Masters of the Universe (1987)

Sometimes you are overcome with a fit of nostalgia and you hunt down a movie that you watched as a kid. It's always an exciting time when that DVD loads up and you are wondering how the movie has aged. Sometimes, you find the movie has aged extremely well and you can appreciate it just as much as you did the first time around. The Goonies or The Neverending Story for instance. Other times, the years that have gone by have changed you in ways that make you enjoy the movie even more. The Gate is a great example, where as a kid you were mesmerized by the little monsters running around your screen and as an adult you are amazed by the technical wizardry involved in getting those effects so lifelike. Unfortunately most movies end up being terrible when viewed as an adult, and Masters of the Universe is one of the worst.

He-Man was not a great show. Even as a kid I realized that it was merely a cynical attempt to sell more toys, like a lot of cartoons at the time. The animation is poor, the characters a bunch of gimmicky morons with goofy voices, and the world it takes place in is a lazy mixture of pulpy swords & sorcery and laser gun jetbikes. It's a bunch of "gonzo" crap thrown together with neither rhyme nor reason, and the problem is when everyone has some stupid gimmick or flies on a hoverscooter or shoots eye beams or rides around on a giant cat while shooting laser swords then no one is interesting at all. It's so soulless and dull and meaningless you might as well label it swordpunk and devote a short story anthology to it.

I think the people behind Masters of the Universe were well aware of this, because it has nothing to do with the show at all, other than the characters running around calling each other by their action figure names so you know which ones you should go buy your whining horrible child after the movie is over. He-Man takes place on a generic pulp fantasy planet with monsters and evil castles and stuff. Masters of the Universe takes place in some small town in the US. He-Man features sword & sorcery battles between a guy that looks like Conan and snake guys and werewolves. Masters of the Universe is largely a ninety-minute gunfight between He-Man and a bunch of Star Wars stormtroopers with black armor. Even the soundtrack is a Star Wars ripoff.

There are two special effects in the movie. Laser blasts drawn on the film post-production and laughable shots of vehicles flying in the air. There is a character that is meant as the lovable and hilarious comic relief monster but is just some hairy and gross looking space dwarf who looks like he wandered in from the set of Garbage Pail Kids. His jowls are disgusting and I couldn't stop staring every time he was on screen (i.e. every scene).

What were they thinking? Were they delusional enough to think that if they just changed the formula enough- just enough so that it is completely different in every way from the cartoon it is based on- that they would win over the crucial independents who are on the fence about He-Man? I just don't understand who this movie is for. Maybe no one.


Veronica said...

It's so true - I tried to watch "The Last Unicorn" and it was just terrible. The animation is so bad and the story doesn't make any sense.

And sadly it kills the love you had for it as a kid!

newtmonkey said...

It is sad. To get over your unicorn trauma you should watch the second Unico movie. It's great.