Masters of the Universe first screened in 1987 to mostly negative reviews. He-Man and his Mattel compatriots have had a minor resurgence in recent years thanks to various 80’s properties becoming popular yet again like Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Voltron. With the announcement of a new Masters of the Universe movie coming in 2019 and the 30th anniversary of the original, we decided to see… is it worth another look?
This movie had the potential to be something special for its time, a fantasy tale full of interesting creatures and lore. We did get glimpses of that during the parts of the film set within the realm of Eternia, with some of the best set pieces and monster designs of the time. However, where the movie really lost footing was in the transition to the real world. How many times must Hollywood decide to take these types of characters and mix them with the human world *cough Transformers cough*? It very rarely works. This introduces us to two humans that we don’t really care for at all in Julie (Courtney Cox) and Kevin (Robert Duncan Mcneill). They serve as the plot device for why the Eternian’s wind up on earth in the first place, the cosmic key. All of the fantasy and whimsy that occur in the opening scene get ripped away within the first 15 minutes of the movie.Additionally silly is the mixture of magic and laser guns. He-Man has his sword of power, which is fantastic to see him actually swing and clobber enemies, but instead of using it he decides to shoot a laser gun frequently. It seemed that the movie was trying to mix in various elements of popular science fiction films like Star Wars, to the point that Skeletor’s hencemen felt like they were Imperial Troopers. The purpose appeared to be trying to add bright colours and action that may not have been present with fist and sword fighting.Dolph Lundgren was perfectly cast as He-Man, he has the size and body for the role and it’s excusable that his acting ability isn’t as strong as it could be. It blends with the overall performances in the film so it doesn’t stand out too much, after all he only has to have the look. Rather, it’s over the top, poorly dubbed and at times awkwardly forced acting that brings the whole film down.
There are some exceptions with some fantastic performances from Frank Langella and Meg Foster as Skeletor and Evil-Lyn respectively. Both of these characters brought darkness and presence to their roles, particularly Langella despite being clad in make-up and prosthetics. However, it is not enough to save the film from terrible humor and an overly campy nature.I went into re-watching this film with the eyes of what I would expect for a movie made during this time, and with that in mind the visual effects are pretty fantastic for what they are, as are the costume designs. They really did try to create some great film interpretations of classic characters like Beast Man and Man-At-Arms. However, taking the nostalgia goggles off, much of the film has struggled to withstand the test of time. The acting and story come off more like a Power Rangers episode than He-Man film.
Unfortunately, I think this all stems to the mixing of Eternia and Earth, as well as ignoring a lot of elements in the source material that make it so endearing. There is so much lore left to explore in Eternia that we only got a glimpse of in this mess. Here’s hoping we get a future instalment that can make up for this blunt sword of power.
What do you think of Masters Of The Universe? Will you be revisiting Eternia (albeit briefly) for the anniversary? Let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook page!