Masters of the Universe-Don’t Mess with the Hair-Do, Man…
Let me start by saying that, as a child, I thought this was one of the most awesome movies EVER. A real-live He-Man fighting a real-live Skeletor in a real-live Eternia? How can this go wrong?!
Quickly. And tragically.
Let me start by saying that this movie, while silly at most times, is not really terrible. It has its moments, and though the 80’s glam is woefully present right down to the blaring synthesizers to indicate the fantasy realm of Eternia this movie does as it promises: We get to see what He-Man looks like in real life.
So they pick a complete robot to play him.
Not that Dolph Lundgren is a bad actor, it’s just that he’s not a leading man. Hell, even with that hair he’s not a leading lady either.
In fact, he works best when he has next to no lines and is beating up on Sylvester Stallone.
Castle Grayskull has been laid to siege by Skeletor and his army, and they have captured the Sorceress…wait a sec.
The Sorceress? In the cartoon she’s this rockin’ hot babe in a bird outfit. In this movie she’s a middle-aged woman in a crystal crown and white robes who looks like she just got first class on the menopause train.
What the hell? Already?
Skeletor storms into the throne room to meet with Evil-Lyn and Beast-Man. He has one of two Cosmic Keys, a device that is capable of opening a portal between worlds. It’s how he was able to take Grayskull.
Meanwhile He-Man and his friends, Teela and Man-At-Arms, meet up with a dwarven inventor named Gwildor who has the other Cosmic Key. He was the one who invented it, and is being pursued by Skeletor in order to make more. The heroes warp to Castle Grayskull, but are outnumbered by Skeletor’s army.
Gwildor randomly presses buttons on the Cosmic Key and opens a portal to…aw, crap.
A fast food joint in Wittier, California.
This is where the movie begins to dive fast. While I can forgive the absence of Battle Cat, the complete lack of regard that He-Man is actually Prince Adam of Eternia, and the fact that Snake Mountain is merely mentioned in the film and never shown, moving this kind of fantasy realm conflict into our world is a mistake.
Kevin and his girlfriend, Julie(hey, kids! It’s Courtney Cox!), are a couple who stumble upon the Cosmic Key that Gwildor lost during the trip from Eternia. They mistake it for a fancy synthesizer, and Kevin runs off to have a friend look at it while Julie waits at the school.
Karg and his team attack, and Julie barely escapes before being cornered by them. He-Man comes to the rescue and fights them off, saving Julie who doesn’t really seem that fazed that a bunch of cosplayers are beating the crap out of each other and shooting off laser guns in an alley…
What the hell? Where is the rest of the population? How do people not notice this?!
Skeletor kills off Saurod and sends Karg and his crew back to Earth with Evil-Lyn in charge to find the key and bring it back along with He-Man. They find Kevin, who is frantically searching for Julie with the aid of Detective Lubic(James Tolkan, for you Back to the Future fans). They learn about the location of the Cosmic Key and leave.
Julie and the Eternians find Kevin and discover that Lubic now has the key and is at the music store questioning Kevin’s friend. They get there at the same time as Evil-Lyn, and are ambushed in a fight that ends with He-Man in shackles, the Cosmic Key destroyed by Skeletor, and a fungus on Julie’s leg.
While Lubic, Kevin, and the Eternians try to rebuild the Key and take care of Julie, Skeletor begins the public torture of He-Man to force him to bow to him. He-Man refuses, and Skeletor punishes him worse. As the moon positions itself in the sky, Skeletor absorbs the Power of Grayskull and becomes a demi-god.
Before he can destroy He-Man our funky bunch from Earth show up at Grayskull after getting the Cosmic Key to work. He-Man uses the distraction to break free and reclaims his sword, his power returning as he raises it and bellows his tagline: “I HAVE THE POWER!”
Or is it “I need a shower?”
He-Man and Skeletor battle, and He-Man manages to break Skeletor’s staff and return him to his normal state. Skeletor draws his sword to fight, but He-Man pushes him off into a moat far below, killing him. The rest of Skeletor’s army flees, and the heroes reclaim Castle Grayskull.
Gwildor sends Kevin and Julie back to Earth after the newly freed Sorceress heals Julie with something a little better than antibiotics. Julie awakens the day of her parent’s death and is able to prevent the event, and she reunites with Kevin and their memories of Eternia.
VERDICT: Kinda Frustrating.
Why frustrating, you ask? Because it’s easier to watch a movie that can’t decide if it wants to be a horror movie or a comedy. This movie can’t decide if it wants to be a good movie or a bad movie. The scenes in Eternia are fantastic, with effects that really pushed the cinematography of the 80’s hard and great acting from Frank Langella(Skeletor).
I mean, if they ever decide to remake this movie and do it correctly(leave out the whole Earth bit), Frank Langella would HAVE to come back as Skeletor even if it might just be his voice. Dolph, on the other hand, quite successfully removes all personality from the He-Man character on the whole. Man-At-Arms and Teela were pretty spot-on, but where the f**k did “Gwildor” come from?!
The movie very much nods to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World comic book series, and also has elements of Thor involved, but tends to leave the original source material by the wayside. If anything, the biggest culprit was the glam. Oh dear God, the glam.
Hey, Dolph, I think I’ve seen your hairstyle before…
Some hairspray, a brush, some floof…yup.
The costumes are great, though Karg is the poster boy for the 80’s glam in fantasy characters, and you can see the cloth in the nostrils on Skeletor’s mask. Not that this diminished the film, really, though Man-At-Arms and Teela could’ve used a little more flare than the dull outfits they were rocking. Evil-Lyn looked pretty cool, and Beast-Man was the only character who was almost spot-on with the cartoon.
All in all, despite the shortcomings(Like no Battle Cat and Dolph’s lousy acting), this movie is not terrible. It actually does have some of its fanboy service and charm, though the whole meshing with the Earth Realm thing has to go.
What happens in Eternia stays in Eternia.
If you DO decide to watch it, keep a few things in mind. First, it’s the 80’s. Technology was limited, so the effects are nowhere NEAR the quality we have today. Second, it’s the 80’s. If it made money as a toy franchise, there was no question that a movie was going to happen. Lastly, it’s the 80’s. We just really didn’t know any better.
I rest my case.
Dedicated, in loving memory, to Collin Gilbert
You will forever be my best fan and my baby brother
September 16th, 1980-March 19th, 2014