Guilty Pleasures – Masters Of The Universe

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Growing up, plenty of comic books and cartoons got the big screen treatment. Most of them were crap, because they looked nothing like the source material. Except for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Somehow, a studio managed to make that cartoon look as real as possible.

Which of course meant that the film bombed at the box office. Bad. But in a radical way that has made it a cult terribad classic.

 The planet Eternia is in the aftermath of Skeletor’s war on Castle Greyskull, which he has won after seizing Greyskull and the surrounding city using the Cosmic Key developed by the Thenorian locksmith Gwildor. The Sorceress is now Skeletor’s prisoner and he begins to drain her lifeforce as he waits for the Eternia’s moon to align with the Great Eye of the Universe that will bestow god-like powers upon him. Once on Earth, He-Man and company team up with two teenagers as they attempt to find the key and return home. However, the evil Skeletor and his vile minions are soon hot on their trail.

The trouble with adapting a cartoon series that was made solely to sell roid rage action figures, is that your actors will never ever really look the part. Unless you’re Dolph Lundgren that is. The Dolph is the kind of guy who wakes up in the morning by bench-pressing 1980s montages and killing his breakfast so that it remains fresh. And in Masters of the Universe, that guy was simply HUGE.

I’m not joking. Dolph Lundgren is what He-Man action figures grow up wanting to be. In fact, Lundgren was so damn massive, that he had to do several of his own stunts, because strapping several stuntmen together in order to emulate a Lundgren body mass is frowned upon by the stunt union. But the thing is, every character in that film looked like their action figure counterpart. Frank Langella was Skeletor. Evil-Lyn was my weird childhood crush made even more realistic in the form of actress Meg Foster. Robert Duncan Macneill was the spitting image of F***wit: The useless teenager who has no point being in that movie.

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And it’s a film which took liberties with the source material. How did that work out? Awesomely, that’s how. Let’s face facts here: Prince Adam is a tool, and He-Man is a nipple-harnessed badass in the film who’ll blast your face off after stabbing it into pieces. So cutting out Prince Adam from the flick entirely was a stroke of genius. Plus, Dolph Lundgren has a contractual obligation to not have to play anyone who wears purple leggings. And a hero is defined by his villain, a fact which is more than evident in this movie.

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I mean, just check out Frank Langella as Skeletor. He’s hammy, violent, sadistic and I can still see his nose underneath that make-up. In other words: perfect. But the best bit, is when the villain actually wins. Yep, in a kids movie, the demonic skull-face who was this close to murdering children and violent bodybuilders actually was victorious, even if it was fleeting.

Masters of the Universe is another great example of why toy lines shouldn’t be movies, but it just doesn’t give a damn what you think. It cost millions to make, and lost even more at the box office. But it’s a quality film, where everything looks right, everything sounds right and everything else is undiluted 1980s fantasy action. They don’t make movies like this anymore, and they sure as hell won’t want to. Which makes Masters of the Universe that much more special.

After all, it had…the POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWER!

Last Updated: July 31, 2013

Darryn Bonthuys

Word-slinger at Critical Hit. Inventor of the macho Swiss gym chocolate known as Testoblerone. That's...that's about it really.

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