Masters of the Universe: Revelation review
Masters of the Universe: Revelation is billed as Kevin Smith’s continuation/reboot of the classic 80s cartoon series. If that continuation of the series took a colder, less joyful and overall more cynical approach to He-Man and company.
Is that what most fans of the old series want? That’s the big question. Smith’s take features more mature storylines and an attitude that he appreciates MOTU, but wants to make it a version for 40- to 50-somethings. Smith shakes up a ton from the established quo. In some cases, that’s not a bad thing and offers some fresh dynamics. Other times the changes feel like big shifts for the sake of making an edgier and darker take on the property.
Netflix had very specific spoiler points that could not be shared. Let’s say there’s a good reason the show is not called He-Man and The Masters of the Universe. And you should probably avoid hitting up the toy section of Target to avoid a big one.
As the trailer suggests, an alliance is struck between the heroic Masters and Skeletor’s minions. Disillusioned by a great betrayal, Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has long since walked away from role as captain of the royal guard. Now operating as a mercenary with her friend, Andra (Tiffany Smith), Teela is called to lead an expedition to restore magic throughout Eternia alongside Evil Lynn (Lena Headey, Gunpowder Milkshake) and Beast Man (Kevin Michael Richardson).
Evil-Lynn ends up being the star of the show — the one downside of putting villains alongside heroes. Headey is fantastic and conveying the character’s pretentious and sophisticated nature. Headey would be dream casting for the character in a live-action MOTU film as well.
Mark Hamill (Invincible) occasionally falls into his Joker cadence while voicing Skeletor, but he was clearly a great choice. Chris Wood makes He-Man a bit stiff, but that seems intentional.
The voice cast is a who’s who of A-listers including Kevin Conroy, Deidrich Bader, Susan Eisenberg, Phil LaMarr and Cree Summer. Also joining the cast are Liam Cunningham, Justin Long, Dennis Haysbert, Henry Rollins and Stephen Root
Some characters come off as whiny, others are too jaded while others have given into despair and depression. These are weighty emotions for characters in a cartoon that never had a ton of depth. Smith makes them more fully rounded while rarely making them that much fun to be around.
Thankfully, Andra is a refreshing and fun addition to the series bringing a sense of wonder and amazement to the proceedings. Smith seemed to tease making Teela and Andra a romantic pair in their first spotlight episode, but backs off that notion in subsequent episodes.
The biggest change comes to Orko (Griffin Newman), who has more of a tragic subplot. Fans that loathed the cartoon character will likely change their opinion by the time the first five episodes are completed.
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Along the way, many familiar faces resurface in new roles. This is a highlight of the series as Smith captures the unique aspect of MOTU with a mix of a technologically advanced society merged with one that also deeply revers magic and sorcery. Given the more mature take, it was weird to see some of the more menacing bad guys still being treated like chumps for the sake of a gag.
The animation style is solid with some interesting redesigns of characters. Most of the redesigns like Evil-Lynn, Moss Man, Beast-Man and Orko are fantastic while a few don’t look as visually impressive or functional. In a wacky coincidence, Mattel has released a new action figure line based on the series.
It never feels like Smith hates the property like some creators do when they get control of a beloved franchise and immediately tear down everything that made it so popular.
Smith’s toughest challenge is figuring out an approach that tops the excellent 2002 cartoon series, which hit the ideal sweet spots of a reimagining/reboot already. As a big MOTU fan, Smith probably realized his version was going to compare unfavorably if he took the same approach although his isn’t nearly as much basic fun.
There’s larger consequences for the actions this time and the stakes appear to have significant consequences. The fifth episode in this release has a wicked cliffhanger, but it will depend how the final five episodes play out to truly rate the success of this reimagining.
For this, Smith’s version was engaging and hardly felt predictable, which is good enough to warrant anticipating the next batch of episodes.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix