MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: How hard can it be to crack?
Answer: not very. But hey, that never stopped Hollywood mucking things up and overcomplicating the innately simple.
In the case of HE-MAN? There have been two attempted cartoon reboots. One was terrible (strange animation quality; set in actual space rather than Eternia?) before a beautiful but over-earnest mythological version (fine but never took off).
On film, 1987’s adaptation was a failure, due to a piss poor budget and zero creative investment in replicating the cartoon. Countless subsequent pitches emerged through the years. Joel Silver’s company had a treatment readied. SONY and NETFLIX played ping pong with the rights and David S Goyer almost managed to get his idea off the ground (origin story: He-Man Begins? surprise, surprise!).
I hated the recent SHE-RA reinvention. To me, (yes, opinion, non defamatory or hateful btw), it looked amateurish and decidedly, deliberately androgynous and asexual in how they drew the heroine for the reboot, relative to the more sophisticated original.
Newsflash: it is perfectly ‘ok’ to favour a particular depiction of the feminine form.
And, whilst respecting that these cartoons are made for kids, I could still look back on Princess Adora and see her as a reflective template of the very kind of soft, sexy, vulnerable yet strong femininity one then goes onto respect, admire and possibly date/marry if lucky later in life?
An approximation of said ideal is presented, below. I wanna marry a cosplayer.. 🙂
Back on topic: It’s a certain pantomime quality that enables adults to enjoy movies, cartoons and all media with kids. Masters of the Universe /He-Man and She-Ra once wielded that power as entertainments. Nothing sleazy, destructive, horrific or didactic. Just fun escapist safety with a moral of the story, for all, thrown in via nod/wink/ in-joke/glimpse of a divinely drawn figure for the grown ups.
And there is where they KEEP failing in the reboots imho! I have watched the latest MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE iteration. Contrary to what some assert, the piece is not pure ‘WOKE’ agenda man bashing.
Yes, it focuses on Teela, initially. But then, so did the original show in many episodes? The new animation looks great. Pace, stakes and tone all fine. It’s Kevin Smith’s best work since that SUPERMAN LIVES script.
And yet, something IS missing. Or rather, some THINGS. Ingredients vital to the true resurrection of the brand.
1: THE THEME TUNE! It’s PART of the magic! Lose that and you miss a vital dimension /selling point.
2: SKELETOR is MEANT to be rubbish as a baddie. The character is defined by his failure, weekly, to ‘get’ He-Man. Even the original show called that out, with Hordak and the evil Horde taking Skeletor’s place as ‘big bad’. If you let the bone faced purple cloaked baddie win even briefly, then you miss the point!
3: Yes, the original version of the toys owed much to epic fantasy and Conan, as does much of the associated artwork even today. But that was secondary to the MATTEL /FILMATION brand, which is where the REAL nostalgia lies. This is not some beloved Star Wars /Dungeons and Dragons level meta-religion. It is a camp, comedic romp. Limitations = key to appeal.
4: To bring this brand back, properly? It needed a balance between calling out, ironically and meta-textually, the flaws to the original, whilst lovingly somehow retaining those for new stories. That IS possible, too.
X MEN, STAR TREK and many more have managed that trick, albeit not always. But there are standout examples and those are far bigger franchises with which to grapple.
CHARM! IRONY! Market those and fuse to the ideal notion of an adult 30-40 something grown up, introducing kids (of BOTH genders btw) to this He-Man universe. Embrace the fun and joy and above all the simplicity! THAT is what remains elusive. Innocence with just a hint of harmless mischief.
(Note: there is nothing at all in any way odd about Skeletor’s fixation on a ripped, bronzed man in a loin cloth who does not return the interest; nothing dodgy about a villain called ‘Fisto’ or a hero called ‘Ram Man’ and so on..)
(Note, 2: There IS something a BIT scary about new Teela. As in I would rather face Skeletor at his most eeevilll than this newly militant pseudo feminist tantrum throwing muscle woman).
5: Until the day you give us a HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE that is camp, silly, funny, moral, beautiful, simple, short, toyetic, nostalgic, truly family friendly, bright, musical and whimsical? Then most ‘fans’ are likely to reject your take and stick to the originals.
I HAVE THE POWER!