We started this week with the second act of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, from the mind of Joss Wheadon. As we left Act I, Dr. Horrible had failed to steal that…mythical element, whatever it was. Of course, we find out (sensibly) that he actually succeeded — Captain Hammer was too busy wooing Penny to bother with, say, stopping the theft. Even though that’s what he started out to do. Girls. They do it to you every time.
So…freeze ray! Apparently that didn’t go over so well, from Dr. H’s blog entry. But other frozen things do, like the frozen yogurt that Captain Hammer buys Penny. Did I mention that Dr. Horrible is spying on their dates? He is. It would be creepy, but it’s tongue-in-cheek so it’s OK. Cleverly (or not!) Dr. Horrible brings along two frozen yogurts to the laundromat, where, feigning surprise at his good fortune (“but I only ordered one!”), he offers one to Penny. She buys it. Just when I was starting to like her she turns out to be a nit-wit.
Penny likes Captain Hammer, and she’s eager to tell Dr. Horrible about it. There’s a fantastic pie metaphor in there. No, really. The best pie metaphor ever. And speaking of metaphor, Captain Hammer shows up. The two nemeses pretend not to know each other while Penny is around, but when she goes off to grab her clothes (she’s at the laundromat, you perv!), Captain Hammer acknowledges Dr. H. and begins to tell him all about the things he’s going to do to Penny with his Hammer.
I think Dr. Horrible might actually try to KILL Captain Hammer. We’ll see next week!
The feature presentation was a quirky little film called Repo: The Genetic Opera. “Quirky” might actually be a bit of an understatement. It’s a Goth Rock Opera. And hey, you gotta give that kind of thing a shot.
It starts out strong, with a long expositionary sequences done entirely in stylish comic-book-style splash screens. It is the future (because any good Goth Rock Opera needs to take place in the future) and an epidemic of organ failures has hit the planet. Livers, kidneys, hearts, spinal cords, brains…seems like nothing lasts a day beyond the manufacturer’s warranty in the future. Fortunately for the human race (and for the Largo family) GeneCo has sprung up as the best darn organ transplant business around. You name it, they’ll transplant it, and this does appear to include brains and spinal cords. I mean, nice job, guys. They’ve really got the biology nailed. The success of GeneCo has made the Largo family, led by founder Rotti Largo, into the de facto leaders of the world. It may be a very small, dirty world that consists of about three streets and where it’s always, always nighttime, but they are the leaders. And they’re gracious, to an extent. They’ll finance your organ transplant, no questions asked. But if you fall behind on the payments…? They send the Repo Man after you, and he takes the organ back. (“But I’m still using it,” Mr. Brown from The Meaning Of Life says, and it becomes evident whence came one inspiration for this film.)
In fact, the comic book exposition seemed to go on entirely too long. I say “seemed” because once the exposition stopped, something else happened.
The music started.
And we’re treated to our narrator the Grave Robber, also known as Ché Guevara. Well, if Ché were in pastyface makeup and had an enormous chinbutt. And wrote the screenplay. But seriously, I bring up Ché because it was painfully obvious (at least it seemed that way to me) that the filmakers had two intents in making this film. One was to deliberately make a cult film. The second was to make a movie that combined the best elements of Queensrÿche’s Operation Mindcrime and Evita. I’ll leave the Mindcrime allusions to the rock opera fans, but our marginally inserted narrator was so obviously Ché that it wasn’t funny. But where Ché opens that musical with the evocative:
“Oh, what a circus, oh, what a show!/Argentina has come to town over the death of an actress called Eva Peron/We’ve all gone crazy, moaning all day and moaning all night/Falling over ourselves to get all of the misery right”
the Grave Robber kind of misses the boat:
“REEEPO MAAAN! REEEPO MAAAN!/OUT FROM THE NIGHT, FROM THE MIST, STEPS THE FIGURE/NO ONE REALLY KNOWS HIS NAME FOR SURE/HE STANDS AT SIX-FOOT-SIX, HEAD AND SHOULDERS/PRAY HE NEVER COMES KNOCKING AT YOUR DOOR!/SAY THAT YOU ONCE BOUGHT A HEART, OR NEW CORNEAS/BUT SOMEHOW NEVER MANAGED TO SQUARE AWAY YOUR DEBTS/HE WON’T BOTHER TO WRITE OR TO PHONE YOU/HE’LL JUST RIP THE STILL-BEATING HEART FROM YOUR CHEST!”
Sorry about the all-caps, but that’s how the page I ripped this from had it. Either way it’s garish. And it doesn’t get any better.
Oh, and there’s no way the Repo Man is 6’6″. More like 5’10”. They just didn’t really bother on that one. Anyway, I could go on and on, but I’d rather try to give you a feel for the film in one big long messy sentence, with pictures. [deep breath]
The Grave Robber, whose job is to extract a glowing, heroin-like substance out of the noses of corpses with a syringe but who otherwise does not belong in this movie
harrasses our heroine Shilo while she is mid-vigil at her mother’s grave, which is totally not OK because she’s very sick and has an overbearing if loving father Nathan Wallace who keeps her locked up all day and night (or night and night as the case appears to be)
while he goes about secretly being the ruthless Repo Man for Rotti Largo, who once loved Shilo’s mother but slyly brought about her drug-induced death during Shilo’s childbirth after she left him for Nathan, who for some reason not only blames himself for the death but also inexplicably has found himself bound to Rotti as a result, all the while ignorant of the terminally-ill Rotti’s plans to have Shilo become his heir because his own children have turned out so badly, one a homicidal maniac, one a face-transplanted freak
and one not only literally Paris Hilton but also a surgery-addicted floozy whose only ambition is to take over the lead singing role at the Genetic Opera (yes, it’s a real thing)
after the retirement of the current lead, Blind Mag, who was a friend of Shilo’s mother and who received LCD projector eyes from GeneCo and now wants to bow out of her contractually-obligated Genetic Opera gig
forcing Largo to send her former friend Nathan the Repo Man after her, a job he refuses at the peril of crossing not only the most powerful man in the world, but one who is capable of spilling false secrets about Nathan’s late wife’s death and true secrets about her father’s invidious “medicine” and identity to Nathan’s daughter (who he has now written into his will as heir in some sick pseudo-godfather fantasy) while on the stage of the Genetic Opera, a plan that Largo sees through to a bloody fruition that includes the obvious impalement of Blind Mag on a wrought iron fence, the obvious process of Shilo rejecting her father when she finds out his secrets then reconciling once he is fatally shot and the most obvious gagworthy death scene ever recorded on camera before the unexpected and anticlimactic death of Rotti himself as he simply falls over dead at the end of things for no reason other than being terminally ill. [gasp!]
That’s your movie. Shilo rejects the inheritance of GeneCo, which is supposed to be noble, but by the end of this thing if you’re like me you really don’t care. You’re just glad it’s over.
The problems with the film are manifold, including a hopelessly convoluted plot and overdone (albeit well done) scenery and lighting filters and goth ambience. But in the end, it all comes down to the libretto, and the libretto, to put it mildly, sucks. Both the music and the lyrics. The music is piecemeal — according to fans Repo boasts the most individual songs ever put into a single film, but this is largely because every other phrase that is sung is considered its own song. And why not — there’s absolutely no musical continuity, no flow of melody, not a single memorable musical phrase. A week after the film, and not only could I not sing one word, but if you were to show me an alternate version of the film with the same lyrics sung to entirely different music (if you could get me to sit through it), I would probably not notice the difference. Yet, they insist on singing EVERY WORD. Even if it’s a single, one syllable word. Just find a note. The lyrics are no better, coming in somewhere between no-brow and banal.
I hoped it would be a cool film, and for a while, it was. But following the intro, the cool factor died very quickly as the “real” movie started.
But, in order to get my obligatory RAM chip, I will point out that for all this movie’s faults, the one thing it lacked was a cast that was mailing it in. Oftentimes when they star in something that has clearly become dreck, established actors (and there are several here, including Paul Sorvino) will collect their paycheck and go (see: Richard Grieco, Phantom Force) but the cast here seemed to truly believe they were on to something. Every note, every line was delivered with gusto as if all the king’s men could somehow piece together the eggshell with enough conscientious effort. Well, they couldn’t, but God bless ’em, they tried.