“You were who we made this for!” Kevin Smith excitedly told me during our interview about Netflix’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation, right after I revealed I was a huge He-Man fan.c
Those who grew up playing with Masters of the Universe action figures and watching the accompanying cartoon, yelling “I… have… the power!” every time Prince Adam raised his sword and spoke those magic words.
The show has been touted as a sequel to the classic cartoon, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which means there’s a very little on-ramp for new viewers to get into the franchise.
Smith has made an updated version of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe for adult fans that somehow still feels like it has the DNA of the campy, childish ‘80s cartoon in there.
The “adult” part of Revelation comes late in the first episode when Smith introduces something that He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon never, even had: stakes. Like virtually all kids cartoons in the ‘80s (the most notable exception being Robotech), He-Man and his pals defeated whatever hare-brained scheme Skeletor and his minions were pulling to get the massive, ill-defined powers inside Castle Grayskull, and the series reset.
But after He-Man (Chris Wood) thwarts Skeletor’s (Mark Hamill) latest attempt to seize power in Revelation, something changes—something irrevocable that sets the world of Eternia spinning in an entirely new direction from the original cartoon, and the show’s story keeps building from there.
The fact that Smith has managed to make a series where MotU characters can experience actual depth and development while Orko can still be buffoonish comic relief is, frankly, remarkable.
Not to keep harping on Orko, but there’s a fantastic scene where the unfunniest part of the ‘80s cartoon displays actual pathos, and it’s absolutely gripping—at least if you’ve had some sort of feelings about Orko prior to watching Revelation.
It is, from top to bottom, clearly made for older He-Man fans, full of those sorts of scenes that we always wished the original series had gotten to, especially in terms of characters or toys we never got to see on-screen.
I don’t mean the fact that some jackasses will inevitably decry the prominence of He-Man’s ally and one of the original series’ few female characters, Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar), and (basically) new character Andra (Tiffany Smith), but rather some truly unexpected developments that can’t be discussed without spoiling them. This is not a group of characters that would have been hanging around with each other in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and yet in Revelation, there’s very much a reason Teela is with Skeletor’s minions Beast Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) and Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey’s character, rocking that great new ‘do)—and it has nothing to do with fan service.
It would have been incredibly easy for Smith and the Revelation crew to just coast by giving fans some cool action scenes and making sure every action figure got his or her time to shine on-screen.
Instead, the show goes into some truly unexpected directions (let’s just say the first five episodes we viewed end on quite a cliffhanger).
Not all of these decisions pan out to something meaningful, and I imagine some fans won’t care for them, but Revelation is a better and much more interesting show for doing more than merely going through a checklist of fan service, although there’s still plenty of it to go around.
It’s not perfect, but Kevin Smith has pulled off a remarkable tightrope act of making a sequel to a show that never had serialized storytelling, a series that somehow keeps the framework of a cartoon made for eight-year-olds while building a story designed for middle-aged nerds who still have the original Castle Grayskull playset hanging around in their garage, attic, or living room.
Everybody else…maybe goes rewatch Loki?The first five episodes of Masters of the Universe: Revelation—which also features the voices of Liam Cunningham, Diedrich Bader, Alicia Silverstone, Susan Eisenberg, Kevin Conroy, Phil LaMarr, Henry Rollins, Tony Todd, and more—premieres on Netflix on July 23.
1 week, 1 day ago by Masoumeh Shafiei