Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 1

There’s about a dozen ways I could start writing this piece. I could talk about my relationship with Masters of the Universe as a kid in the early 80s. I had the toys. I read the mini-comics that came with the toys. And, of course, I watched the TV series. I could talk about the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series from 2002 that no one seems to remember, but I have the DVD set of 39 episodes here on the shelf. Or, I could talk about the lead-up to Masters of the Universe: Revelation where idiot YouTube channels have tried to spread so much FUD about the new series, it’s not even funny.

So let me start by saying this. Masters of the Universe: Revelation is the logical way to do a new series using these characters. When you have the original Filmation series of 130 episodes, then 65 episodes of The New Adventures of He-Man, then the 39 episodes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of TV stories (234 to be precise), about the character, He-Man.

To have He-Man ‘disappear’ as a framing device in this series, and his pals have to find him in the equivalent of a post-apocalyptic world (which in Eternian terms means a lack of magic), is actually really cool. Especially when they don’t realise that’s the real quest at first and flashbacks and other tricks see He-Man or his Prince Adam alter ego doing something useful in every episode anyway.

Enter the idiot YouTube channels. They got a whiff that Teela had a starring role in this series; they noted she had an ‘activist’ haircut; they noted she had a female best friend (so naturally they must be doing the nasty); and they found historical evidence that showrunner Kevin Smith didn’t have a Masters of the Universe background. And so the attacks began. The new show would be The Teela Show, and it was replacing He-Man with a pair of lesbians in order to be woke so why call it He-Man (omitting the show’s not called that anyway). Think that just about covers their craziness for clicks.

Here’s the reality: Teela was always a major part of the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in the early 80s. She was always in the fight alongside Adam or He-Man. She was Captain of the Royal Guard and Man-At-Arms’ adopted daughter. In short, she was always a Big Deal and important to the original series. So to tell a story here, where she picks up the pieces after the Big Event that kicks off Revelation, is natural to my writer’s mind. It’s the most interesting thing to do, unless fans seriously just want more straight He-Man action on top of those 234 same-y episodes that are already in the can? And far from making her a He-Man replacement – as the YouTube channels have bleated for months – there are several times in Revelation that she needs saving in a major way. Twice by her Dad alone, by my counting. So she’s not been turned into some super-powerful He-Man replacement in the slightest. Her chum Andra, meanwhile, certainly doesn’t present as a girlfriend in these five episodes. Not even in a coy, “Is there something there…?” sort of way. If anything, Teela is holding a serious torch for Adam, and he’s doing the same. The YouTubers can suck it. They just make stuff up for clicks.

So, now that I’ve debunked all the FUD around this series – and trust me, if I thought there was a real issue, I’d absolutely say so – let me get onto the cast. This is the real secret sauce of the project. First up, Lena Headey’s take on Evil-Lynn. Perfect. I wasn’t particularly into the character in the original series, but the posh British accent Headey brings to the character in this new series suits perfectly and, of course, the arc that Lynn gets in the story helps, too. I’ve gone from being uninterested in the character as a kid to super-interested in her in this series. Does anyone believe for a moment what she did in the final scene? I don’t, but I digress. Next, Henry Rollins. A musical hero of mine, and here he’s barking out Tri-Klops’ lines. It’s fantastic. Even better when in this post-apocalyptic Eternia, Tri-Klops is running a machine cult, denouncing any magic left over. Every time he’d come on, in high priest robes, shouting his over-the-top lines, I thought it was the best. There are so many others, too. Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela is really good; sounding quite different to when she was Buffy. Mark Hamill as Skeletor seems to be channeling more than a little Joker, but that’s fine as it’s the kind of voice needed for the role and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And Liam Cunningham – who I loved in Game of Thrones as Ser Davos – plays Duncan/Man-At-Arms has just the right grit, yet warmth, to be totally believable. The voice acting in this is well cast. I couldn’t have dreamed better for some of the roles.

Story-wise, the first episode or two felt a little exposition-heavy (I think there was even a moment in the second episode where we were being reminded, in dialogue, about what had happened 25m earlier in the first episode), but that soon falls away and the story told over these five episodes is solid. When you can ‘lose’ He-Man and Skeletor, yet still have them in your episodes, and go to heaven and hell, in the space of five episodes, you’re doing really well on the writing front. Let’s just say that.

The animation also surprised me a lot. The backgrounds look really sympathetic to the classic series. Even little touches, like a keyboard and monitor mounted on a wall in the background of a scene, reminded me very much of how things would look in the original series. Eternia’s an interesting place in that respect; it has some super-modern technology, but also operates like some sort of medieval fantasy land. The characters themselves meanwhile, have a crisp, modern, almost-anime-but-not-really look to them. I think it looks outstanding. A pleasant feast for the eyes. Very watchable.

There’s obviously a second part to this – presumably another five episodes – so I could have waited until they drop later in the year, but I wanted to put a flag in the sand right now. As a 46 year old major fan of the series back in the day, I was supremely entertained by this. There were some really funny lines, there were some brutal scenes (Moss Man’s demise, anyone?!), a great story, and I have to mention the voice acting again. Really great stuff. I can’t wait until the second part and, if you haven’t seen it but have heard negative stuff about it, ignore it. Equally, ignore this review, too. Just go and watch the thing and make your own mind up. I’m pretty confident where your opinion will end up.

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