstatic reviews of ‘Dr. Horrible’, decided to give it a try. So I borrowed his DVD.
I watched this short film, composed of three acts (which were originally released online by Joss Whedon and co.), and was completely blown away. So I sought out the Blu-ray. And watched it again. And also all of the special features. And again with friends. And then yet another time.
I only know a little bit of Joss Whedon’s work, but I was always left somewhat unimpressed (i.e. good, but short of amazing – unlike what most Whedonheads think) by what I’d seen so far. However, the awesome incredibleness of ‘Dr. Horrible’ makes me think that he must brilliant and I need to reconsider anything he’s done so far – this is so amazing it’s beyond words, so surely there must be more to this Whedon guy.
À voir. We’ll see.
Hesitant as I may be about Whedon, one thing is certain: given just how much I LOATHE musicals, it’s astounding that I love every single song in ‘Dr. Horrible’. I can’t explain it. I love the music, I love the melodies, I love the staging of the musical set pieces, and I love the way Whedon and his brother juxtaposed various characters in a form of interplay. But, above all, I even like the way the lyrics tell the characters’ stories; it’s funny, charming, heartbreaking – just like he film itself.
I laugh, I (almost) sing along and I come close to shedding tears every time I watch ‘Dr. Horrible’. I understand our protagonist’s inner turmoil, his vulnerabilities and his ambitions, even if I don’t share them (although, I should probably reconsider that “taking over the world” part… ). I feel throughout, and that’s saying quite a lot for a short web series – where full-length features frequently fail to do the same. It’s no wonder that it’s nothing less than a cult marvel; it must have reached many others in a similar fashion.
For me, the key things that are draws are how Whedon pillories the superhero genre with his extremely lame creations (including Moist and Bad Horse) – which, unlike the ‘Irredeemable’ comic book, are done on purpose. It’s a very funny take on the genre. Another thing is that Whedon doesn’t shy away from sad irony and tragedy, as best exemplified by the last bit of the film. And the last words in the film wraps it all up with just the most perfect amount of pathos. It’s by far my favourite ending in recent memory.
Of course, none of this would be possible without Neil Patrick Harris; he is absolute genius as the Doctor himself. I only know him as Doogie Howser, which was fun, for sure. However, in this particular programme he plays sentimental, dreamer, neurotic (twitch, twitch), evil, ambitious, insecure, …etc. And he can sing! The way he talks, stops midway through, reflects, reconsiders, …etc., shows a flair for small touches. Its precision and absolute perfect execution is awe-inspiring. He’s created a character that is basically what a modern-day Woody Allen would be like if he were an evil genius bent on world domination.
Now, I know that a lot of people in nerd-dom love Felicia Day, and I do find her perfect for the idealistic Penny, but there’s something about her incarnation of the character that puts me off a bit. Is it because she makes Penny a bit flakey? Is it her icky hipster-granola fashion sense? Is it because she reminds me of a lot of people I’ve met and, thus, have made unpleasant associations? Still, her acting is excellent and her vocals are pitch-perfect – technically, she is just right for the part. It’s just me. And I recognize that the part may simply have been conceived this way.
Having said this, I must confess that, if there’s a girl that I have a preference for in ‘Dr. Horrible’, it’s Maurissa Tancharoen. As one of the bubbly Captain Hammer groupies she brings bright-eyed innocence and enthusiasm to her bandwagon-jumping character. Dang. She’s sooooooooooooooooooo unbelievably cute. This character would be no fair-weather friend of mine, but these Über-fans were such a wickedly amusing example of what’s wrong with celebrity, that I revelled her cameos.
As for Nathan Filion, he looks the part of Captain Hammer and plays it right, but something doesn’t convince me wholly. I’m not sure what, though. I get the impression that he feels uncomfortable in the role, that it doesn’t suit his personality somehow – as though he’s putting all his skill into it, but not all of his soul; it seems to me that his heart is somewhere else. Still, he has a few really great lines and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role.
Honestly, I would watch more video blogs from Dr. Horrible. Even just that. As much as I liked the musical bits and the whole storyline, the video blogs themselves were absolute gems. Still, I don’t know that Whedon and friends should ever return to this project. Even though there’s demand for it, there may not be anything new for them to say – and revisiting this minor masterpiece would only strip its luster. I’d advise against it, even though a part of me would also want more.
Whether we ever get more or not, I will probably watch this Blu-ray until I can spin it no more. I’m likely going to become so familiar with it that it will become as part of my consciousness as Star Wars was when I was a kid. ‘Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog’ is funny, fresh, quirky, extremely well-written, it boasts a few outstanding performances, and it was all made on a very limited budget. It’s the perfect example of visionary DIY.
“Now the nightmare’s real!
Now Dr. Horrible is here!
To make you quake with fear,
To make the whole world kneel!
And I won’t feel