FULL DISCLOSURE BEFORE YOU GET UP MY BUTT! No, I don’t have a Netflix account and I haven’t seen the show. I have no job and my dad wouldn’t use it, so we can’t afford it. So no, I can’t comment on the OVERALL quality of the show as a cartoon. HOWEVER, between all the reviews, articles, and clips I’ve managed to look into since recovering enough from my surgery to care I am confident I know enough of what it does as an adaptation to make this article. Consider this a semi-review until circumstances allow me to see the whole thing. Okay? Okay!
With that out of the way, when I announced I wanted to talk about Masters Of The Universe: Revelation when I returned I didn’t think it would be the show itself, just the trailers and information we had at that point. I didn’t know at the time when it would premiere because that’s hardly been my priority the past couple of months. I had hernias to get rid of, and yes that is plural. So if I’m late to the party at least I can refresh the donuts.
Further disclosure: While I am not a die-hard fan I have been a huge fan of the He-Man/She-Ra franchise from its earliest incarnation. I got action figures before the cartoon debuted and had the mini-comics to guide me through the world. In fact I was disappointed that Filmation didn’t borrow more from Gary Cohn’s stories, giving us the secret identity angle introduced in DC’s miniseries and Superman crossovers back in the 1980s, dropping the split swords because that gimmick had been used in their previous show Blackstar (and yet they kept Marlena being an Earth astronaut who flew through a portal and landed on an alien planet, which is also part of John Blackstar’s origin) with the Power Sword and Star Sword weapons of that series merging into the Powerstar. I’m too far into this franchise to be called a casual fan I’m not exactly the biggest He-Fan out there.
So if you weren’t here when the show was announced you may think I was thrilled to hear that a new Masters Of The Universe show was coming and that Kevin Smith, someone who supposedly understands geek culture, was attached to work on it. Sorry, no. I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt but I had reservations about Revelation, due to the history of how poorly nostalgic properties are treated by Hollywood. Make no mistake, Smith is part of the Hollywood culture. His movies may be independent (or were), he may have run a comic store, and he made have had a podcast called Fatman On Batman, but he is not a fan of the series. That would be fine, except the two people he trusted to keep him on track were a Netflix executive and the Mattel executive who worked on the more recent MOTU comics. You know, the ones where Teela tells Adam they were never friends and trashes Mekaneck for no good reason, Orko turned evil, and the Sorceress was beheaded sometime after everyone regained their memories. So already we’re off to a bad start, and apparently we aren’t doing so well at the start of the race either.
SPOILERS A PLENTY, SO DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU!
Let’s start with the positives. Yes, the animation is fantastic. The character designs (most of them) are really good. I noticed they took more influence from the toys than previous shows. The Power Sword especially has been something I’ve brought up in the past and for once it does look like the classic toy version. Also, the Eternia towers playset makes its first appearance. The voice acting in the clips I saw are good. None of my complaints come from the quality of the work, but how it treats characters and concepts that have been around since I was in middle school. This is where things begin to fall apart.
Let’s work our way up and start with the transformation. An important part of this franchise is how it depicts Adam transforming into He-Man.
It’s not terrible but I do understand why it’s being compared to Sailor Moon and other magical girl transformations. Compare it to this alternate transformation from the 2003 series.
This does a better job of what they seemed to be going for when it comes to Adam “growing” into He-Man and getting armored up. Look up the Snake Armor transformation from later in the series when the Snake Men are introduced for another one. Additionally, “I have the power!” is supposed to come at the end of the transformation, a completion of the spell rather than the rest of the incantation to summon the power of Grayskull. My least favorite part is that Cringer seems to actively be trying to avoid the transformation rather than the usual scared acceptance. That just feels wrong given that this show is supposed to be so far into the days of the battles with Skeletor.
Note that, unlike so many others, I am not calling this a continuation of the Filmation series. It isn’t. The 2003 series had dangling plots to resolve but the original 1980s series didn’t, being a set of self-contained episodes while the reboot had ongoing character development. I hear characters are also off from that series and while it borrows much from the show it also takes from other elements of the multiversal franchise, like the towers of Eternia. Like I said in the original announcement article, the show didn’t need a continuation, especially one that wasn’t even matching the style of the show. Just be your own thing, man.
This leads to other issues I have, like the death of Orko. I’ve heard that Smith is part of that bunch who doesn’t like the comic-relief or kid characters, the “anti-Scrappys” if you will. This doesn’t surprise me given how “dude bro” this “geek” seems to be. So their plan was make Orko likable to their tastes and then kill him off, sort of like what happened to Super Friends characters Wendy, Marvin, and Wonderdog in the Teen Titans comic. I hate this. If you’re going to “fix” characters just to still use them as shock deaths, it’s worse than simply killing them off because you don’t like them. Smith and the execs just wanted to be edgy and killing the mascot character is usually the favorite method of the anti-Scrappys along with turning them evil…which has happened to Orko in the comics so he’s suffered both fates. At least Scrappy just got the evilize treatment. Of course he’s not alone.
Yep, He-Man dies…in the first episode. The action figure of him in stores as part of this subline? Almost useless as he and Skeletor disappear for all of this first (and as of this writing only) story arc on Netflix. All the promotional material that shows He-Man and Skeletor battling takes place in episode one. Smith was pushing back against comments that He-Man wasn’t going to be sidelined in his own series, even when YouTube channel Clownfish TV found an insider who insisted they were. Well, the insider was right. Adam stays dead for most of this arc, including the timeskip, and when he returns…
That’s in the final episode, the only other time Adam and Skeletor show up, so good job wasting your talent. Moss Man, voiced by former Skeletor Alan Oppenheimer, is also killed off in the first episode while new Skeletor Mark Hamill doesn’t have much to do before ascending into godhood (the internet is even calling him “Skelegod”). I guess Hamill will have more to do in part two but what’s with all the death? Roboto dies to reforge the Power Sword (which isn’t even broken the right way compared to the toys), Man-At-Arms was sent into exile, Orko dies, Moss Man dies, Adam has to be rescued from the afterlife while Skeletor saves himself, and everything falls apart. If you wanted to see the Heroic Warriors battling together, enjoy episode one because it ain’t happening in the series. And then there’s….
Your friend dies and you’re just pissy that nobody told you he had a secret identity? Enough to disappear for five years as the planet slowly dies? How are you the hero? And yes, she is the hero of this storyline. That’s another thing Smith disputed, even calling Clownfish out personally in a podcast. And yet it was right there in the original promotional material!
But after a ferocious final battle forever fractures Eternia, it’s up to Teela to solve the mystery of the missing Sword of Power in a race against time to prevent the end of the Universe! Her journey will uncover the secrets of Grayskull at last. This is the epic He-Man and the Masters of the Universe saga fans have waited 35 years to see!
Fan backlash led to changes in how it was promoted, making it look like He-Man was still in the show, but as it comes out he’s only a guest star in his own show.
But Teela was always a main character and the show isn’t called “He-Man” so what’s the problem?
The franchise is called Masters Of The Universe, which many fans forget when talking about the show because He-Man’s name is usually in the show title. He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe, The New Adventures Of He-Man, and even the kids show that’s also announced for Netflix. (Can’t wait to see how they ruin that one.) However, from literally the first “mini-comic” (more like an illustrated booklet) and first advertisement for the toys the focus has always been on He-Man and Skeletor. Hordak got shifted over to She-Ra: Princess Of Power though the Evil Horde toys were still part of the MOTU line. King Hiss showed up at some point as well but he didn’t get a second toy until the reboot. Outside of Hordak’s second figure the only character to never leave the shelves in the original line were He-Man and Skeletor, getting numerous new armors and weapons to keep the characters fresh. He-Man and Skeletor are the only ones who made it to the actual “He-Man” toyline and even when He-Man/Adam wasn’t the character undergoing an arc that episode he was still the one most prominent in it. This has always been his show, even when it wasn’t a TV show.
Then you have her redesign. It does look a bit more like a male physique rather than a muscular female, but Teela was also more of an acrobatic, martial artist type in the show while in the minicomics it was closer to maybe Red Sonja until they started emulating the Filmation show. One of Smith’s “experts” claimed that they were trying to emulate Gal Gadot in the DCEU movies.
No, no you didn’t.
I suppose honorable mention should be given to the race swap of Andra, but I expect that by now. Heck, we should be surprised TEELA is still a white redhead at this point. Also, Andra is only a redhead in one version…I think. The problem is they race-swapped her because the Netflix guy wanted to turn one of the characters black because that’s the in thing to do rather than create a new character. Clamp Champ wasn’t good enough for him and the article I read invoked Sir Laser Lot being black not working because he’s too obscure. I literally never heard of Andra until this series was announced, since she made not even a handful of cameos in various comics over the years and not much else. So this entirely pointless.
Now we’re hearing that Smith initially wanted to just do Adam dealing losing his power, which I guess is the plot of part two, though there are also suggestions it might actually be about Evil-Lyn’s character arc, meaning even when he’s alive Adam doesn’t even factor into his own show. No, Evil-Lyn should not actually be a good guy deep down. Villainesses serves a place too, though as one commentator noted evil women characters are increasingly not allowed. I blame Wicked frankly. At some point, if I ever get that He-Man/She-Ra review series going I’m going to have to find a way to review this series but based on what I’m seeing I’m not looking forward to that day. Maybe part 2 of this season will be better but given the history of Netflix, DreamWorks, and these nostalgic properties I’m not expecting it.