One of the blogs I read directed its readers’ attention to Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which stars Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion. Here’s the trailer:

I love this Internet mini-series! Joss Whedon is, of course, the man behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly (which is one of the best sci-fi series ever), and Serenity. I loved the musical episode of Buffy. I even bought the soundtrack cd! Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog brings a similar aesthetic to the story of a geeky villain, played by Neil Patrick Harris, who has a crush on a woman at his laundromat, Penny, played by Felicia Day. Dr. Horrible’s nemesis, Captain Hammer, played by Nathan Fillion, however, comes between them when it appears that he’s saved Penny from being run over by a van.

The thing I like most about this series is its interest in human nature, a frequent theme in Whedon’s work. What makes us human? What makes someone like Dr, Horrible essentially human? Is it more human to try to do good, even if you’re kind of a jerk, or to do evil, even if you’re kind of a shy, geek? Whedon is great at combining this theme with comedy and songs that make you want to sing along.

Throughout his evil planning, Dr. Horrible keeps a video blog, a tongue-in-cheek motif that immediately establishes Dr Horrible’s perspective as our own. We’re further won over by his geeky charm and inability to express his true love for Penny, despite almost stalking her for over a month.

When Dr. Horrible finally breaks out in song, it’s a real joy to watch. As in the Buffy episode, Whedon is great at lyrics. He uses the songs to reveal integral aspects of the characters’ thoughts, feelings, and character. They’re also really catchy. I can’t decide which song from Buffy I like best, but I found clips of my two favorites on YouTube:

I always liked the Spike-Buffy love story better than Angel-Buffy, even though that’s sacrilege to other fans. And Anya’s bunny phobia is great. Anyway, these songs give a sense of Whedon’s turn of phrase and way with lyrics.

But back to Dr. Horrible, Captain Hammer enters the picture singing as well. As played by Fillion and written by Whedon, Hammer is an egotistical misanthrope with a cheesy exterior. He’s more interested in giving Penny a good look at his “hammer” after their date than in saving the world from evil. We’re quickly left wondering which is the real menace, Captain Hammer or Dr. Horrible, who really only wants to get into the Evil League of Evil and to win Penny’s heart. What’s so wrong about that?

All three leads are great. Neil Patrick Harris is wonderful in his role as the mad scientist gone comically bad. I’ve never had the chance to hear him sing before. He’s great! He should do more musicals. He’s had a great career resurgence since coming out publicly and now he’s received another Emmy nomination. I don’t watch How I Met Your Mother, but I may have to start just to see him.

Fillion is also good as the arrogant, swaggering “hero.” In a way, his character here is an amped up, slightly twisted version of Mal, the captain of the ship Serenity on Firefly. But where Mal was likable and truly heroic, Captain Hammer is kind of a prick. Fillion sings really well too.

And finally Day is excellent as the shy young woman swept off her feet by a misconception and youthful idealism. Her list of credits includes a season on Buffy, but I don’t remember her. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for her in other projects as well now.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is a great summer treat! I can’t wait for episode 3.