Retro Review: Masters Of the Universe

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All this talk last week of the He-Man movie got me jonesing to watch the original Masters of the Universe movie (which surprise surprise I own on blu-ray), so Saturday while I was folding laundry I popped in the good old Xbox One and enjoyed myself immensely.

To catch you up on the movie incase you’ve had the displeasure of never having seen it we open with Skeletor (Frank Langella) victorious as he has finally taken control of Castle Grayskull.  Right here, let me add, I love this, I love the fact there is no He-Man or Skeletor origin story.  This movie was being filmed right at the height of He-Man’s popularity and the film makers knew that going in the majority of the public had an idea of what He-Man and the Masters of the Universe were, unlike most movies now-a-days that hold your hand and give you an origin story even when you’re a reboot (looking at you Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic 4).  Also anything that newbies would need to know are woven throughout the plot of the movie to catch everyone up.  Anyways, Skeletor has finally taken over Castle Grayskull and the Sorcerous (Christina Pickles) is now his prisoner.  He-Man (Dolph Lundgren) is leading the resistance of the remaining freed people of Eternia against the forces of Darkness.

We first see He-Man as he battles these black knock-off Storm Troopers and is quickly joined by allies Man at Arms (John Cypher) and his daughter Teela (Chelsea Field).  He-Man had inadvertently foiled Skeletor’s plan to kidnap Gwildor (Billy Barty).  We learn that the reason Skeletor wants this funny looking hobbit is that Gwildor is the inventor of the Cosmic Key, an invention that can open portals (think DC Comics’ the New Gods Boomtube, more on that similarity later) to pretty much anywhere as long as you punch in the right musical keys.  Skeletor had already stolen what he thought was the only Key and wanted to make sure Gwildor could never make another one.

More of Skeletor’s minions come for Gwildor and instead of a straight on fight the heroes retreat to some caves that run right under Castle Grayskull and they use these caves to try and rescue the Sorcerous.  Skeletor finds them and a very nice laser gun battle ensues.  The heroes, being outnumbered have to retreat once more but this time use the Cosmic Key.  Gwildor, however in a panic presses the keys at random so they are flung to some random part of the universe, which luckily for the film happens to be Earth.

Our heroes are separated from the Key and need to find it to get home.  Here they meet up with a few earthlings who help them find the key and with their quest, one of those Earthlings being Courtney Cox in her first role ever.  Side note about the trip to Earth is that in the comics and cartoon, He-Man’s mother is from Earth.

I could go on and spell out the entire plot for you but honestly this is a movie you should check out yourself.  Is it a great movie?  No it’s not, but it’s a lot of fun and Frank Langella as Skeletor is right up there as one of the most memorable villains ever put to film.  I would seriously put him up there against Darth Vader, General Zod, or Loki.  Langella, one of our country’s most accomplished actors has said Skeletor is one of his most favorite role that he’s ever taken.  He took the role because his son was such a fan and it shows in the performance.  This isn’t a man performing for the millions of people who would go see this movie, but it was for one boy and when you take Langella’s talent and focus it into a father’s love then you have a great performance.  Langella wrote a lot of his lines including the great line “Where are they? Where are your friends now? Tell me about the loneliness of good, He-Man. Is it equal to the loneliness of evil?”  It’s a great line and does capture the life of the villain and hero greatly.  When you really think about it, heroes like Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man are just as lonely as their arch-villains.  Langella also base his performance off of the title character from Shakespeare’s Richard III, which is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays and knowing that it makes me understand Skeletor that much more.

Also Meg Foster plays Skeletor’s right hand woman Evil Lynn.   Foster, as she did in They Live shines in this deceptive role.  Like Langella she turned to Shakespeare for inspiration, basing her role off of Lady Macbeth.

I’ve been raving about this film, it is one of my favorites from the 80’s, but it does have its faults.  There was constant turmoil on set with Cannon Films constantly threatening to shut down production because of budget concerns, not to mention the crew threatening to quit because they weren’t being paid.  In fact the final sword battle between Skeletor and He-Man was supposed to be this epic battle and the throne room of Grayskull was designed just for that.  Unfortunately, Cannon shut production down before that was filmed but luckily direct Gary Goodard had a back-up plan.  He got Dolph and Frank’s stunt double to film the fight with just lighting in the background.  It works but what could have been might have been amazing.

Also it would have been nice if this film took place in Eternia, it didn’t for two reasons.  Reason number one its budget got cut so Cannon Films could film the absolutely terrible Superman IV (it’s even worse than Man of Steel), so Masters of the Universe could film where they wanted too.  So because of this they repurposed a Jack Kirby’s New Gods script and retro fitted it into Masters of the Universe, hence the Cosmic Key which is just Darkseid’s Boom Tube.  So what could have been an epic He-Man movie starring Frank Langella as Skeletor was turned into a good movie with a lot of “what could have been” questions about it.

If you’re a He-Man fan than this is a must, if you a fan of the 80’s ditto.  I think it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re just interested in film making and the behind the scene politics that go on.  So for those of you who haven’t seen it check it out and for those of you how have then it gets a rating of, Relive It.

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About Josh McCain 984 Articles
Where are my manners, allow myself to introduce... ah... myself. I'm Josh, I'm a proud dad and I will probably write the majority of the content you see on this site (and editing 100% of it) because that's my background, writing. I'm an author of two books (Ripper, and Suburban Sky: American Tales) with books three and four on the way... eventually. I also have experience writing for various sites, including Bleacher Report, Redskins101, and more currently you can find me at where I write a weekly-ish satirical column. Here are the links to my books if you wish to check them out. Click here for Ripper: Click here for Suburban Skies: So that's me in a nutshell. I hope you enjoy the site.

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