Review: Masters Of The Universe: Revelation Is The Right Way To Do A Revival
Masters Of The Universe: Revelation is a brand new series that is a sequel, but also revives a classic franchise. With reboots and remakes everywhere, this He-Man revival continues the original story but also turns it on its head for a brand new adventure. It’s almost kind of what fans expected from Star Wars: The Force Awakens but didn’t get. So here is my totally spoiler-filled Masters Of The Universe: Revelation part 1 review. Make sure you watch the series, now streaming on Netflix, and return here for this review.
Reviving The He-Man Series For A Whole New Generation
All Hail the Motherboard. | Image via Netiflix.
Reboots are hard. So when Kevin Smith billed the Masters Of The Universe: Revelation as a sequel, eyebrows raised. How would he do a sequel to a 1980s franchise series that was kind of surface-level, to begin with? And honestly, sometimes just outrageously nonsensical. The original series was produced by Filmation, a studio known for churning out animation the cheap. So, not only did he have to continue a story that didn’t really have an overarching mythology, it had to look good. Enter the studio that brought us Castlevania and Blood Of Zeus, Powerhouse Animation. Neither shows are quite kid-friendly, so I was curious to see how Revelation would turn out.
And I’m glad to say it turns out pretty great. The show released five of its ten-episode run, on Netflix and it’s ingenious. The show does a lot of interesting things referencing its previous iteration but then pushes forward to tell a new story with new elements, using the narrative device of a time jump. But enough vaguery, let’s get on with this spoiler-filled Masters Of The Universe: Revelation part 1 review
Masters Of The Universe: Revelation Part 1 Starts With the Old
When the cast unites! | Image via Netiflix.
The series opens with its premiere episode feeling like the classic Masters Of The Universe show. It’s a return to that era of Eternia with the versions of the He-Man characters that are sure to make fans nostalgic. And that’s kind of the point. In creating a successful revival, showrunner Kevin Smith and his writing team go the extra distance to set the stage with something recognizable and familiar. And as I discussed in my review of the premiere episode, this approach also allows for some great exposition and organic establishing of the characters and their relationships. Audiences get to meet the royal Prince Adam (Chris Wood) whose alter ego is He-Man, the strongest man in the Universe. We learn of the supporting characters of a martial ally in, Man At Arms, Duncan (Liam Cunningham). There is also Prince Adam’s fair and noble warrior bodyguard and He-Man’s comrade-in-arms, Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Even classic characters Cringer (Stephen Root) and Orko (Griffin Newman) are there to seemingly provide comic relief.
After that episode, things get pretty unrecognizable. But also, so very cool. When Skeletor (Mark Hamill) attacks Greyskull (again), He-Man is called into action. The team assembles as they always do in the old series, and the action begins. Eventually, we learn that Castle Greyskull is actually an illusion, housing the source of all magic in the universe. Then something happens that never happened before. Skeletor kills a hero, in this case the Swamp Thing-like Moss Man. Then, He-Man sacrifices himself to not just foil Skeletor’s plan but save Eternia from a cataclysmic destruction. This results in the Sword of Power splitting into two pieces and disappearing. But more importantly, Teela discovers that Prince Adam is He-Man during this encounter.
A Superhero Trope Identified and Expanded Upon
Domo Arigato, Mr. Robot. | Image via Netiflix.
The main focus of Masters Of The Universe: Revelation part 1 looks to be the story of Teela. It’s how Teela reacts to the revelation (get it?) of Prince Adam’s alter ego and how that can affect someone who thought herself a part of the inner circle. The end of the premiere episode sees Teela abandon everything, feeling betrayed. To her everyone important was in on it except for her. She couldn’t see how she trusted them with her life, on countless occasions, but they couldn’t trust her with his secret. It’s a genuine reaction, and this series really lets that feeling of betrayal hang in the air for much longer than normally happens in these stories. In most modern superhero stories, the revelation (okay, okay) of the hero’s dual-identity does sting of betrayal to whatever character learns the secret. But in a two-hour movie or one hour TV series, those feelings usually don’t linger that long. In Masters of the Universe: Revelation, the sting of this betrayal is a major part of what motivates Teela.
Teela basically flips everyone off and walks away from her life. And that’s when Masters Of The Universe: Revelation part 1’s actual story begins. Teela tries to get away from the legacy of He-Man, but she can’t. Not only that, a new character (kind of) offers her an outsider’s perspective on the adventures that defined her life.
Let’s Do The Time Jump Again
He eats fear. | Image via Netiflix.
The anime series then jumps ahead to what feels like at least a few years later. Teela is an adventurer/hired gun who takes on dangerous assignments, usually up against other dangerous people. Along with her is her new friend Andra (Tiffany Smith). This character is a deep cut from the MOTU past. A version of Adara appeared in one of the Masters of the Universe comics series as a friend of Teela’s from the military academy. This is not that character’s backstory, but it’s undeniable that the two are close.
The world is devoid of magic, due to the events of the premiere episode. A few of the remnants of Skeletor’s crew have gone on to form a cult of fanatics who worship technology over magic. Of all the things that happen in Revelation, this is the thing that most evokes the silliness of the original Filmation series. Tri-Klops, Trapjaw, and Whiplash (fools, all of them) praise “the Motherboard” and preach the rejection of magic in favor of some pretty creepy technology. Still, silly as they are, they prove to be a threat the heroes cannot ignore. And while not part of Skeletor’s master plan, he honestly has to be pretty proud of how effective they were at giving the goody-goodies headaches.
Balancing The Kid-Friendly Vibes With Some Emotionally Adult Moments
A friend indeed. | Image via Netiflix.
While Masters Of The Universe: Revelation part 1 is very family-friendly, the story is still pretty grown-up. Post-time jump, the implied relationships, and history is easy for non-fans to follow. The characters obviously have history, but the lack of knowledge of that history doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of this story. The subtext is there in how characters react to one another, with just enough exposition to make clear the relationships. For example, the android character Roboto (Justin Long) was built by Duncan, who is also Teela’s adoptive father. He calls her “sister,” and its clear they have a prior relationship. What makes this show more surprising than the original series, where these relationships were defined, is that they progress beyond the “reset” point of each cartoon episode.
In the premiere episode, we see He-Man attempt to stop Skeletor from getting the Power, by stabbing him through the chest. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he then ends up sacrificing himself to save the universe. So the entire show basically starts with the death of He-Man. It’s a little startling when you go back and think about it, but that’s exactly what happens. And things don’t stop there. The final episode sees Teela and her new crew having to go to, essentially the Eternia version of heaven, where they find the now deceased Prince Adam. Both a divisive character and fan-favorite, Orko has a real moment of heroics, and like his hero and friend He-Man, he sacrifices himself for his friends. Roboto also dies, and his last moments are much more emotional than you’d expect for a show about space barbarians originally made to sell toys. In fact, the biggest and most shocking moment comes at the end of episode 5 of Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
Masters Of The Universe: Revelation Part 1 Ends On A Massive Cliffhanger
Is he gonna get ththe power?? | Image via Netiflix.
The climax of the first part of this new series is bold, stunning, and sure to anger some fans (especially those who don’t realize this is only half of the story). Teela and everyone go through various trials and tribulations to get both parts of the Sword of Power. Teela is forced to face her fears and the pain she’s carried since He-Man disappeared. Orko and Evil-Lynn (Lena Headey) even come together and bond, with Lynn showing us a side of her character we’ve not seen before. In 5 episodes that fit a stunning amount of story into less than 30 minutes, Adam is returned from the beyond and the Sword of Power is reforged. All he has to do is say the familiar refrain and magic will return to the planet.
However, the instant that Adam calls upon the power of Grayskull, Skeletor also reappears and stabs him through the chest. Skeletor then calls on the power of Greyskull himself, becoming a Skele-God. It’s a shocking twist and a very dark turn of events. Still, it’s not entirely original, as this is what Frank Langella’s version of the character got to do in the 1987 feature film. The episode ends with his giant spectral form hanging over the famous castle. Earlier in the show, Adam was warned that if he left he wouldn’t be able to re-enter Paradise. So will Adam die? With Skeletor calling down the power of Greyskull, will magic still return to Eternia? We’ll have to wait until Masters Of The Universe: Revelation part two to find out.
Masters Of The Universe: Revelation part 1 is now streaming on Netflix.
Is this new series a worthy successor to the original He-Man show? What do you think about the time jump and this new world? Let me know in the comments below.
Featured image via Netflix.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.