16 July 2008

dr. horrible's sing-along blog (act I)

While I haven't followed this all that closely, I've still been excited for it. Joss Whedon, master of multimedia storytelling + Neil Patrick Harris + Nathan Fillion + singing has got to = something better than awesome.

The first episode went live yesterday, I think. I got sidetracked by other things, plus I don't know if I'm a big enough fan to really be able to jump on the website on day #1 and experience the extraordinary entertainment that was sure to be in store for me.

First and foremost, the singing (and the acting. I won't be able to separate the two). Everyone that's followed the career of the once and future Doogie Howser (because we all know it'll come back some day) knows that he's got himself some knockout pipes; if he wasn't so funny, he could probably carve out a pretty good vocal performance career for himself. As Dr. Horrible, he's the hero of the piece, so it makes sense that he's got the powerful voice, which he does, in spades. Nathan Fillion, I don't know if he's had any vocal training, but, as always, he gets the job done through physical presence, charisma, and just as much self-aware comedic stylings as our man Neil. His voice isn't the strongest in history, but seeing as how I can barely fill a room with my vocal cords, I really can't criticize. He's always perfect in his parts, anyway. Felicia Day (she was in Buffy, what a shock - thanks, iMDb) doesn't quite have the presence of her male co-stars, but you can certainly tell that she's game for the wackiness. Her singing is mixed down a bit with the duet/tri-et (??) part - at least that's what it felt like to me - but she's got a nice soft voice that'll counterpoint Neil and Nathan well, I think.

Based on act #1, I think I can safely say we're in for a fantastic little treat of a web series. I do think the initial video blog portion of the episode went on a tad too long, but once it broke itself out of the static box of the webcam, it started to go places. Efficiently shot, the cinematic style of the show looks, like it usually does when Joss is directing (with some notable stylistic exceptions - I think he's gotten to be such a better director as time's gone on), to emphasize the performance of the actors much more than whatever sort of tricks they think to pull off with the camera.

The musical numbers themselves are quite nicely orchestrated; I was drawn to the three singing cowboys that pop out of nowhere as Dr. Horrible is reading his letter from the Evil League of Evil (the organization he's fighting to get accepted to, and has been trying to for... years, maybe), for it stretched the reality of the show a little more than I'd been first expecting, and I'm always a sucker for refracting reality through some sort of weird prism.

That's not to say that the moments Penny and the doc have are less than noteworthy. Just after she's convinced him to sign the petition for the homeless shelter's expansion plans, right after she's stood close as he signs, she looks up at him and tries to share a little commiserating moment, as two lonely people who see each other while they're doing laundry. He's trying to steal a courier van loaded with a rare substance that's essential to his work, and he keeps getting distracted. Anyway, she looks up at him, and he's staring at his iPhone (which, presumably, he's hacked to work on concert with the mystery device he's placed atop the aforementioned van). This moment that he's wished for months to share with her has finally arrived, and he's not even looking. The expression on her face as she turns away is positively heartbreaking; it's a great bit of acting and direction.

Captain Hammer (the good doctor's arch nemesis, naturally) showed up at just the right time, and in the best possible place to derail, maybe forever, his long-lusted-after relationship with the woman he watches at the laundromat.

I imagine I'm not alone in empathizing with the guy who's forced to choose his work over the woman he's attracted to, because of some sort of outside interference (see - strapping, confident, attractive men like Nathan Fillion), but I'm going to point out that I empathize with him anyway. Neil uses his slight build (particularly in juxtaposition with Fillion) to its fullest advantage here.

It might be worth addressing Horrible's motivations before closing, how he's apparently interested in upending the system(s) that have chipped away at our humanity (how his bank robberies are not about gaining wealth for himself, but taking it away from those who possess it and, presumably, idolize it). In true Victor Von Doom fashion, he thinks that the only person capable of saving the world from itself is him (he says so, in point of fact), but he seems almost like a performance artist sort of evildoer, rather than someone who's interested in causing mass amounts of property damage or loss of life to prove his point.

They're pretty broadly drawn characters at the moment, but the actors do plenty with what's given to them. I'm excited to see where it goes once Dr. Horrible gets his mystery compound back to his lair to plug into his freeze gun.

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