You might have some difficulty seeing the first installment of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog on it’s website. It hasn’t loaded for me all day, presumably because rabid Joss Whedon fans have crashed a sizeable portion of the internet, which is a touch ironic considering the show is being distributed for free for a limited time (until midnight on July 20, when the whole series will turn into a pumpkin and then only be available for purchase). I guess you get what you pay for.
But, fortunately for me and other said Joss Whedon fans, Act I is also available on iTunes for $1.99 and downloads swimmingly. I guess you get what you pay for. Either way – free with frustration or frustration free with a cost – it’s well worth it.
The highly anticipated internet short begins with an unassuming vlog entry by Dr. Horrible (played by Neill Patrick Harris, whose awesome rating is bumping 11). He’s an up-and-coming super villain who responds to some fan/nemesis mail before receiving a letter from the Evil League of Evil’s “Bad Horse,” concerning his application. That and a song and dance number about a laundromat crush named Penny (played by Felicia Day) provide the plot – Doc Horrible wants to be a superbad evil overlord to impress a girl.
His vlogging gets interrupted for a Wonderflonium heist – the chemical with which he plans to finish his freeze gun, with which he’ll somehow win Penny – and regular action-adventure hijinkx ensue. Horrible’s scheme almost gets foiled, he flubs his chance with Penny, and she falls for a good superhero, mostly to musical acompaniment.
So far, it’s fantastic. Harris was born to deliver Whedon’s lines, which have an uncanny combination of both mocking and revelry for genre, both superhero and musical.
The song that ends Act I begins with the line, “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” which, considering Whedon’s self-identified feminism, I must assume is a jab at John Wayne. But Dr. Horrible, given it’s eccentricities, is a little too quick to establish what is a conventionally masculine plot: our protagonist has to decide between his woman and his work.
Considering the independent nature of the production, I thought Whedon might have strayed some from the typical narrative, but his personal style is more noticeable in the dialog and characters in Dr. Horrible. There has been some criticism already of the show’s seemingly duplicitous appeal as guerrilla film-making while maintaining major studio names and production values, but I don’t see anything in it’s presentation as particularly “guerrilla.” While it was independently produced and personally financed by Whedon, the budget was still in the six-figure range, and Whedon has said he hopes to see a profit on DVD sales and iTunes downloads.
“Guerialla” or not, this first installment lives up to the hype. A dozen or two full-fledged series of this quality, and the internet could kill off TV once and for all.