Why Is Masters of the Universe: Revelation So Divisive Among He-Man Fans?
Last week, a sequel series to the 1983–1985 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series was released, titled Masters of the Universe: Revelation. While getting overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, it received a mixed response from audiences. Why the discrepancy?
**Spoilers for Masters of the Universe: Revelation.**
Created by a known friend to nerd-kind, director Kevin Smith, Masters of the Universe: Revelation was split into two parts, with the first five episodes being released by Netflix on July 23, 2021. It has a star-studded voice cast and excellent animation. Even the writing leans into treating some of the goofier elements of the series with kindness and affection. Since this is a sequel series, you are expected to come into the series knowing roughly the cast of characters and their relationships to one another.
Prince Adam is He-Man (Chris Wood), a warrior guardian of Eternia. His dual identity is kept secret from his father, King Randor (Diedrich Bader), and his best friend, Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar). During the latest attack on Castle Greyskull by the evil Skeletor (Mark Hamill) and his forces, Adam/He-Man is forced to absorb all the magic in Eternia using the Sword of Power as a conduit.
This result in not only splitting the sword in two but killing both He-Man and Skeletor. Teela and King Randor learn of He-Man’s death and true identity, which leads to King Randor banishing Man-At-Arms (Liam Cunningham), and Teela deciding to leave the Royal Guard behind, hurt at everyone keeping He-Man’s identity from her.
And that is all in the first episode.
As someone who is only a general fan of He-Man, it was a lot, and I could instantly see why for those looking for that character this would be a blow. If I were going to watch a Sailor Moon series and it wasn’t about Usagi, I’d be irritated, too—especially since I think the hook of He-Man dying and the supporting characters having to carry on without him is something older fans would have been interested in.
The other issue is that this series did not need to be split into two parts. While I enjoyed the first five episodes, it felt like setup for a larger story that would fill out in a 13-episode anime. I don’t think it needed to be torn up, and I think doing that actually made the whole thing feel even more disorienting because there isn’t even a real antagonist for that part of the series. We are mostly just getting the band back together and questing.
Is the hate-bombing of review sites overblown and silly? Absolutely, because in the end, Masters of the Universe is a fun show that deeply cares about the mythology of this world. It constantly works to bring pathos to characters named Moss-Man, Roboto, and Evil-Lyn. What we see of He-Man/Adam also gives layers to him that make him very much intriguing to me as someone familiar, but not overly invested.
As for the arguments of SJW-ism because the lead ends up being Teela, sorry, you don’t cast Sarah Michelle Gellar to play supporting. But in all seriousness, Smith is someone who appreciates strong women, but also characters who end up in the background. His focus on those who were inspired by He-Man/Prince Adam feels like something he would be excited to do. It isn’t “SJW.” That is just Kevin Smith.
During an interview with io9, Kevin Smith was honest about his goals for the series.
“Our manifest was to be fanservicey,” Smith told io9. “We did not have a kind of creative, let’s call it, freedom to reinvent the franchise the way that She-Ra did and did it brilliantly. [Noelle Stevenson’s] She-Ra cartoon played to a lot more people than it probably ever would have played to if they just kept it in its original incarnation. But She-Ra, even in its era, wasn’t as well known as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe so there’s more room for creativity there. And in fact, that’s what they were allowed to do. ”
“To be honest with you, I wouldn’t have taken the job if they were like, ‘You get to reinvent He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,’” Smith said, “I’m really not that creative. I would not be the guy you’d tap to reinvent something. But if you want to keep it going lovingly, true to the franchise and just growing up the characters a little bit so their conversations are a little more adult-oriented? [I’m your guy.]” He clarified, “And I certainly don’t mean they’re all talking about sex. Not at all. There’s no sex in the show whatsoever. It’s definitely a family-oriented show. The idea going in was we have to be able to show the characters both audiences can enjoy. The audience that grew up watching it, who are now like in their 40s or 50s, and their kids—who, presumably, they’re going to watch this show with.”
I think, despite the few stumbles that come from splitting the series into two pieces, he mostly did those things. He took He-Man and the Masters of the Universe to a new place, and I think that place works.
Smith knows better than anyone how hard fan communities are to please, so I hope he sees the people who are excited about these new developments.
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