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‘Masters of the Universe: Revelation’: Poor execution

"Masters of the Universe: Revelation" Part 1 actually has an interesting story to tell, but unfortunately this is marred by poor execution. Image credit: Netflix
Chris Wood as Prince Adam/He-Man and Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela. Image credit: Netflix

Kevin Smith’s “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” Part 1 actually has an interesting story to tell, but unfortunately this is marred by poor execution. It’s much better than those who hate it will have you believe, but it’s also overrated by the critics who love it. Just like Smith himself, whom I’ve always found overrated, even though I will always love his “Mallrats”.

It’s hard to review anything these days, especially if they’re movies or shows that have triggered fan backlash, such as “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, “Captain Marvel”, and now “Masters of the Universe: Revelation”. People have called me “woke” and “SJW” — as if these are supposed to be insults. I happen to believe in diversity and representation, and I actually loved “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Captain Marvel”. But I also don’t believe in dismissing everyone who didn’t like “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” as an incel or toxic fan, although I’m sure some of them are. My main problem with this sequel to the original 1983 TV series is that pivotal scene and the cringeworthy actions of someone who is supposed to be a best friend. Just ask yourself: is that really how a best friend would have reacted, given what had just happened? It’s such a blatantly clumsy plot device that doesn’t ring true and feels out of character. Kind of Smith’s version of “One More Day” just to get us to the story he wants to tell. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” Part 1.

Bait and switch?

Even before “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” Part 1 premiered on Netflix on July 23, it was already generating fan outrage because of a rumor that He-Man, the main character of the 1983 TV series “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”, wasn’t actually going to be the star of this series. Instead, it would be his ally Teela, who in the TV series was responsible for training and protecting Prince Adam and also assisted He-Man in his battles, but — and this is crucial — was unaware that Prince Adam is actually He-Man.

So you can imagine how some He-Man fans reacted. The accusations of SJWs once more “ruining their childhood” — which is stupid, because the original show didn’t suddenly vanish because of this new series — and “promoting Hollywood’s agenda” — which apparently is to turn every property and every character “woke”.

Unfortunately, what made it worse is that Smith and company weren’t up front about this series. That it would be up to Teela to save the day. So there’s some truth to the complaint of angry fans that “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” Part 1 did a bait and switch, and used He-Man as a marketing ploy just to get people to watch this Netflix series.

Granted, this is just Part 1, but how in the world could Smith and company pretend they weren’t misleading fans of the character He-Man?

Buffy and Teela

Now, I’m a huge “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fan and wasn’t really into the He-Man TV series, though I obviously watched it because it was hugely popular in the ’80s. But even I feel bad for those who were excited to see He-Man in action, particularly since the official teaser got so many hyped. Because the animation definitely got upgraded, and who wouldn’t want to see He-Man for the next generation? And characters actually fighting — watch the original TV series if you don’t understand what this means.

Having said that, I was interested in seeing how Smith would make Teela a more compelling character. It helps, of course, that Gellar has Buffy badass creds. But again, I can’t get over the way Teela reacted to the death of her best friend. Somehow, Smith wants us to believe Teela would be more upset that Prince Adam didn’t reveal his secret identity to her, but told practically everyone else, who kept it a secret from her — than by his death.

That was Teela’s takeaway from the death of Prince Adam/He-Man? And she was going to throw this temper tantrum in front of his grieving parents? This lie was so unforgivable that she would turn her back on her family, friends, and duties, and stop being a hero — when a few scenes earlier she was celebrating becoming the new Man-At-Arms?

To put this into context, imagine Lois Lane not knowing that Clark Kent is actually Superman. And Smith doing his own version of “The Death of Superman”. With Lois reacting to Superman’s death by becoming angry at Clark for not revealing his secret identity to her. And then throwing a tantrum in front of Jonathan and Martha Kent, Jimmy Olsen — you get the picture.

‘I’m your worst nightmare’

The other signs of poor execution include the heavy-handed dialogue. I mean, I love hearing Lena Headey as Skeletor’s second-in-command Evil-Lyn, and her “Oh, bollocks!” is priceless. But those moments when she talks about how men want to keep the power for themselves are so clumsily written that she sounds less like a character and more like a manifesto.

It’s as if Smith is telling the whole world how woke he is and how woke his characters are, instead of showing it. Show, don’t tell.

And it’s not just his female characters. Listen to Orko’s dialogue. I get that Smith is trying to give these characters more depth, but the way he wants these characters to be taken so seriously actually ends up making them sound more ridiculous.

Still, it was interesting to see Teela and Evil-Lyn becoming reluctant allies, and as a fanboy I got a kick out of hearing Buffy talking to Cersei.

Mostly, however, I feel that Teela’s badassery is still unearned. “I’m your worst nightmare” is a Buffy thing to say and works because, yes, the Slayer was the nightmare that vampires and other monsters dreaded facing. Smith seems to think giving Teela a new haircut and making her sound tough with her Buffy voice would be enough to change the character.

It’s a pity, considering the caliber of the voice cast, particularly Mark Hamill as Skeletor (with his old sparring partner Kevin Conroy playing Mer-Man), that this show pretended to be something it wasn’t, instead of bravely letting fans know from the start the direction it had chosen.

For all its clumsiness, “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” Part 1 is still somewhat entertaining, particularly seeing what happened to Tri-Klops after the events that transpired.

Let’s hope Part 2 will be a lot better.