Masters of the Universe

PLOT:

On the Planet Eternia, at the centre of the Universe, the forces of Skeletor (Frank Langella) have managed to seize control over Castle Grayskull, and after defeating (off-panel) the biggest part of Eternia’s armies, capture the Sorceress of Grayskull (Christina Pickles). Skeletor is planning to exploit Grayskull’s hidden powers when the “Great Eye of the Galaxy”, a portal in the castle’s throne room, opens and Eternia’s moon is correctly aligned with it.

The remaining Eternian forces are scattered and outnumbered. One of Skeletor’s patrols is attacked by Eternia’s greatest warrior and Skeletor’s archenemy, He-Man (Dolph Lundgren), veteran soldier Man-At-Arms (Jon Cypher) and his daughter Teela (Chelsea Field). During the battle, He-Man rescues a Thenorian inventor/locksmith named Gwildor (Billy Barty), who reveals to his rescuers his newest invention: a “Cosmic Key”, which can open a portal to any location in time and space. Skeletor stole the Key from him and used it to get into Castle Grayskull, but Gwildor managed to keep the prototype. Gwildor leads the others into a secret passageway straight to the Castle before a field commander of Skeletor’s armies named Karg can storm the Thenorian’s house.

At Grayskull, the group is surrounded by Skeletor and his troops. Gwildor uses his key to open a random gateway through which the group escapes to Earth, but on arriving there, the key is lost and the Eternians split up to find it. Nearby, in the village of Whittier, California, two teenagers, Julie Winston (Courteney Cox) and Kevin Corrigan (Robert Duncan McNeill), discover the Key in a crater, and start pressing its buttons. Back at Grayskull, Skeletor’s second-in-command, Evil-Lyn (Meg Foster), tracks the Key to Earth and prepares a small team of mercenaries to recover it. They consist of Saurod, Blade, and Beastman, with Karg appointed as their leader.

Back in Whittier, Kevin and Julie are spending the evening at their high school, because Julie is moving away following the deaths of her parents in a plane crash. Curious about the Key’s origins, Kevin, an aspiring musician, mistakes the object for a Japanese synthesizer, and takes it to a friend at a local music store to get a second opinion. At that moment, however, a portal opens, with Skeletor’s mercenaries storming into the gym. A fearful Julie narrowly escapes and stumbles into He-Man. He-Man attacks the accompanying troops and saves Julie, and Man-At-Arms and Teela chase the mercenaries away. On their return to Grayskull, Skeletor is infuriated by the mercenaries’ failure and kills Saurod. He then sends them back to Earth with a larger force under the command of Evil-Lyn.

Kevin returns to the school, which has nearly been burned down in light of the melee. The detective on scene, Lubic (James Tolkan), takes Kevin to Julie’s house to look for her. Over the phone, Julie reveals to Kevin the importance of the Cosmic Key, but Lubic confiscates it, suspecting it to be stolen. Immediately afterwards, Evil-Lyn captures and interrogates Kevin, then leaves to acquire the Key from Lubic. Julie, along with He-Man and his comrades, meet up with Kevin and then proceed to the music store, where Lubic has taken the Key for expert analysis. Lubic suspects the Eternians to be responsible for the attack at the school and attempts to arrest them and Gwildor, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Evil-Lyn and her troops, and retreats to gather reinforcements. A battle ensues, during which Evil-Lyn, masquerading as Julie’s dead mother (Gwynne Gilford), persuades her to steal the Key. Julie acquires it, and Evil-Lyn subsequently uses the Key’s powers to open another doorway through which Skeletor arrives on Earth.

He-Man manages to retrieve the Key back from Evil-Lyn, but Skeletor captures his friends – during the course of which Julie is fatally injured by Skeletor’s magic and the second Key is damaged – and threatens to kill them all unless He-Man surrenders unconditionally. He-Man gives in and returns to Eternia as Skeletor’s prisoner. Gwildor tries to repair the Key, but the Key’s memory storage containing a special sequences of tones needed to return to Eternia was erased. Kevin, however, remembers them, and uses a modern-day keyboard to recreate the tones and open a portal. Just as the opening of the portal is underway, Lubic blunders his way into the group and is taken along as well.

On Eternia, Skeletor tortures He-Man in order to break his spirit, but He-Man refuses. When the Great Eye opens, Skeletor absorbs the power absolute and transforms into an armored warrior god. He continues to try to force He-Man to swear allegiance to him, but is interrupted by the arrival of He-Man’s friends, Kevin and Lubic, who have just arrived through the portal that they’d managed to open. He-Man is freed, and along with his friends engages Skeletor’s forces in combat, during which he breaks Skeletor’s staff, causing him to lose his newfound powers. Skeletor continues to engage He-Man with his sword, but as a result, is vanquished by falling into a deep pit.

After He-Man’s victory, Julie is healed by the Sorceress, and along with Kevin, says good-journey before leaving through a doorway back to Earth. However Lubic, having gained the attention of a couple of Eternian ladies, decides to reside in Eternia, uttering “The only thing I will miss about Earth is the World Series”. When Julie awakens in her bed, she finds her parents downstairs, alive and well, about to take their fateful flight. Julie stops them from leaving and finds Kevin, who confirms their shared experiences were not a dream and holds out a souvenir from Eternia: a blue, marble-sized sphere showing the image of He-Man before Castle Grayskull.

After the end credits’ conclusion, Skeletor’s head pops out of the pink liquid at the bottom of the pit that he was thrown into, with the words “I’ll be back!” (This was intended as a teaser for the Masters of the Universe sequel that ultimately never came to fruition.)

REVIEW:

If you’re a fan of the cheesy 80’s action flicks and special effects, then you’re sure to love this film. That is until you realize that it is supposedly a He-Man movie. What I mean by that is, well, the only thing remotely He-Man about this picture are the names of a few places and characters. Everything else is just…well, it just isn’t right!

Let me start out with the good. The action scenes are great, but then again, it was the 80s, they knew how to actually film good action back then, not just type it into a computer.

The effects, as cheesy as they were, gave the film a sort of…I don’t know…life, if you will, of its own. Basically, I’m trying to say they didn’t hurt the film.

I have no problem with the cast. I think Dolph Lundgren made a great He-Man, but was hindered by the script and story.

Frank Langella wasn’t the greatest Skeletor, but I think he was trying to make the character his own and not a recreation of Alan Oppenheimer’s version from the cartoon.

Evil-Lyn, Man-at-Arms, the Sorceress, and Teela all rond out the good parts of the cast. I wish they would have been used more, especially Man-at-Arms.

Now, we get to the bad. Where should I begin? Ah…let’s start with this story, shall we?

WTF?!? It starts out as a good enough plot for a live-action movie, bt goes downhill from there. I don’t know, there was just something about using random tones to open a portal to various dimensions that seemed cheesy enough for the cartoon, but the way this thing was written just came off as cheesy.

For me, I would have preferred they just stayed on Eternia and given us some good ol’ He-Man action. It wold have worked so much better than this overly complicated attempt at a story they threw together.

The costumes are atrocious. Now, I realize that sometimes costume designers want to create their own looks for film versions, as opposed to the way we are used to seeing them in the comics. For example, in the comics, Batman is gray with a blue cape and cowl, but in every film version (excluding the 60s one), he is in all black.

This is why I can give the costume designers credit for trying, but they really should have just left well enough alone. The main atrocities were the Sorceress and Skeletor.

The Sorceress looked like a reject from one of those Jim Henson fantasy flicks from this era. She should have been in feathers, not crystals. The look just didn’t work.

As far as Skeletor goes…well, his costume wasn’t bad, but it was more than obvious he was wearing a mask. Would it really have been that hard to come up with some kind of make up, at least. They made the guy look like a cheap B-movie reject villain!

Beast Man is a major character in the cartoon, yet in this film he is reduced to nothing more than a mindless henchman. WTF?!? On top of that, I don’t believe he spoke, and if he did it was only like one or two lines (or grunts).

The humans that were brought in were totally useless. First, there is Lupic, the cop. Heaven forbid, beings from another dimension go somewhere without running into a cop who thinks they’re out to do nothing but wrong.

Don’t even get me started on Julie and Kevin. The only good thing about these two is that this was one of Courtney Cox’s early film roles. They all had to start somewhere, right?

The humans were so annoying and just got in the way of everything. For goodness sakes, Julie gave the key to Evil-Lyn!

Now, I may be a little biased since I grew up watching He-Man and the Masters of the Universe every afternoon afterschool. I remember this film being bad when it first came out, but its even worse now. However, I appreciate its attempt to bring He-Man to the big screen, as well as the 80s action, but that’s it.

There aren’t very many redeeming qualities about this picture and it is very hard for me to recommend it. I do know that this was not the original intended screenplay. That one was closer to the original, and should have made it to the screen. Don’t ask me why it didn’t.

Rumors have been swirling about He-Man coming to the big screen, following the success of Transformers, his fellow 80s icons. I am sort of excited about this, but hesitant at the same time. If they can do He-Man justice and make people totally forget about this steaming pile of dung, then I’ll be all for it, otherwise, just leave well enough alone.

Yes, I have been hard on this film, but that’s because it is an insult to all that is great about He-Man. Like I said, other than the names and few places, you wouldn’t be able to tell this is a He-Man movie if you didn’t already know. Do I recommend this? *SIGH* Well, if you’re an action junkie, then you’ll be entertained. Same goes for those that are into the cheesy effects. However, if you’re a die-hard He-Man fan, like myself, then avoid this film like it was the black plague!

2 out of 5 stars

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8 thoughts on “Masters of the Universe

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