I very much wanted to love everything about this show/movie/on-line exclusive/thing, mainly for the reason of the Nathan Fillion/Joss Whedon power-combo. Unfortunately, with heightened expectations, you’re often let down. Loyalty can be troublesome, as it convinces you to seek out enjoyment from things that don’t really deserve it. Then there’s the extra layer, where you’re aware that you’re carrying a torch for a particular creator/actor pair, and try too hard, and end up being too critical, in order to cancel out your own subjectivity. That’s all a lot to keep in mind when doing a review, and I think the fact that I fall into all three categories simultaneously should cancel out any accusations of journalistic disintegrity.
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog was a labour of love for the cast and crew, basically giving them something to do during the infamous 2008 writer’s strike. For many people, it was a breath of fresh air, during a period of butchered TV seasons and forced finales. Also, it was the first Joss Whedon production in three years (since Serenity was released to wrap up Firefly), which is a long time to wait for a fanbase as rabid as his. That’s a lot of anticipation to build up for 42 minutes worth of privately financed web-show. Anticipation aside, the show is pretty good.
We start off meeting Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris), who aspires to be accepted into the Evil League Of Evil, but whose nefarious schemes always seem to be foiled by either his own ineptitude or his arch-nemesis, Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion). He hosts a video blog, documenting his efforts to perform various acts of crime. It’s the split of having someone claim supervillainy while carrying on petty feuds, sarcastically answering viewer mail, and pining over his crush, Penny (Felicia Day) that drives a lot of the show’s humour.
Penny is the vegetarian, humanitarian love interest, who is saved by Captain Hammer, and sort of falls for him instead. Captain Hammer is a more conventional superhero, with apparent super strength and speed. He’s also about a bright as a bad of hair. Imagine a cross between Derek Zoolander and Superman. This combination makes for most of the funny, quotable dialogue.
Oh yeah, and they sing. They sing a lot. Mostly, I was disappointed by this experience, especially after being blown away by the Buffy musical episode, “Once More With Feeling.” Don’t get me wrong, Neil Patrick Harris has some pipes on him, but lyrically speaking, it’s a little bit too Elton John, with vague, broad expressions being used for the sake of rhyming. Part of what made the Buffy musical so brilliant was its toying with musical forms and its ability to in-joke within the rhymes. 42 minutes doesn’t really give you enough time to self-reference, and the music for Dr. Horrible follows a more traditional approach.
Considering how much I liked the funny of the show, the ending really caught me off guard. I’m not going to tell you how it ends, but it doesn’t really keep the tone of the rest of the show. I’m still undecided about how I feel about it. Props to Whedon for not just going the easy way out, but I don’t know if the piece is serious enough to warrant that kind of a finale.