Best. Web. Series. Ever.
The WGA strike in 2007-2008 wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Hear me out, as I now have two reasons to say this. First, the second season of 'Heroes' was mercifully cut in half, as that horrendous pile of concentrated suck (and every episode that followed, really) ruined the delicious taste the first season left in my mouth. Second, the strike opened the door for 'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog,' a three part miniature film that aired over the internet, written by Zack and Jed Whedon (along with Maurissa Tancharoen), and was also written and directed by Joss Whedon. You know, the guy who gets cancelled on Fox more regularly than Fox actually produces a good program. Anyways...42 minutes, divided in three acts. A miniature cast, featuring Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, Nathan Fillion, and Simon Helberg. A show that won a 2009 Emmy Award. All that, and singing, lots of singing.
It's so very, very win.
Dr. Horrible (Harris), also known as Billy, is an aspiring super villain, looking to earn entry into the Evil League of Evil, headed by the dreaded Bad Horse. He's also aspiring to win the heart of Penny (Day), a fellow laundromat customer with whom he can hardly strike up a conversation. During a daring heist of a case full of wonderflonium, a chemical needed to complete his Freeze Ray, Dr. Horrible accidentally sets Penny up to be saved by the heroic Captain Hammer (Fillion), and the pair begin to date, much to Horrible's dismay.
After failing to gain the notoriety needed to earn entry into the ELE, Dr. Horrible is left with no choice but to kill Captain Hammer, which will work in his favor two-fold, eliminating the man who constantly thwarts his attempts at criminal behavior (and kicks the shit out of Billy instead of jailing him), and eliminating his roadblock to Penny's heart. As is the case with everything Dr. Horrible touches, things won't always work as so deviously planned.
'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog' is pure awesome. This has to be emphasized, especially considering the lackluster history Whedon brought to the table, one that brought forth devoted fans, but little in the way ratings. Going into this release, I was both excited and nervous, considering how great Harris has been ever since his career resurrection in 'Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle' (though his voice performance as Spider-Man in the MTV animated series was enjoyable, as well), and how thoroughly I found Whedon's works to be overhyped. Still glowing from the experience, I suddenly understand why the DVD sold so very well on Amazon.com (which was initially the exclusive distributor).
'Dr. Horrible' throws the musical genre on its head, with such a simplistic set up, no real introduction beyond the viewers seeing a random entry in Dr. Horrible's blog, and a segue from an email Q&A session to singing out of the blue, in a laundromat of all places. Dr. Horrible is about the furthest thing from Dr. Doom, as he's just trying to make a living, in a sense. His best friend, Moist (Helberg), has the power to turn everything he touches really, really wet, like that sweaty guy that's impossible to guard when you're playing basketball in the park, since you really don't want to touch him. Billy has aspirations, huge ones, but he's such an incompetent nit that he doesn't even need Captain Hammer to show up for his plans (or inventions) to fizzle.
The love story works well. The sweet and naive demeanor on display by Day, and the polar opposite hero and villain posturing towards the idealistic neighborhood girl is certainly engrossing. The way Hammer composes himself, you can't help but root for the main character, no matter his intentions, as, ironically, his heart is the purest one of the bunch. Best of all, it seems Harris is left to just do what he does best: entertain, as he leads this tiny cast in every way, with the best range in his musical performances, as well as his body language which is, as always, spot on. He's believable, with his moments of self-revelation (and his complete lack of comprehension as to the circumstances of his actions and bloggings), as well as his plight, a fight he cannot feasibly win, facing the perfect face of justice, who just so happens to be a bully.
Full of hilarious lines, superb performances (particularly by Harris, of course), and an extremely fun atmosphere that sucks the viewer right in, it's hard not to love this little quirky creation, and it's no wonder a sequel is in the works. 'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog' is a step in the right direction for cinema, showing that it doesn't take ridiculously huge blockbuster ensemble casts, expansive sets, or explosive special effects to be a success, as quality writing alone can win the war, and the hearts of viewers. Shoe string budgets are the easiest to recoup (see: 'Clerks,' 'Paranormal Activity'), and if the show bombs, it's not as though millions of dollars are lost and a studio crippled. A fun and merry take on the superhero genre, with the villain that's impossible to hate, and the hero that's easy to loathe, 'Dr. Horrible' is inventive and silly enough to easily stand head and shoulder above the recent crop of comedies, and while it isn't a $100 million box office bonanza, it's an attention grabber if ever there were one, for all the right reasons.
While the show itself may be the opposite of horrible, the video for 'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog' is average at best. The 1080p VC-1 encode at 1.78:1 didn't really do much for me. Colors aren't the least bit bold, while reds are unintentionally fuzzy. Delineation is wimpy, and crushing occurs even in red hair that's just slightly in the shadows. Whites aren't too clean either, with the tiniest noise to the picture not helping matters. Facial features, like stubble on Harris, are a blur. Artifacting is present, though it isn't all that major (unless you watch the end credits, then it's really friggin' bad). Contrast levels are bland and far from praiseworthy. Grain levels flutter a bit, as well. All that said, there's no banding, no apparent DNR or digital manipulation, and no real edge enhancement issues. This release just seems like it's destined to look half baked.
The packaging for 'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog' only indicates there is a 5.1 surround mix, and includes the Dolby Digital insignia. It's wrong, thankfully. There are two DTS options (with no Dolby in sight), with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix defaulting, and a DTS 2.0 version available as well (alongside a small variety of subtitles).
Honestly, 'Dr. Horrible' doesn't sound too amazing. I normally will snatch up any musical on Blu-ray (and at times, it burns, due to stinkers like 'Mamma Mia!'), and I can say that what is presented here lacks the presence of nearly every other musical. I can't honestly hold that against this release, though, considering the budget and reason this show even exists. Dialogue is always clear, both spoken and sung, and even in harmonies, both parts come through cleanly. That in itself is an accomplishment, considering two converging sets of lyrics, background music, and discrete effects all come through perfect in those moments. Rears get a nice bleed from musical sequences, and the tiniest, tiniest bit of ambience, that seemingly exists only to exist. Bass presence isn't too strong, but it pops up on a couple of occasions with some nice little bumps. Dynamic range isn't amazing, but there's no feedback or background distortion to distract one from enjoying this film, and this audio track. It's not amazing, but the audio for 'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog' easily earns a passing grade.
The supplement package for 'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog' is somewhat funny, in that the extras go from absolutely amazing to astonishingly abysmal in five seconds flat.
I love Dr. Horrible, and his completely illogical take on villainy. Joss Whedon has a rabid fan following, and for the life of me I never quite understood why. He was the Arby's value menu of film/television directors in my eyes for many years. Now...well, he might be a $3.29 sandwich, made with double the meat bladder goodness.
'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog' is the kind of show that will either connect completely with its audience, or fall on deaf ears, perhaps even literally. Personally, I see this title replacing 'Repo! The Genetic Opera' as one of the most played Blu-rays in my household. With average video, and fairly good audio, alongside extras that are both amazing and life threateningly awful, this title is easy to recommend, especially with the low MSRP bringing some great pre-order pricing.