It’s been several hours since I finished watching part 1 of the new animated series Masters of the Universe: Revelation on Netflix, and I wanted to share a few thoughts. This review will be as spoiler free as possible, but if you want to stay totally in the dark, come back after you’ve seen it. I’ll still be here.
I’ve been a life-long fan of Masters of the Universe and its various incarnations and reboots. I am one of the co-hosts of Masters Cast, the first He-Man and She-Ra podcast, and was lucky enough to be a contributor to the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Character Guide and World Compendium. For more on some of my history with the franchise, click here.
Without question, the Filmation He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated series from 1983–1985 was the most successful incarnation of Masters of the Universe to date. So successful, in fact, that two series have been developed as direct sequels to it, not counting She-Ra: Princess of Power which was both a sequel and spinoff. The first was 1990’s The New Adventures of He-Man. The second is Netflix’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
Making a series like Revelation has got to be one of the most difficult and thankless jobs in television. You have to honor what came before, update the look and sound of a forty-year-old cartoon, and write a story with characters that were designed for children that pleases middle-aged adults to felt so much of a connection with them in their youth that they still want more after all these years. To put it simply, you will never please them all.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation clearly was created by a cast and crew who both know and love the source material. Is it perfect? Not to me. Is it pretty great? You’re damn right it is. While I would have made some different choices as a storyteller, what has been done manages to blend elements from some of the very best episodes of the original Filmation series. Remember when Orko saved the day? Remember when Teela found out the truth about her destiny, only to have that knowledge snatched away again? Remember when our heroes and villains had to work together against a common threat? Some of these plot points happened more than once in different ways through the original series’ 130 episode run. Some of them (and others) are revisited in Revelation in new and more sophisticated ways.
The voice talent is truly superb. Nearly every character is voiced to perfection, with Skeletor and Orko being the standouts for me. Orko, in particular, hasn’t had a portrayal on screen since the Filmation series (when he was voiced by Lou Scheimer) that I found to be very good, and I loved the 2002 reboot series. Here, though, his voice is just right, much like the original series but without the unnatural pitch-change used with 1980s tech. And what can you say about Mark Hamill? The man’s deservedly a legend, every bit up to the challenge of the legendary Lord of Destruction.
If Revelation has a weakness, it is likely to be in the decision to split the series into two parts on Netflix. Much of what long-time fans want to see is likely not going to happen until the final act, and the show breaks the mold of the past formula of Masters of the Universe series in ways that a certain segment of the fandom will not be able to come to terms with. This is part of what MotU has always been though. The jungle tribesman He-Man of the mini-comics packaged with the earliest toys was nothing like the one we saw in the 1983 DC Comics limited run series; the DC He-Man, in turn, was nothing like the one in Filmation, who was nothing like the New Adventures version…and so on forever. The characters and mythos continue to grow and spawn different stories throughout the multiverse. In no way can Revelation and New Adventures coexist in the same MotU universe, so, like the Star Trek Kelvin films, we can place them where we like in our own head canons. Some will choose to ignore it, like I do for New Adventures, and that’s fine. But Revelation is deserving of a chance to shine.
I think fans who go into Revelation with an open mind will enjoy what the show has to offer. I enjoyed it more than I expected, and my expectations were fairly high. Whether my opinion remains that high will hinge largely on part two, but given the quality of the storytelling in part one, I suspect there is little to worry about.
The power has returned; let’s enjoy it while it’s here.
Josh de Lioncourt