Underrated: Masters Of The Universe
This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Masters Of The Universe
It’s hard to imagine the impact that Masters of the Universe had on kids in the 80’s and, to a lesser extent, the 90’s. There has been a lot written and recorded about the franchise, from its beginnings as a line of action figures that would be advertised by a now much revered cartoon, to its status as a cult classic, so I have no intention of pretending to add something new to that vast database of knowledge. What I will do, however, is admit that this movie is far better than it has any right to be.
Now, if you’re surprised that this is the movie we’re focusing on today, then that’s possibly because you haven’t yet realized I’ve been on a significant Masters of the Universe kick of late, brought on because I picked up a He-Man figure during Hurricane Fiona (we had lost power for days at this point) so that when power was restored I could send a meme of He-Man when power had finally been restored. Clearly I had forgotten about using an actual gif, which is what ended up happening, but because I had a He-Man my collector brain now needed a Skeletor. And because I found a Skeletor, and Battle Cat for really good prices I ended up with Merman, Triclops and oh gods a new collection had been born.
I suppose my reinvigorated He-Man love came about because of the Masters Of The Universe Revelation cartoon, but it was – oddly enough – seeing an action figure of He-Man that pushed me over the edge again. So it was that I decided to revisit the live action movie from the 80’s with the expectation that it would be a terrible movie… and it honestly wasn’t. Yes, there were definitely departures from the cartoons, there was no Orko, Prince Adam or Snout Spout; the villains were half original (but no less enjoyable). The setting was less Eternia and more six blocks in Oregon with a brilliantly realized Castle Grayskull throne room – due largely to budget cuts the throne room was in dark during the climactic final scene.
Dolph Lundgren’s sword play was… less than authentic, but given how He-Man rarely used his sword in an offensive way in the cartoon it still felt oddly accurate.
The movie isn’t great, but it’s absolutely fantastic for what it is; a fun, romp that’s largely faithful to the spirit of the cartoon if not the letter. Frank Langella’s Skeletor is genuinely sinister, and a true highlight of the movie (along with that bald 80’s authority figure James Tolkan). The movie somehow becomes more than it should be when you want to enjoy it. When you embrace its quirks and foibles and you embrace the Eternian sayings that the movie uses with abandon. This isn’t going to be high on your watch list, but it’s a lot of fun nonetheless.
Good journey, folks.
There we have it. Are there other comic book related stuff out there that is, for whatever reason, underrated and under-appreciated?
Because of that, Underrated will return to highlight more comic book related stuff that either gets ignored despite it’s high quality, or maybe isn’t quite as bad as we tend to think it is. In the meantime, though, if you do get a chance check out the characters in thisUnderrated, then you may need to hunt through the back issue bins for some, but others do have some stories collected in trades.
Until next time!