by Billie Doux
[Dr. Horrible is an internet movie by Joss Whedon starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day. The review below contains spoilers. If you're interested in seeing it -- and it's fabulous, so you should -- go here.]
Captain Hammer: "It's curtains for you, Dr. Horrible. Lacy, gently wafting curtains."
Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris) wants to take over the world, mostly in order to fix it. He has created a transmitter ray that didn't quite work out, and a freeze ray that is supposed to stop time but still needs an element called Wonderflonium. Dr. Horrible also has a crush on a woman named Penny (Felicia Day), whom he adores from afar at the laundromat every week. (We learn all this by watching Dr. Horrible's video blog.)
Moist, his "evil moisture buddy," stops by and brings him some damp mail, which includes a letter from mob boss Bad Horse about Dr. Horrible's application to get into the Evil League of Evil. Dr. Horrible must commit a truly evil act to get into the League, or Bad Horse will make him his mare. Apparently, Bad Horse is an actual horse.
Dr. Horrible carries out his Wonderflonium heist the next day, but it nearly fails. He is first distracted by Penny, who is trying to get people to sign a petition to help the homeless (when he signs the petition to please her, he loses remote control of the van containing the Wonderflonium). Then Dr. Horrible is nearly foiled by his nemesis, the heroic Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion), who sort of rescues Penny. Penny, smitten, sings her gratitude to Captain Hammer as he holds Dr. Horrible by the throat and slams him against the stolen van. Dr. Horrible, terribly jealous, gets away with the Wonderflonium.
Weeks pass. Penny and Dr. Horrible, whom she knows as Billy, become friends and she tells him all about her dates with Captain Hammer. She doesn't realize that Captain Hammer is vain and shallow, cares nothing about her plans for helping the homeless, and plans to have sex with her just to get back at Dr. Horrible. Songs reveal that Dr. Horrible sees only the bad in everything, while Penny sees only the good and apparently, Captain Hammer only sees himself.
At a press conference where Captain Hammer is being honored, Dr. Horrible stops the Captain in time by using his freeze ray. But things go wrong, Hammer escapes, and Penny is killed. Dr. Horrible, who has inadvertently satisfied the qualifications, joins the Evil League of Evil and fulfills his destiny.
I thought it was going to be a romp. It felt like a romp when it started. A good man, full of despair about the state of the world, thought he wanted to become a supervillain. He fell in love with a good woman whom, we thought, would eventually show him the light. Instead, things went wrong, and he got a destiny of evil that he really didn't want. It was very funny, yes. But ultimately sad.
So you could say the story was about good and evil as shades of grey. Dr. Horrible was actually a good guy who flirted with evil until it took him over. Captain Hammer, his nemesis, was handsome and heroic, but was in truth an insensitive jerk. I thought the two would eventually switch roles, but they didn't. Penny was totally good but lacked perception; she couldn't see either man for who they really were. When she died, goodness literally died. The huge gloves Captain Hammer wore were a big clue to what he really was; he didn't touch anything and nothing touched him. In the last scene, Dr. Horrible changed his white scrubs to red, and donned Captain Hammer's huge black gloves. Message received.
The acting was top notch. Neil Patrick Harris made me feel for him, Nathan Fillion is always brilliant no matter what he does, and Felicia Day was very sweet and a perfect fit for the part. And the music was terrific. I kept humming and singing it after I saw each segment. All three leads sang well, but Neil Patrick Harris was excellent; he sang several passages that were quite difficult. The hardest section was probably in the wonderful montage where Dr. Horrible was fantasizing about doing terrible things to Captain Hammer. I just loved the huge Doctor stomping through the streets like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
I also loved the three cowboy background singers who popped in to sing about Bad Horse. In fact, Bad Horse was probably my favorite character. I had a lot of fun imagining him. I didn't think we'd ever actually see him, but in the end, there he was, at the head of the conference table at the Evil League of Evil. We didn't get to hear his evil whinny, though.
Frankly, just seeing Nathan Fillion in a tight tee-shirt jump on top of a van and burst into song made this video for me. I laughed out loud, a lot. And yet, I was seriously bummed by the ending. I know that's what Joss Whedon does the best, though. He gets us to laugh, he gets us to care, and then he breaks our hearts. Good job, sir.
Bits of Buffy:
-- Felicia Day also played Vi, one of the potentials, in season seven. And of course, we all know who Nathan Fillion was on Buffy as well as Firefly.
-- The NBN news anchors were Buffy writer/producers David Fury and Marti Noxon, who played the Mustard Man and Parking Ticket Woman in the Buffy musical. Some of the bad guys in the Evil League of Evil conference room were other Buffy writers.
-- Neil Patrick Harris reminded me of James Marsters as Spike several times. I don't know whether that was intentional or not. And the freeze ray reminded me of the Nerds of Doom in season six.
-- Penny was tossed into a pile of garbage bags at one point, as Cordelia was.
-- Dr. Horrible fantasized about being a giant stomping through the streets. Dawn just did that in a recent Buffy issue.
Dr. Horrible: "I mean, if you're going to get into the Evil League of Evil, you have to have a memorable laugh. What? Do you think Bad Horse didn't work on his whinny? (pause) His terrible death whinny?"
Dr. Horrible: "I got a letter from Bad Horse."
Moist: "That's so hard core. Bad Horse is legend. He rules with an iron hoof."
Moist: "Do you need anything dampened, or made soggy?"
Penny: "We would be able to provide two hundred and fifty new beds, get people off the streets and into job training (notices Dr. Horrible is distracted) so they could buy rocket packs, go to the moon, become florists..."
Dr. Horrible: "The fish rots from the head, so they say. So my thinking is, why not cut off the head?"
Penny: "Of the human race?"
Dr. Horrible: "It's not a perfect metaphor..."
Captain Hammer: (singing) "Yes, Captain Hammer's here, hair blowing in the breeze. The day needs my saving expertise."
Moist: "Look at me. I'm moist. At my most badass, I make people want to take a shower."
Dr. Horrible: "I want to do great things, you know? I want to be an achiever. Like Bad Horse."
Penny: "The thoroughbred of sin?"
Dr. Horrible: "I meant Gandhi."
Captain Hammer: (singing) "There's the deltoids of compassion, there's the abs of being kind. It's not enough to bash in heads, you've got to bash in minds."
Captain Hammer: (still singing) "Everyone's a hero in their own way. You and you and mostly me and youuuu...."
Will there be sequels? Will Dr. Horrible eventually redeem himself? I hope so,