Monday, July 21, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog afterthoughts (spoilers!)

So yeah... typical Joss Whedon conclusion. I can't really decide whether Joss is a bigger bastard than George R. R. Martin in the area of gratuitously killing off his main characters, but I was definitely annoyed by the ending on first viewing. I had high hopes for the character of Penny. I was BSing with coworkers on Friday about our expectations for Act 3, and we came up with some of the following ideas:

  • Penny is instrumental in defeating Captain Hammer.
  • Penny turns into a supervillainess in the end. Complete with white leather.
  • It turns out Penny was really "Bad Horse" all along.
  • Dr. Horrible inadvertently rescues Captain Hammer from something.
  • Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer fall in love and wind up together. (Okay, this is over the top. But Neil Patrick Harris IS gay.)

As it is, I mostly agree with this post, which states that Joss failed to live up to his usual standards of offering strong feminist role models. Penny was in the end a pretty low-dimension character, existing only to serve as a foil for Captain Hammer and Dr. Horrible to fight over in the typical triangle arrangement. It's extremely disappointing to me that, after strongly telegraphing her disillusionment with Captain Hammer throughout act 3, Penny's last words were "Captain Hammer will save us."

My comment on the actual ending: the death of Penny was the catalyst that Billy needed to stop being a villain wannabe and become an actual villain. Meanwhile, the "real" Billy -- my friend Shelley refers to him as the superego component -- gets pushed down and lost forever. Is it poignant and heart-wrenching? Sure. But I don't think I was in the mood for poignant. I was watching a comedy. I wanted a comedy ending.

Having said that... the music and comedy components were both excellent, right up through the end. Joss continued his fine tradition from the Buffy Musical, of delivering up hilarious and catchy tunes over and over again. I'm still planning to buy the DVD, and possibly the soundtrack too. If for no other reason, I think the project was a good idea, and I'd like to encourage the strategy that Joss is trying.

Quick recap of my favorite moments:
  • The cowboy chorus. I can't repeat enough how awesome the cowboy chorus was.
  • Nathan Fillion's first entrance. Hell, every scene with Nathan mugging, smirking, and chewing up the scenery. Again, Nathan is the real villain and a damn good one.
  • "And sometimes there's a third, even deeper level, which is exactly the same as the top level."
  • "Wow, what a crazy random happenstance!"
  • "...The hammer is my penis."
  • The last song of Act 2, starting with Neil's demented smile. Also: "I'll hand her the keys to a shiny new Australia." Also also: Giant Neil.
  • Groupies! "This is his hair!"
  • "I hate the homeless. ...ness problem that plagues our city."
  • "Everyone's a hero in their own way. You, and you, and... mostly me! and you."
  • I must report that Ben just loved seeing Captain Hammer crying and sniveling.
Finally, a few words about the many geeks who populate this project. Felicia Day, who played Penny, graduated with honors from UT (Hook 'em!) with a degree in mathematics, loves World of Warcraft, and stars in a videocast about video games. What's not to like? The actress sounds a hundred times more interesting than the character.

Maurissa Tancharoen plays one of the groupies, is married to Joss Whedon's half brother, and the two of them were apparently deeply involved with the writing and production.

Thoughts on the business model: This is going to be a raging success, probably, but I'm not sure it will prove that the business model is as game-changing as everyone hopes it would be. I mean, yeah, you can make money from releasing a movie and merchandise on the internet... IF your name is Joss Whedon, you have your own money and a huge cult following, and well-known actors who love you enough to temporarily work for free. For everyone else, maybe not so much.


  1. Anonymous12:02 PM

    Sadness beyond naming ;_; Such a set-up, and then it gets flushed down the toilet of convention>< When shall the Tick show up, might I ask? feh, the Tick was even a cut above, for all its hammish aspects. Still, the giant Neil did kick ass("I'm a funny guy!"), and the chest zapping during Hammer's stupid chorus was cool. If they do make a sequel, I might just be up for following it, 'cause there's still potential for something awesome.

    M. Lee

  2. I loved Dr. Horrible, but I wondering if you agreed with an impression that I was left with at the end. At the end Dr Horrible is singing and it looks like he has become the supervillian he wanted to, but the last two words are delivered by Dr. Horrible by himself with no musical background, alone in his room without his normal mad scientist type clothes on. He looks really sad and pathetic, and if you look at the room behind him, the table is clear, as if he was no longer working on making evil equipment anymore. I was left with the impression that the entire montage of him robbing banks and joining the evil club was all in his head, that he was imagining it, because he could not stand the fact that his evil deeds had lead to the death of his love interest. The last line was "And I wouldn't feel, a thing." It's as if he was imaging/wishing that he could become this great supervillian that was pure evil and who would not feel anything, but in fact the death of Penny caused him to give up the gig.

    Anyway, that is my idea of what the last song and the last cut away scene might have meant (obviously not sure of that myself). I loved blog (what would you call it?)

    I bought it on iTunes so I could watch it again and again. I will also buy the DVD when it comes out for the extras! (I am a joss fanatic)

  3. The thought that first leapt into my mind, as Dr. Horrible mourned over the recently dead body of Penny, was that he was going to pick her up, return the corpse to his lab, apply some specialized chemicals, call down the lightning and viola. . . undead girlfriend. A genuine evil genius would not let something so trivial as death get in the way of true love.

  4. I did not mind that the end took a more serious turn. It would be fun if he ended up with her in the end, but the real ending meant so much more.
    Robert, that is a great observation. I think you are correct about the ending. At first the ending disappointed me, but as time went on and I thought about it, it makes the most sense. You can see it in his eyes from the start and throughout, the sadness.

  5. Robert: No, I don't think it was a fantasy at all. I'm pretty confident that the end was nothing more than symbolizing the split between his new, badass self, and his original, more genuine self that he was leaving in the cold. I think "It was all a dream" is usually a pretty lame resolution, and I have more respect for Joss than that. I even remember a commentary track where they said they hated to do that without subverting it in some way.

    Anyway... the ending grew on me just a little bit. I still don't think it's ideal. But I've been going through a few personal life issues, and sometimes I can relate to the idea of separating your feelings from your ambitions. In a twisted way I kind of like the "Now Dr. Horrible is here" song.

    But the zombie Penny is a pretty good idea, and I suppose it's not out of the question that they had this in mind all along for a sequel. (Knowing Joss, though, I wouldn't count on it.)

  6. Anonymous5:49 AM

    IMO, Billy could express the person he wanted to be - Dr. Horrible - via his blog.

    In the end, it is Billy on the blog, with Dr. Horrible out in the world. Maybe this shows that he just wishes things could be how they once were?

  7. Yeah, I totally believe that it was not necessarily a "dream," I just raised it as an interesting possibility. But in this case, because of the plot line around it, if the evilness was a dream, to me, it would not have been a, "pretty lame resolution." Because the dream itself would not have been the resolution, but the fact that he was so torn up about what he did and he wished he could become evil so he did not have to feel bad about what he did. Again, not saying I necessarily believe this line of thinking...just thought it was worth considering.

    Also, I wanna give Joss some major cred for not starting ending music at the very end of the show. When shows have such a huge emotional payoff at the end (as this one did for me) having happy chipper music at the end really destroys the mood. This is a real big pet peeve of mine.

    The show gets better every time I watch it.