As a huge fan of the original toy series, did I enjoy Netflix’s Master of the Universe: Revelation? Well, mostly.
I awaited Netflix’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation with mixed feelings.
A huge fan of the 80s Mattel toy series, I was thrilled by the announcement for this animated “revisit.” After which I became pessimistic after reading various negative responses.
When the energetic trailer was released a few weeks ago, my hopes were again high. And then I remember other Netflix revisits like that for Saint Seiya, and the 1987 raspberry that was the Dolph Lundgren sweat-fest, and I became gloomy again.
Well, it’s out for a few days now, and without surprise, it’s indeed a mixed bag. Modern, updated, and visually eye-catching as the five episodes are, there is that sensation of “not scratching the itch.”
There’s also the fact that this new series ought to be called Mistresses of the Universe: A Girls Trip.
But I jump ahead. (I’m letting loose the toxic primary schoolboy in me too) The following is my review of Season 1 of Masters of the Universe: Revelation. A list of likes and dislikes.
Everything considered, this sequel to the 80s cartoon series did succeed with one thing. It made me dig out all my old MotU toys and comics for some enthusiastic photo-taking. I suppose that has to be considered an accomplishment.
Like: A Story Tweaked for Modern Sensibilities
With all the cultural conflicts and controversies ongoing in our world, I’d say this was a necessity. And it doesn’t mean the new series is for the worse because of them, ostentatious as some of the tweaks are.
I mean, let’s be honest. The 80s trope of a muscled, white alpha male always (easily) defeating a bumbling, megalomaniacal villain was old even back then.
To further highlight, such tweaks began with the 2002 Mike Young Series. While that production didn’t go to the extent of changing racial skin colours, it did develop deeper personalities for key characters. The personal struggles of some characters were also developed into episodic storylines.
Skeletor himself was also able to formulate truly diabolical plans in that series when he puts himself to the task. The same goes for this current version.
Both changes were refreshing to me.
Like: Homage to the Retro Cartoon Series, and the ‘87 Dolph Lundgren Live-action Movie
Similar to the above point, this was a necessity. I mean, who else would switch on the series the moment it’s released, apart from us 80s fanboys? (And fangirls).
In all, I’d say creator Kevin Smith handled this area well too. There are loads of homages, but none are in your face the likes of The Force Awakens. Accessible to most if not all audiences, in other words.
Interestingly, Revelation pays open homage to the godawful 1987 live-action movie too. I didn’t realise this till I, ahem, rewatched the ending of that movie after bingeing on the new series.
As for what exactly was done, I leave it to you to find out yourself. Let’s just say that I felt it was thoughtful and playful in equal measure. Sometimes, something truly terrible could still be good, given enough years and nostalgia.
Like: 80s Puns Are Retained! And Handled Well
Cheesy wisecracks. Corny life lessons. What would 80s cartoons be without these?
But to have them in a 2021 production, what would today’s kids say!
Well, they still work for me, as in, when kept to a tasteful minimum. I also feel the approach in Revelation was sensible because all such absurd declarations were used to explore characters or reference a sillier past.
To give an example, a third episode scene regarding a wet encounter threw important light on He-Man. With just one line, Teela explained why He-Man talked the way he did. And how everyone else might have felt about it.
It was a convincing explanation.
Like: A Deeper Exploration of Some Classic Characters
Being a vehicle for a Mattel toys series, the original Filmation cartoon series was never a shining beacon of great storytelling. Worse, there being dozens of figurines, few characters receive any real limelight.
At best, it’s a feature episode that ended as quickly as it began. With a loud “BUY THIS FIGURE” throughout.
With just five episodes, Season 1 of Revelation naturally can’t explore all MotU characters; Kevin Smith mainly used the oldest ones. (And even folks like Stratos and Man-E-Faces are missing)
But those who are featured enjoyed intelligent handling and treatment. From Beast Man’s restrained welcome of Skeletor to Mer-Man’s resentful rant, to King Randor’s unjust punishment of Duncan, a fresh depth is added to the story.
Needless to say, it was great seeing Evil-Lyn fully and thoroughly explored too. She has long been acknowledged as one of the most complex characters in the MotU mythos. It’s just wonderful to see her being the bridge between good and evil, past and present, in this new story.
Dislike: The Combat
This pains me to say. As exhilaration as the trailer was, the actual combat in Masters of the Universe: Revelation didn’t live up to expectations.
Oh, there were a couple of great fights. Such as the climatic one between Orko and Scare Glow. But in general, battles lack the sort of kinetic cohesion, and build-up, that make such fantasy confrontations thrilling.
Right before writing this review, I also read a couple of Facebook comments that stated the fights in the 2002 series were better. MUCH better.
After re-watching a couple of episodes of that, I regretfully agree. While less flashy, the “choreography” for this 20-year-old series invokes far more intense, consistent joy. Despite all the Anime-inspired flashiness, Revelation just doesn’t deliver the same kick.
Dislike: Teela’s Story is Too Emo, for the Lack of a Better Word
To be clear, I’m not against “emo.” I think the right amount infuses a story with richer colours.
But only, ONLY, when it makes sense.
The short of it, I can’t fully understand Teela’s sorrow. I know she is furious about being lied to, sort of, but for her to turn her back on everything she has fought for since young?
And the whole Subternia segment about her fear. What exactly is she fearful of? And how does that relate to her disappointment and disgust with everything?
It’s especially an eyesore, you know, when you compare Teela’s storyline with that of Evil-Lyn, or Orko, or even Roboto. The feeling I get is also that there was a too enthusiastic, too heavy-handed attempt to focus the story on Teela. Logic became secondary.
Hopefully, this changes in the second season. Or is at least better explained. Much better explained.
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Dislike: Season 1 Is All About the Women Behind the Muscled Buffoons
Right, I’ve come to what is probably the greatest contention about Masters of the Universe: Revelation Season 1.
The fact that there is actually very little He-Man in this whole season. The entire story is more aptly, Teela’s healing journey and girls’ trip.
Mistresses of the Universe, in other words.
Is it an awful thing? Well, no, if you dislike the whole alpha-male approach of the original cartoon and comic series. Note that in thosestories, wit and intelligence seldom saved the day too. It’s always He-Man’s brawling and brawny might.
However, if you are reminiscent of those days, if you’re looking for … masculine action the traditional way, you’re gonna be sorely, sorely disappointed.
Again, all might change in Season 2. But to be honest, I doubt the overall treatment is going to be significantly different. For the moment, I suspect the entire tale might also end with Teela, or Evil-Lyn, saving the big day.