Creating a brand new story for a beloved animated property and showing support for it with great animation and an all-star cast of voice actors shouldn’t be a controversial move. But the internet is what the internet is and even the best of intentions leads to a vocal minority complaining.
The latest victim is Netflix’s new MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATION, a new story executive produced from filmmaker and writer Kevin Smith, with a pretty stellar voice cast that includes Mark Hamill, Sarah Michelle Geller and Lena Headey. As a long-time Masters of the Universe fan, as well as of Kevin Smith, I’ve been looking forward to this show for months.
But even before I got to watch the first episode last week, the haters were out in full force.
The episodes that debuted on Netflix last week are the first half of a two-part story Smith is telling with his MOTU team, building to what will likely be a pretty epic second half. Without really understanding all of the “he made He-Man woke!” style complaints, I binged the first half of the story Saturday night, unwilling to take a break from the action because I was pretty drawn in to the story.
Yes, He-Man has always been the main character in Masters of the Universe stories, but the strength of the property has always been the deep bench of personalities and powers that populates Eternia. And Revelation takes advantage of that, by pushing He-Man and his arch-rival Skeletor out of the picture in the first episode. Locked in another battle over the secrets of Castle Grayskull, He-Man is forced to sacrifice himself to save Eternia, taking Skeletor out with him and nearly ending an age of magic in the world.
The sacrifice has consequences, though, as both Teela and King Randor discover that He-Man was actually Prince Adam, secretly changing to the heroic warrior whenever Eternia needs him. Teela quits her newly-bestowed duties as a Man-at-Arms for the royal family and Randor banishes Teela’s father, Duncan, from the kingdom for his duplicitous betrayal.
And that’s where the series really begins to take off.
With He-Man out of the picture (outside of flashbacks to past adventures to highlight the bond between He-Man/Adam and Teela), the focus shifts to Teela. The Sorceress, who is secretly her mother, tasks her with finding a way to bring magic back to Eternia before the whole universe collapses. She takes a team of Evil-Lyn, Beast Man, Roboto and Orko across Eternia to gather the necessary items to reforge the power sword and set everything right.
Along the way, we get glimpses of a bunch of other characters from the original series. There are appearances from Stinkor and Moss Man, Mer-Man, Scare Glow, Trap Jaw, Tri-Klops and Whiplash, either in flashback or in the present-day story.
Smith promised a continuation of the 1980s cartoon story, and I do feel like he did a great job delivering on that promise. The tone of the five episodes held true to the tone of the original cartoon, with some modern sensibilities thrown in. There was high adventure, lots of humor and really great character interactions between the stars of the series.
The only real difference is that He-Man wasn’t the main focus of these five episodes, though his presence loomed large over every moment of the series.
When Teela finally brings Prince Adam back to Eternia from his great reward, we get possibly the most shocking moment of the five episodes. As Adam raises the newly-rejoined power sword in the air and prepares to turn into He-Man, he’s stabbed in the side by Skeletor, who had been in hiding the entire series. He then takes the sword and becomes Skelegod, ruler of Grayskull and Eternia.
Wait, did Kevin Smith just kill off the hero of 35 years-plus of Masters of the Universe? In his own words:
Like, you really fucking think Mattel Television, who hired me and paid me money, wants to do a fucking Masters of the Universe show without He-Man? Grow the fuck up, man.
We have a whole second part of this story coming up. The first half ended with a huge cliffhanger to set up the odds that the Heroic Warriors need to overcome. The first half of Masters of the Universe: Revelations is a pretty classic comic book storyline, giving us a new challenge for the protagonists to overcome, which will eventually happen, returning everything back to the status quo. The classic series used to do the same thing, it just made sure to return to the status quo every episode instead of stretching it out into a five-part miniseries.
Hmm… that’s a pretty apt comparison for modern comic books compared to ones from 30 years ago, as well.
Overall, I really liked the first five episodes of Revelation and I’m excited to see what comes next. My one hope for the second half is that we get some glimpses of even more of the characters from the original toy line. There are so many figures that were left out of these five episodes, but there are obviously limitations on screen time and bringing on new voice actors.
We don’t have a specific date for the second half of the story’s debut on Netflix, with a nebulous 2021 listed on the show’s IMDb page. Hopefully, part 2 comes soon, because I’m excited to see how it ends.