I remember watching some cartoons after school when I was younger. Thanks to the limited channel selection, I didn't have a lot of choice in what I could watch. I was left with cartoons aimed at boys or Divorce Court. I chose the cartoons and watched the He-Man cartoons, along with G.I. Joe and Transformers, for years. It was years later before I saw Masters of the Universe, a live action movie featuring the He-Man characters.
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On the planet Eternia, which is at the center of the universe, the evil Skeletor has taken control of Castle Grayskull and captured the Sorceress. He-Man, a great warrior who is also Skeletor's arch nemesis, is still fighting. Man-At-Arms and Teela are fighting with He-Man when they rescue Gwildor, an inventor and locksmith. Gwildor has invented something that he calls a cosmic key which can open a portal to anywhere. Skeletor learned about the key and took it, which is how he and his forces took over Castle Grayskull. Gwildor still has the prototype of the key which he uses to transport them into the castle.
Things don't go well and Gwildor opens a random portal for them to escape through. They end up on Earth, but they lose the key. Without it, they can't return to Eternia and they have a limited amount of time in which to rescue the Sorceress. Two teenagers, Kevin and Julie, actually find the key, and thinking it is some kind of Japanese synthesizer, start pressing buttons. Back at Grayskull, Evil-Lyn is able to track the key down. She sends Saurod, Blade, Beast Man and Karg to retrieve the key. Kevin and Julie are separated and during that time, a police detective, Lubic, takes the key. Kevin and Julie work with He-Man to help him find the key while dealing with the bigger force from Eternia, this time with Evil-Lyn in command.
My main exposure to He-Man was from the Filmation cartoons that I watched as a child. I don't remember much from the cartoon since it has been so long since I last saw it but I know there are differences between it and Masters of the Universe. Prince Adam never shows up like he did in the cartoons. He isn't even mentioned and other characters from the cartoon are missing as well. Most of the movie takes place on Earth instead of Eternia, which was a bit odd since that didn't happen in the cartoon. I never had any, but I know there were He-Man action figures. There have been some other He-Man cartoons as well as some comic books. A sequel to this movie was in development for a while but was never made. I've read that another movie is in the planning stages, but I don't know if it is supposed to be a sequel or not.
The main plot for Masters of the Universe is straight forward without any real surprises. Skeletor has been trying to take over Castle Grayskull and Eternia for a long time while He-Man has been trying to prevent that from happening. The fighting for control of Castle Grayskull took place before the movie starts and much of the opposition has been defeated. Complications are added to what is going on when He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Teela, and Gwildor end up on Earth. A minor subplot is added with Julie since she is still struggling to deal with her parents dying in an accident. She is planning to move away to start over, leaving Kevin behind. The subplot doesn't add much to the plot other than providing a way for Julie to be manipulated at one point. Basically everything that is going on is focused on trying to find the key.
Several scenes in Masters of the Universe have action in them. There are some fights, usually involving He-Man in some way, that really aren't that violent even though some characters get hurt. The action scenes do help to keep things interesting and it makes sense for the fights to happen. He-Man does have his huge sword, but he doesn't use it as often as I had expected. From what I remember of the cartoon that was basically his only weapon. In this movie, he is using futuristic laser guns more often than the sword, which is a bit weird. Man-At-Arms and Teela also use the guns. I don't remember any of the characters using guns in the cartoon. The special effects used in a few scenes are fine though not ground breaking.
Kevin and Julie are in an established relationship when they first turn up in Masters of the Universe. Things aren't all happy for them though. Julie is still trying to deal with her parents deaths and the fact that she felt guilty. She has decided that the only way she can cope is to move thousands of miles away and start over. She doesn't seem to have that much of a problem leaving Kevin behind. He is still trying to get her to change her plans. They are affectionate with each other and it is clear that they have feelings for each other. That is about all of their relationship that is shown, so it isn't like there is a lot of romance in the movie.
There isn't much character development for any of the characters in Masters of the Universe. He-Man is a strong warrior who opposes Skeletor. He-Man is almost naked for the entire movie, wearing what amounts to a loincloth and cape. That does allow him to show off his impressive muscles. Dolph Lundgren looks the part, but isn't anything impressive in the part.
Man-At-Arms and Teela have been fighting with He-Man for a while and they also oppose Skeletor. That is about it for the development of those characters. John Cypher does the best he can with what he has to work with. Chelsea Field is fine as Teela. Gwildor is a character created for the movie. He is an inventor who created the cosmic key. That creation caused all sorts of problems. Gwildor is kind of annoying at times, but he doesn't bother me that much. Billy Barty is fine in the part.
Skeletor is the evil man who is determined to control Eternia. He is willing to do anything to reach his goal. He ends up being the best character in the movie. I think he actually ends up being more evil than he was in the cartoon, which actually works very well for the character. This version of Skeletor is a wonderful villain. He's twisted and revels in being evil. Frank Langella was really good in the part even though he wasn't recognizable under the makeup.
Evil-Lyn is serving as Skeletor's second in command, following his orders. She says something once that indicates that she wants power too, but that isn't addressed in the movie. Meg Foster is fine in the part. Her eyes have this odd color that made the character creepier. From what I remember from the cartons, Evil-Lyn was a sorceress who frequently used magic. She had her own plans for power that didn't involve doing Skeletor's bidding. She was taken from being a powerful character to basically being Skeletor's flunky. Beast Man, Saurod, Blade, and Karg are in a few scenes following Skeletor's orders. The Sorceress of Castle Grayskull basically has nothing to do since she is just trapped in some sort of magical prison cell by Skeletor.
Kevin and Julie are the teenagers who just happen to come across the cosmic key. They have been dating for a while before the movie starts. Julie is preparing to leave town to move thousands of miles away. She says she needs to do that to start over and get past the deaths of her parents. Kevin keeps trying to convince her to stay. They are both nice enough, though nothing really stands out about either of them. Robert Duncan McNeill and Courteney Cox are fine in the parts. Cox went on to get a part on Family Ties before eventually playing Monica on Friends. Detective Lubic is the police officer who gets involved in what is going on. He seems convinced that Kevin is some kind of criminal for much of the movie.
Billy Barty - Gwildor
Courteney Cox - Julie
Jon Cypher - Man-At-War
Chelsea Field - Teela
Meg Foster - Evil-Lyn
Frank Langella - Skeletor
Dolph Lundgren - He-Man
Christina Pickles - Sorceress of Castle Grayskull
James Tolkan - Detective Lubic
Gary Goddard - Director
Masters of the Universe is available on DVD. I have only seen one DVD version. The DVD has a commentary by the director, character profiles, and the original trailer.
Masters of the Universe has issues, but it is still a fun, entertaining movie overall. Fans of the characters may be bothered by the changes made for the movie.
This review is part of elvisdo's 2009 Funny Pages Write-Off because He-Man has been featured in different comic books.
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