Not Impressed - SW - mata090680

'Dr. Horrible' Thoughts, As Promised

I meant to post a couple days ago, but, well, stuff came up. And I didn't want to post a really bitchy post and I thought waiting a bit may soften my opinion. When that didn't seem to be happening, I figure I better just get my thoughts out. ;)

I think it’s time to fess up. I’m just not as enamored with Joss Whedon as many seem to be. I believe him to be a talented man. I still consider myself a fan of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. He’s done good work and, occasionally, brilliant work. To successfully combine genres - comedy, drama, horror, sci-fi, and fantasy - you have to have real talent. But the man has made creative missteps. Or grown bored, moved on to the Next Big Thing, and left his other work to suffer and the fans with it. I also believe that after greatly admiring the work of certain individuals only to later discover they simply had one great idea and not much else going for them (I'm looking at you George Lucas and Chris Carter) I learned not to become too enamored with creators/writers/showrunners. It’s why I remain critical of Ron Moore. The “reimagined” Battlestar Galactica could have been a disaster in someone else’s hands, yet Ron’s vision hasn’t been perfect.

I felt I needed to state I’m still a fan of Joss Whedon’s work before saying I was not impressed by Dr. Horrible. The songs were well written, a few even were catchy. The actors did an excellent job in their roles. But there was nothing particularly original about this creation. Buffy was unlike anything on TV before. Angel, while similar to Buffy in ways, still felt different. And Firefly resembled neither show beyond Joss’s gift for snappy dialogue. Dr Horrible was a Buffy rehash to me - ‘Once More with Feeling’ meets ‘Storyteller’. Only this time the wanna be supervilian wins, sort of.

When is Joss going to realize that killing off characters in the closing moments is no longer a shocking twist when he does it all the time? There was Anya and Spike (though I’m not certain we can count Spike given his resurrection). And Lindsey and Wes. Then Book and Wash. Now, poor Penny. I have no problem killing off major characters, even beloved characters. I’m in the minority of those that loved the Angel finale. I don’t believe they all died, but, if they did, it would seem fitting to me that a group trying for so long to fight the good fight, no matter how hopeless it seemed, would go out fighting. But Penny’s death, much like Wash’s, played as a ‘gotcha’ moment, one meant to jar and upset the audience. And though Joss believes himself a supporter of feminism, Penny becomes the helpless victim, sacrificed to show a victorious, but brokenhearted Horrible that you should be careful what you wish for. Why not have Penny see Hammer *and* Horrible's true selves and have her walk out of both men's lives?

Prior to Penny's death, I had planned to rewatch the series (or do we call it something else?). As with all of Joss's work, there are always layers, nuances and messages missed upon initial viewing. But when I came to the end, which left me going, “Again?!”, I just lost any interest in rewatching the whole thing. The more I actually think about it, the more it pisses me off. As I was discussing with Beccatoria Joss is just not as clever as he believes himself to be and I fear he’s fallen victim to buying into the adoration of fans and critics. I’m even more wary of Dollhouse now. I wasn’t wowed by what I’d read of the premise and I find Joss’s admiration of Eliza Dushku's acting perplexing. Mostly, I’m just looking forward to seeing Tahmoh Penikett in something other than BSG.
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Thanks for the link. :)

Usually, death in the Whedonverse is "meaningless and arbitrary," but this is "the old brew."

What? This is his defense? Does he hear the words coming out of his mouth?

The only Whedon I've seen is Firefly, so Dr. Horrible didn't feel like a rerun for me. I kind of give Joss a pass on not having Penny be a strong independent character, because well not all women are and Joss has given us more than his fair share.

Killing Penny off was a shock, but I kind of feel like if Dr. Horrible was going to become horrible, he'd need a tortured backstory. It seemed to fit with the parody of the superhero genre. The format felt irreverent and fresh.

But who knows, I may just feel this way because I'm not as familiar as you are with earlier Joss creations. Familiarity breeds contempt?

As for Dollhouse, I've never seen her in anything so I have no clue, but I loved Firefly (which didn't last long enough for Joss to lose interest, I guess) so we'll see.
Other than both featuring Nathan, it's hard to draw comparisons between this and Firefly. ;) I think if you had seen Buffy, then you'd see that he borrowed heavily from the show that made him famous. Dr. Horrible seemed like nothing more than an extension of a trio of geeks who set out to make themselves super villains, destroy the hero (or, heroine, Buffy), and take over Sunnydale. An innocent young woman even got killed in the process. And, in one episode, instead of a video blog, we had one of the trio do a video diary. So I ended up waiting for an interesting twist on material Joss had already covered and it never happened.
Funnily enough, your issues with Joss is something I just recently was chatting about. Not concerning Dr. Horrible, but concerning Dollhouse. While, sure, I'm concerned about Dushku being able to handle a lead with her limited abilities, my main concerns are about the actual concept and writing. Cause while I love Buffy, nothing Joss has done since has ever measured up in comparison. Not for me, at least. In fact my enjoyment has progressively dwindled as his career has gone on. I wasn't the greatest fan of Angel, I didn't like Firefly, I really dislike his comic book ventures. I did have some spikes in there with Serenity and Dr. Horrible, but I found myself surprised by that actually. Because part of me does worry that Joss may suffer from that Lucas syndrome where he only has one story to tell and he'll keep telling it. Was it you I gave that Marge Simpson's Chanel suit metaphor to in my Indiana Jones post?

Like I said, i feel differently about Dr. Horrible. That while, yes, he is notorious for the "surprise" death at this point (and often it's the death of the love interest for the "greater good"), upon rewatching, it didn't feel as out of nowhere or gut-punching as I felt in my intital viewing. It felt like it made sense and it seemed like the only way Dr. Horrible could ever be successful was this sacrifice. It was an either or thing there. But, yes, it could've had Penny walking away, however,I think what was lost in my first watch of the web series were the darker notes and the preludes to this death. Actually molly_may said that all much better in her own review post, so hee, I'll just send you that way :P

But I do agree with your idea that while Joss is talented and I'd only wish him success, I've never been a Joss worshiper and I think he is in danger of that Lucas syndrome. Of becoming too enamored with his own cleverness and his own vision of how he wants his audience to respond. I do think he's more than a one trick pony if he actually took chances with his creativity. I'm just curious if he's actually brave enough to do so. I guess we'll see.

I'm glad you posted your thoughts here and my god, you were able to do a review on something with a differing perspective without insulting all those that enjoyed the web series. How ever do you manage? Could you give some lessons???
While, sure, I'm concerned about Dushku being able to handle a lead with her limited abilities, my main concerns are about the actual concept and writing.

Yeah, I, too, am more concerned about the concept. While the majority of the 'dolls' seem to be female, it's the idea of any human being having their identities taken from them and being used to fulfill people's fantasies or do their dirty work that I find troublesome.

Was it you I gave that Marge Simpson's Chanel suit metaphor to in my Indiana Jones post?

No, but I liked it! :)

It felt like it made sense and it seemed like the only way Dr. Horrible could ever be successful was this sacrifice.

And maybe that was Joss's attempt at being different - creating a character not on a path to redemption? Horrible allowed his desire for power to blind him to the consequences of his actions and Penny's death did not change his plans or lesson his ambition. Yet, contradicting that, Horrible was horrified when asked to murder someone. And, at the very end, he looked defeated as he realized he lost a chance at love and being loved. It would seem to set up a continuation in which Horrible seeks to make amends and then we have another Angel or Spike on our hands.

I do think he's more than a one trick pony if he actually took chances with his creativity. I'm just curious if he's actually brave enough to do so. I guess we'll see.

You hit the nail on the head. For all the hype of this being something new and innovative (and, sure, it is in terms of distribution and marketing) this wasn't a challenge at all for Joss, the writer. Geeks trying to take over the world. Narcissistic heroes. People breaking out into song. He'd done it all before.
I always welcome a diversity of opinion. I have to say, I resisted Dr. Horrible at first. Mostly to be contrary. Everyone kept saying how great it was. I just thought, it's a cheesy musical. I ignored the fact that I like cheesy musicals a lot because I didn't want to like another one. I didn't get why he did it, either. Why not do a real musical? (This was before I read his rationale at the website.)

But then one night I got bored. So I watched the first one. I was like, "Meh." Just what I thought, cheesy musical. Cheery and sweet but whatever. Then I watched the second one. I really liked Penny, but remained unmoved. Then I was spoiled for the third. I liked it anyway. So no shock or anything. I don't always understand what people mean about Joss. I wasn't involved with Buffy fandom though I watched and loved both Buffy and Angel very much.

So killing people off is considered cliche? Hmm. A Joss thing? Other show creators and writers do it too, no? I guess it's been so long since Buffy, I didn't even really think about that while watching this. I just watched Dr. Horrible on its own. I never gave Buffy or Angel a second thought. (I've never seen that last ep of Angel but I gather from fanvids what happened.)

I liked Penny and she was my favorite. But being spoiled, her death didn't shock me. I'll miss her but it was only a 39 minute show. I liked it but wasn't that invested. What really made me get into it for 24 hours was the fact that it was going away. I knew I wouldn't download it or buy the DVD or iTunes or any of that. So I played Act II many times Sunday night. It was fun and I do like show tunes.

So that's me! Sucked in by the gimmick. I'm such a consumer. But I like the idea of enjoying something very much for a short while and then never seeing it again. Like real musicals on stage. I can't really remember the melodies now, but I was inspired enough at the time to obtain an icon. And I sang those songs lots at that time. So catchy. :-) Was it the greatest musical I've ever seen? No, but I was very amused and entertained by it.
I can understand people enjoying it. And I agree some of the songs were quite catchy. I think my problem is Buffy was my first online fandom and I was heavily immersed in it. I analyzed and debated the episodes endlessly, fought over the importance of certain characters and their actions, and got sucked into the world of fanfic. Being so close to the material, I just see far too many similarities between Buffy and Horrible. Does that make Horrible, well, horrible? No. I'm just not seeing anything new.

Plenty of other writers kill off characters. Ron Moore springs to mind. ;) The difference is you know on BSG there will be a high body count. Ron reminds us of that regularly in podcasts and interviews. I think the difference, for me, is that it's really hard for Ron to have to kill off a character. He's repeatedly talked about how difficult it is to let the character and actor go. But, with Joss, there is almost a sense of glee at killing off, unexpectedly, a character people love. He enjoys jerking the audience around. And several of the deaths on his series either were either unnecessary or didn't make sense in terms of the story. It's not that Joss kills off characters, it's the how and why of it., at least for me.
I don't think you're a minority. OK, there's been a lot of squeeing. There's also been a LOT of posts like yours. (And then there's me - and a few others - who can't actually bring ourselves to care enough to actually write anything. *g* Although if I did, I'd put forwards an argument that Dr Horrible is a thinly disguised Christian Morality Tale!)
I was on the fence about posting. Not just because I felt I was in the minority, but because I really didn't have a lot to say. I was unmoved by the entire production. But, hey, the public demanded I post, so I posted. ;)
I liked Dr Horrible, but I didn't like the end. Plus Captain Hammer really annoyed me. So I guess my opinion was mixed. It wasn't an 'it's gonna be great because Joss wrote it' piece, but it was fun in many places. I think he spoiled it with the ending cause it left me all conflicted as to how I was meant to feel. Maybe he was setting it up for sequels, or maybe, like you said, he just likes to leave the viewer unsettled. That wouldn't be surprising.

I still plan to buy the dvd just to see all the extras!
I liked Captain Hammer, but that was because of Nathan and what he brought to the role. Hammer was such an obnoxious, self-absorbed ham and Nathan was obviously having a lot of fun with that. Come to think of it, Hammer was the most original character in the production. I can't really compare him to any of Joss's past creations.

I think he spoiled it with the ending cause it left me all conflicted as to how I was meant to feel.

Yep. I thought this was going to be a feel good experience and suddenly, and jarringly, Joss veered off in a completely different direction. I think the problem is Joss has always managed, pretty successfully, to mix the serious with the humorous and, here, it was all humorous up until the last two minutes or so.
haven't seen the show, but i think i'm gonna be in an even smaller minority when i'll say that i never liked joss whedon's work. everybody around me loves the guy, but he does nothing for me. on the contrary, actually. firefly was okay, but completely forgettable as far as i'm concerned. saw it last year, and the only thing i remember about it is that i wanted to strangle summer glau's character.

this comment probably didn't help much, but there, i've come out and finally said it: i don't think joss whedon is a genius. :)
Give me this chick's address! I'm coming for you, missy!!!!

BLASPHEMY! Burn her at the stake!

(oh wait, I guess you could be a guy... hmmm)
Yet another thing we are brain twins on. :) I guess this means I should give Supernatural a try at some point. ;)

And then, I'm also concerned that this will turn into the same old thing, as well.

I'm willing to bet money that I'll really like Tahmoh Penikett's character and he'll DIE. :p
" I don’t believe they all died"

Actually, none of them died, not even Wesley, really. He and Fred/Illyria are going to get back together in the comic books evidently. One of the team is a vampire now, but it's not Angel.

I'm not expecting much from Whedon in the future. He's pretty much tapped the faux-feminism angle as far as he can, so when he revisits it, it's kind of pointless.
Yeah, Gunn's a vamp. I heard. I was just referring to how the show ended and not the comic continuation which it seems most people would like to ignore. Again, I fear he's becoming like Lucas and is unable to let past projects go.
The vast majority of people on my flist didn't like or even hated part 3 of Dr.H for the very reasons you mention, particularly the fact that the only major female character was essentially a plot device with breasts.

particularly the fact that the only major female character was essentially a plot device with breasts.

And if you follow the link Gobi Rex provided above, you'll see Joss all but admits that. :/
Yeah, you already know I agree with you! But I think you really nailed it by saying that Penny's death sort of...killed any enthusiasm I had for rewatching it which I had been considering as an idle thought prior to that event. And I wish that weren't the case but it I think the worst bit is I honestly didn't think she was going to die because I didn't think Joss Whedon would be that...obvious? Or...something? Like I really thought that she'd get saved somehow but then leave Horrible anyway, or go off and be her own supervillain/hero. Or just something. Anything. Which in retrospect was rather silly of me, but there you have it. So there was a feeling of not just disappointment but exhausted eyerolling at myself too? I don't know.

I'm not a big enough Buffy fan to know all the episodes, so I'm not familiar with Storyteller though I do know and like Once More With Feelings (even if Xena did the whole musical episode thing first, I think!)

But I know that when I watched it my first thought was that the whole Supervillain Blog thing had already been done on YouTube (Skeletor's blog), and that The Specials is a far cleverer real-person-made-on-a-budget take on the Superhero genre. Neither of which is intended to suggest that this project couldn't have been valid or original or surpassed the numerous other similar things out there, but it certainly wasn't the first project of this type. And a lot of people seem to be under the impression that it was? Or perhaps this is mainly because I have mainly been speaking to people about it away from LJ where awareness of these sorts of geeky things are far lower?
I thought it's not even the length of a TV episode, he couldn't possibly find time to kill anyone....oh, wait. According to the i09 article linked above, Penny was just a plot device. Joy. That makes me feel so much better. :p

'Storyteller' featured Andrew, one of the trio of geeky villains from Season 6 who ended up working (sort of) with Buffy in Season 7, doing a video diary which is a precursor to the video blog. So, imho, Joss just ripped off himself.
So here's my minority opinion. :) I really liked Dr. Horrible. I thought it was funny and the songs are catchy (I must sing "there will be blood, it might be yours, go kill someone, signed Bad Horse" to myself a thousand times a day), NPH nailed both the comedy and the tragedy of his part, Bad Horse was an actual horse, the fangrrrrrls were hilarious and the Bad Horse singers were even better, and my favourite character not only survived the entire show (something I'm really not used to with Joss), but prospered (you go Moist, get yourself some groupie action at the supervilian hangout). All in all, nothing to hate.

I was not a Penny fan, partly because she was a plot device with breasts and partly because she was boring and stupid and I'm rarely on the side of "good" in my escapism. I may have laughed out loud when she lay dying, except her little comment about Captain Hammer saving them. It made Dr. Horrible's face wibble and I may have shouted "kill her more" and then done a small victory dance when she died. I may have some residual rage issues from working with the public all summer.

Anyway, I didn't expect much going in and I was pleasantly surprised by the show. Also, how fabulous will the outtakes/gag reel be on the DVD? I'd have to say, fairly fabulous.
I am glad you found time and inclination to post this. I agree with much of what you said, except with differing results. I think being familiar with what he's done with Buffy and revisiting these themes albeit with some newish twists actually made the experience richer for me. I do see evolution here. Like Billy's comment about Doctor Hammer having three layers where the deepest layer is the same as the exterior, it's true of him as well. He is a geeky, socially awkward guy unhappy with the status quo, but essentially a good guy. He insists early on his freeze ray is NOT a death ray. He doesn't want kids to get hurt in the park in a potential rumble with the poseur in a parka. He wants social change. He tries to save Captain Hammer when his weapon goes wrong, and lest we forget, it's actually Hammer that hurts himself and ultimately kills Penny when he refuses to listen and pulls the trigger.

Also, I don't have issues with Penny being a plot device. It's within the spirit of the superhero/villian genre. And we knew as soon as we got the second letter from Bad Horse saying someone must die that someone would. I thought letting Hammer live was inspired. And Penny's accidental death at Hammer's hands unwittingly gave Billy everything he thought he wanted but at too great a cost. It's almost Faustian. I thought it was an inspired retelling of a very classic tragic story, not lazy writing. Look at Miss Saigon, for example. Revisionist (and quite possibly more emotional punch) Madame Butterfly. West Side Story. Revisionist Romeo and Juliet. Hell, even Strange Brew was revisionist Hamlet. Didn't make it any less enjoyable, and knowing the subtext actually made it all the funnier. There's nothing wrong with the classics.

And while I share your worries about Dushku (she was very one-note as Faith) this left me actually *more* hopeful about Dollhouse since I haven't watched any Joss (excepting Toy Story with my kids) since 2005 and I had forgotten on a visceral level how much I enjoyed his writing.
I wasn't expecting much because Joss didn't exactly devote a whole lot of time to this. He wrote it during the writers strike I think, right? I was pleasantly suprised and entertained. That's about all I ask for nowadays. Unless you're Wonder Woman, it seems to me that in most superhero/villian stories, the female characters are usually plot devices with breasts. And Wonder Woman has those too. It's just not surprising to me. As for killing off major characters, I don't like it. However, my fandom started with Highlander, the Series, and TPTB felt compelled to kill off Richie Ryan, MacLeod's little buddy. I learned then, no matter how much I hated it, all bets were off. Also, Horrible amounted to less than an hour. Nothing for me to get invested over.

I was a Buffy watcher from the beginning. Just like Aaron Sorkin, and a lot of other creators, Joss has certain things that carry over to other projects, but I really didn't think about anything other than what I was watching.

I don't think Joss is a one trick pony. Angel was just different enough from Buffy, and Firefly, completely different from both. But, do I think he's probably believing his own press and the adulation of fans that think he can walk on water? lol Yes. That happens to them all eventually. Pride goeth before the fall and all that jazz, so we'll see with "Dollhouse".

One thing I will always give Joss props for, though...and I appreciate it all the more after the creator of "Gilmore Girl's" turned it into a horrible mess,and thought TPTB would give her what she wanted to come back and fix it only to see her walk away when they didn' when many fans were unhappy with S6 Buffy, he took the blame. As well he should have as the creator, but he didn't throw Marti under the bus either. That alone makes me give Joss the benefit of the doubt. Sorry for that run on sentence above. LynnB says I really need to stop transfering and let it go. LOL

Edited at 2008-07-27 01:07 am (UTC)
I got linked to this elsewhere, and can I just say that I heartily agree? I was planning on rewatching Buffy, too, but...after Dr. Horrible, I'm having a hard time mustering up the energy.