Remember when Optimus Prime died in “Transformers: The Movie” (1986)? Kevin Smith’s “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” is basically a whole show like that, but for He-Man.
A sequel series to the original “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” show, “Revelation” starts with a campy Episode 1 that feels right at home with the classic show, but with updated animation and visuals, but it soon takes a dark turn when He-Man/Prince Adam (Chris Wood) dies saving the universe. Basically, Skeletor (Mark Hamill) discovered the true power of Castle Grayskull and unleashed it, wrongly thinking he could possess it, and the blast kills him as well as Adam. Upon his death, He-Man’s Power Sword is split in two, as the magic of Eternia returns to both Subternia and Preternia (the Hell and Heaven of this universe).
Adam’s secret is soon out to his father, King Randor (Diedrich Bader) and Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who was about to take on the title of Man-At-Arms from her father, Duncan (Liam Cunningham). Upon knowing that Duncan had helped Adam hide his secret, Randor strips him of all his ranks and banishes him, while Teela abandons her post and shuns everyone who kept the truth from her, though her true quarrel is with Adam, as she feels like she never really knew him.
Time passes, and we see the consequences of magic leaving Eternia. In Skeletor’s absence, Tri-Klops (Henry Rollins) has taken over his old lair, Snake Mountain, and is converting people into cyborgs. He his hell-bent on making technology dominant by destroying all the magic he can. Teela has befriended a technician named Andra (Tiffany Smith), and has left much of her old life behind, doing odd jobs like retrieving lost relics. It is through this that Skeletor’s former second-in-command, Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey) is able to contact her for a mission. As one of the last surviving mages in Eternia, she has partnered with the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull (Susan Eisenberg) in hopes of bringing the magic back to the world. Without magic, Eternia is dying, and so Teela, Andra, Evil-Lyn, Orko (Griffin Newman), Roboto (Justin Long), and Beast Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) form an unlikely pact set on re-forging the Power Sword, which can bring the magic back, and saving the world.
I love how this show sets up the classic He-Man characters in Episode 1, only to set the stage for a much larger tale with more depth. It’s no secret that this show’s target audience is probably the adults who grew up with He-Man, and in many ways, it feels fitting to see characters like Duncan and Teela age and grow with time, often reminiscing and making fun of the corny exploits of the original show, like people do with their childhood. And as much of a gut punch as it was to see Skeletor and He-Man die in Episode 1, the only way for this universe to move forward and for this show to cover new ground is to remove both figures from the equation, else it’ll doom itself to repeat the exact same beats from the original show. “Revelation” is a faithful successor that for the most part keeps the bones of the world as seen in the original show intact, but builds off them by allowing the world to change and age.
Taking your childhood icons and presenting them in a new context in which they are aware of their own mortality and were many of them die is nothing new — “Transformer: The Movie” did it rather well, and because of that, it’s an unforgettable film for those that grew up with it, even if that it did have its problems. But there’s a lot to be said about when a film or TV show does it well, and “Revelation” does it extraordinarily well.
For example, Orko, who is one of the most annoying characters in the original because he was the obligatory comic relief character every 80s TV show had to have, is one of the best, if not the best, character in this show. We see him go from an annoyingly optimistic klutz in Episode 1 to someone who is depressed and realizing his best days are behind him in Episode 3, racked by guilt that he was never of any use, and its clear that he has gained some wisdom. He had time to reflect on his life and change, but you always get a feeling that Orko knows that no matter what happens, a part of him died when Adam did. It’s all remarkably human, and I applaud the show’s creators for turning one of the worst He-Man characters into one of its best.
Evil-Lyn and Beast Man also go from generic villains, to people who lost their leader and cause, and are just trying to do something good with their lives. Perhaps the most powerful question “Revelation” asks is: Was the show’s central conflict bullshit all along? When put into the perspective with the death of everything, the power struggle between He-Man and Skeletor seems tiny, and to be fair, most struggles do when you compare them to mutual annihilation.
“Masters of the Universe: Revelation” takes the original show in such a unique direction that it’s worth your time, and with Part 1 being made up of five 30-minute episodes, it’s an easy watch. It’s what happens when you take a show that was made to sell toys in the 80s, strip it of its original context and engage with the core ideas it was about by shaking up its foundations and forcing it to change.
“Masters of the Universe: Revelations” Part 1 gets an 8/10