What’s The Sensation Of Masters Of The Universe Revelation?

I wasn’t sure if I was going to watch Masters Of The Universe Revelation since I’m only a filthy casual fan. (If I sound too knowledgeable about the franchise, it’s because I picked up a lot from cultural osmosis in addition to having the ability to research.) I had some free time after finishing the superlative second season of Never Have I Ever (Netflix better not axe it like it did my other favorite shows!), so I gave it a shot. Unlike big stretches of The Flash’s seventh season, I do not regret it. It’s getting an overabundance of negative buzz, so I’m belatedly SPOILING why it’s actually good so far. (Netflix annoyingly cleft it in twain like seasons two & three of She-Ra.)

This show was confusingly pitched to the public as a continuation of the original He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe cartoon. The 2002 reboot that had actual serialized stories & unresolved plots, so that felt like the worthier iteration to continue. It turns out they didn’t have the rights to use any of the three earlier cartoons, so the the initial description was misleading. They just meant it’s not an origin story. The voice over atop nifty vintage painting fills newcomers in on the general premise.

Although my default Skeletor is Frank Langella, I can’t be mad about the Joker voicing him. It amuses me that King Randor & Mer-Man are Batmen. Liam Cunningham as Duncan & Tony Todd as Scare Glow are the best casting. Sarah Michelle Gellar & Chris Wood are a bit stiff as Teela & Prince “He-Man” Adam, while Lena Headey’s Evil-Lyn is a reminder that HBO Max & Cartoon Network owe us four more books of Infinity Train! Henry Rollins splits the difference between Mad Stan & Zaheer as Tri-Klops.

The animation by Powerhouse Animation Studios is superlative! Not only are the designs thoroughly detailed, the action is dynamic! The classic toy vehicles were scanned in to the animation. Spikor, Clawful, Faker, Clamp Champ, Fisto, Whiplash, & Blast-Attak have mute cameos. The heroes are still predominantly humans (Stratos & Buzz-Off haven’t appeared yet) while the villains are mostly monsters, which reinforces “beautiful = good.” Bear McCreary’s score is thoughtful yet not as memorable as Battlestar Galactica.

Revelation reveals that MOTU can be engaging when stakes are included. The first episode has Skeletor wreck Eternia’s magic after He-Man finally realizes swords are for stabbing. He-Man uses his Sword Of Power to prevent the planet from being destroyed, but he, his Sword, & Skeletor are lost in the process. This only delays the inevitable as the magic keeping Eternia & its affiliated planets alive is slowly dying. The metaphysical mechanics of this catastrophe are muddled, but it’s an effective worst case scenario.

This isn’t even her final form!

Was there an in-story reason why Prince Adam never told his father & Teela that he’s He-Man? King Randor reacts by banishing Duncan the Man-At-Arms. Rather than fill her adoptive dad’s ex-position, she angrily quits. Teela being furious over being lied to by her best friend (& dad) is very similar to Lena Luthor being mad that Kara Danvers hadn’t told her she’s Supergirl. It’s justifiable that she feels hurt by the deception, yet it also feels a bit of an overreaction given the state of everything else.

Teela looks like a swole Cheryl Tunt (or regular Miesha Tate)! After the indeterminate timeskip she gets even buffer! They don’t even make her an outlier by saying she’s the strongest woman in Eternia. Evil-Lyn & Andra are also fit to a lesser degree. If the men of Eternia are all beefcakes, it’s only equitable that its women be cheesesteaks. Life on Eternia is equivalent to the dystopian dictator fitness regimen.

The downside of the timeskip is that most of the characters’ looks get more boring. Her sideshave rocks (Her hair always looks great.), but I hate that Teela’s new costume traded ornate armor for large swaths of brown. I really liked her cape with the epaulets. Why is Evil-Lyn dressed like Korra? (Angela Mei’s Super Sentai coat has complementary Asami vibes.) Did she pirate LOK through her crystal scepter? (If the dwindling of Eternia’s magic is analogous to climate change, that could explain why both women traded skirts for pants. On the other paw they still operate on the “Sun’s out, guns out” principle so perhaps not.) Disgraced Duncan dresses like a generic peasant until he throws some old armor on top. Even Roboto wears a poncho for no particular reason. Beast Man & Mer-Man (minus his trademark corn sword shark tooth sword) wear even less clothes, which may be a plus to some furry fans.

Arguably Tri-Klops got a fashion upgrade into a The Incal-esque techno priest. One of his eyes becomes a telescope, but I don’t see the point of his other two. While Teela resents magic, he zealously wants to eradicate its last vestiges. His followers are transformed instantly into disturbing cyborgs by drinking black goo. Isn’t that magic too? I know Eternia has more sophisticated technology than Earth, but saying this is all just the work of nanites still seems like a stretch. I  kind of expected to see Mechaneck, Extendar, & Snout Spout defected to his cult.

Homophobic detractors are upset by Teela’s haircut because they believe Teela is portrayed as a lesbian to push an agenda. I get not liking the hairstyle, but it’s absurd to say that this change ruined the character when her hair is different in each revamp. Her interactions with Andra could be interpreted as more than just chummy. Teelandra would be breaking the tradition of right lesbian raises eyebrow while left lesbian crosses arms. Meanwhile some gay viewers feel her coif is queerbaiting since Teela is heartbroken over He-Man’s apparent demise. (Evil-Lyn is also apparently smitten with Skeletor despite his buffoonery preventing her from reaching her full potential. So they’re Shego & Dr. Drakken.) Maybe Teela is bisexual? Kevin Smith said there’s no sex in this, so there probably won’t be a confirmation unlike the SPOP reboot. Was the Raelle Collar look calculated to incite maximum controversy?

Haters argue setting up Teela to be the next He-Man is redundant since She-Ra exists. Except it’s Skeletor who becomes the new wielder of The Sword Of Power. (I expected Skelegod would’ve manifested by the end of the premiere since his toy was revealed so early.) Teela is going to be revealed as The Sorceress’s daughter or clone. So she’ll still have a unique destiny that doesn’t diminish Adam.

Sorry, I couldn’t hear any of that over your gun show.

Evil-Lyn’s original toy had yellow skin like a racist caricature. The Filmation cartoon gave her a natural skintone. It’s unclear if she’s the Eternian equivalent of Asian. Here she’s a white woman with normal skin even though jaundiced skin wouldn’t be out of place in a fantasy setting featuring a giant skunk in SCUBA gear. (The previous reboot at least added a macabre pallor.) Casting Lena Headey (or the amazing-eyed Meg Foster in the movie) isn’t a wrong choice per se, but it is a missed opportunity to diversify Eternia more. Evil-Lyn could’ve easily been Kelly Hu or Ming-Na Wen.

For the most part, this eschews the MOTU Classics toys bios’ obsession with giving each character a superfluous real name. We do find out Evil-Lyn chose evil rather than having it be thrust upon her. Orko’s parents also named their failson Oracle but he couldn’t pronounce it. I always thought his name ought to be Orc-Zero!

While it’s darker than the original cartoon, thankfully it’s not humorless. I appreciate the punnery. Prince Adam being a shelterd teen explains his corny sense of humor. Stinkor is offended by soap smelling hands! Skeletor burning Moss-Man would’ve been the ideal moment for showrunner Kevin Smith (I’d rather see him make Moose Jaws than milk Clerks drier.) to sneak in a pot joke, but he wisely references the toy’s scent instead.

Castle Grayskull is a different place than the castle the royals hang out in? I always presumed they were the same.  The other one is just called Royal Palace? The spooky stone facade of Castle Grayskull merely being an illusion seems like a hat wearing a hat.

A major bone of contention is how little He-Man there is in this, despite him being in every episode. Did anyone actually like him as a protagonist before? As much as I dug Skeletor & his cronies, He-Man was the biggest factor in dissuading me from getting more involved in MOTU. He always seemed like a stiff Captain Marvel Shazam copy complete with talking tiger sidekick cosplaying as Conan minus the violence. Also I resent him for getting to ride his cat when mine never let me because they have too much dignity. (Stop terrifying Cringer! He’s just a kitty!) This version seems like an upstanding guy, despite being voiced by Mon-El, who makes noble sacrifices. So I don’t see how this is a betrayal of his character. His name isn’t in this title, so it’s not misleading to focus on other characters.

Although magical annihilation is averted, reconstituted Skeletor shanks revived Adam to usurp the power of Grayskull! Now he can spout inspirational mantras! Apparently Skeletor only wounded Adam badly. I would’ve been fine if he perished for good (like Moss Man, Orko, & Roboto) this time, but apparently Mattel thought that’d be bad for the brand.  So his arc for the back half will be about him regaining his power like his sister did in season five or Danny Rand in season three. I wish that they hadn’t split up the season so we could see that play out without months of fans complaining this series butchered He-Man. The really irate ones aren’t going to be reading the Smith interview that explains how he didn’t lie to them, but maybe they would’ve hatewatched to the end if it was available in one chunk.

So-called true MOTU fans hate this so much they’re review bombing it. That anti-She-Ra YouTuber who valiantly obsessed over the show is one of their champions. This will probably reoccur for the CGI cartoon geared towards kids. As an outsider, I have to ask what MOTU do they actually like? The original series is largely regarded as a giant toy ad with less charm & wit than its brethren. The mini-comics included with the original toys are more earnest in a separate continuity. The New Adventures Of He-Man sequel & movie are reviled for skimping on fantasy elements. The reboot cartoon is agreed to have the best storytelling, but even that is infrequently heralded. Assorted publishers have tried full-sized comics over the years. The epic mythos of Eternia comes mostly from the cartoon story bibles & bios written for the MOTUC toys, so it’s debatable whether it’s canon. What actually are the good MOTU stories that have made fans this passionate over it? Even if MOTUR ruins your childhood, at least the officially licensed Money Super Market commercials reference Dirty Dancing in a road house. (Who knew Britons loved MOTU & Patrick Swayze so much?)

In the abstract, MOTUR sounds a lot like Batwoman season 2, of which I was not a fan. It’s much better executed though. The circumstances of the lead’s disappearance isn’t a convoluted mystery perpetrated by a new villain. Likewise the replacement protagonist was already a central character. The quests to Subternia & Preternia are directly relevant to rescuing the hero unlike Coryana. Presumably Prince Adam will be allowed do something heroic in the conclusion too. So maybe the first chunk of Supergirl season six is a better comparison?

Although this is separate from the last revamp, it still carries over some visuals. Prince Adam is much scrawnier than He-Man. His Preternian compatriots lovingly call him Flea-Man. (He-Ro looks like Ultraverse’s Prime.) He-Man’s chest insignia is no longer an iron cross to make it harder for Nazis to co-opt this blond Übermensch, & his bracers are asymmetrical. The Sword Of Power is split into “good” & “evil” halves that evoke Skeletor’s sword. King Grayskull exists. Whiplash has a mace tail upgrade. Stinkor uses the modern redesign & one of his species is at the royal fete. The flying disks from the Masters Of The Universe movie, the only He-Man media I’ve consumed whole, also appear.

It’s infuriating that Mattel (& Super7) half-assed the toyline for the excellent She-Ra reboot but is all in for MOTUR. It’s a different scale from previous lines to irritate anyone who wants them all consistent. The boys are inaccurate for lacking nipples & having tiny noggins. Faker has such an unnecessarily wide box for a deluxe figure of a glorified cameo. Teela’s features look too delicate, & it’s hard to tell if she’s beefy enough. Spikor is also getting a toy despite just being a disguise for Skeletor, although maybe he’ll really appear in the back half. I’d be mad about Andra being snubbed in favor of him, but she’s slated for wave three. Scare Glow is an SDCC exclusive, although an easier to get version is rumored to be on the horizon. Mattel spoiled the Skelegod cliffhanger well in advance.

So as a non-MOTU fan, I was able to enjoy MOTUR. I don’t know if it’ll stick the landing as well as revamped SPOP though. They still have time to ruin the last half for my segment of the viewership too.

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I appreciate how Noelle Stevenson’s She-Ra & The Princesses Of Power is essentially a high school AU that dispenses with all the tedious high school bits. This should’ve made it into the finale!

chibi Catradora GIF

Catra personality test

always astronauts Catradora

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Next blog up will be tackling The Suicide Squad! There may be some The Green Knight sprinkled in too. Unless something more urgent springs up first. Planning ahead is hard!

7 thoughts on “What’s The Sensation Of Masters Of The Universe Revelation?

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