Part of what he did She-Ra and the princesses of power so good was the way it imagined a completely classic cartoon. It was still set in a magical world with talking horses and evil robot armies, but it required an old performance – which, to be honest, was created specifically for toy sales – and gave its characters and the world real depth and meaning. It was fun and exciting, heartbreaking and beautiful, with no toy ad visible.
Afloat, Masters of the Universe: Revelation, starring She-Ra’s long-lost twin brother He-Man, isn’t quite as exciting. It’s not a reboot, but a straight sequel to be picked up right after the original comic ended in 1985. It has the same characters, some of whom are pretty silly, like a bad fighting cat and a stranger wizard with himself -estem problems. Skeletor (now played by Mark Hamill) is still a giant dork. However, thanks to an early bold decision, the exhibition can become something that feels almost new.
Large spoilers Masters of the Universe: Revelation ahead.
Since it is a direct sequel, Revelation not wasting time setting things up. Right away, Skeletor is in the middle of a plan to destroy Grayskull Castle to reveal its true power so he can harness it for himself. Unfortunately, his attack has a side effect not only of destroying the planet Eternia but also of its entire existence. To prevent this, He-man sacrifices himself and his magical sword by taking Skeletor with him in the process. After only one episode, the two most famous faces of the show are killed.
It’s a dramatic change, and from there Revelation reminiscent of something of a wasteland of post-apocalyptic fantasy. The story progresses a few years ahead as former royal guard Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is now a landfill seeker who earns his living by searching for old pieces of technology and artifacts full of magic. There is a strange cult that worships technology, and without Skeletor to lead them, many of Eternia’s villains have disbanded. Eventually, Teela learns that the planet is dying slowly as her magic leaks, so she reluctantly begins to find two halves of humanity’s power sword to rectify the situation. It’s one of those epic missions that involves traveling to both heaven and hell, and putting together a bunch of inappropriate ones to help you do it.
With this premise, the performance mostly gets out of the original Saturday morning cartoon, while retaining the same characters and world. Eternia is still an interesting mix of sci-fi, swords and witches, as if Frank Frazetta and Ralph McQuarrie had a jam session. Killer robots fight alongside beast men, and fencing warriors ride mechanical horses and armored cats into battle. Things have a little more a Crazy Max the atmosphere this time, with the villages fighting for the last magic drops while the techno cult terrorizes them. In addition, Teela has a new job as a mercenary, Man-at-Arms (Liam Cunningham) has become an Obi-Wan-style hermit, and Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey) remains confused without the support of a dictator. They all join forces in the quest.
It may seem like a reboot, but the show retains the inherent stupidity of its predecessor. RevelationThe writers never met a terrible wording they didn’t like, and characters like the bad villain Mer-Man and the forever terrified Cringer feel in place in this rougher world. Acting is also uneven. There are some good individual performances – Cunningham adds welcome gravity, Headey channels his inner Cersei, and Hamill hums it as always – but it often sounds like a video game where everyone recorded their line separately. (There are also a few weird jokes like the “no gloves, no love” character that doesn’t look appropriate in a PG comic.)
Because of all these elements, the show doesn’t feel quite as refreshing or bold as it does He-Ra. But for a direct sequel to the original cartoon made for sale of toys, it’s surprisingly modern; a dramatic opening opens the way to a new path, though Revelation never completely detach from its source. What is now available on Netflix is just the beginning: Revelation is five episodes long, and the last episode suggests that there may be even greater changes in the future.
Masters of the Universe: Revelations is on Netflix on July 23rd.