I remember watching He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985) as a young person, and at the time I really enjoyed it.
Though it hasn’t aged particularly well.
And that’s to be expected when you’re dealing with characters designed to appeal mainly to young boys, with names like Stinkor (a skunk-man), Triclops (a man with three rotating eyes) or Scareglow (a glowing skeleton), illustrate.
Most young children don’t get nuance (partially because it’s not what they’re typically offered), which had a something to do with how successful He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was at the time.
Then a strange thing happened.
Movie studios, in a constant search for new IP (intellectual property) eventually found success with cartoons like The Transformers and G.I.Joe (both from Hasbro, a toy company that competed with Mattel).
Speaking of Mattel, they haven’t had much luck rebooting their cartoon franchises for the big screen, with 1987’s Masters of the Universe being a bit of an embarrassment.
Lately there’s talk about a Barbie live-action movie, though a potential problem is that Barbie – the toy line – was never ‘about’ anything, which means a live-action version would be a massive game of ‘fill in the planet-sized blank,’ which could potentially alienate the people – I assume girls and women – that the movie would likely be directed at.
There’s also been talk of another live-action version of He-Man for awhile, which apparently fell through (Noah Centineo would have played Prince Adam/He-Man) though I don’t think it’s a bad thing in the sense that Mattel can’t afford to keep flubbing what could potentially be their premiere franchise.
The most dominant issue is the aforementioned literalness designed to appeal to children. Another is how thin the entire premise of Masters of the Universe is.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation handles the latter by introducing new realms of Eternia and the former by expanding the themes that the original series likely never considered dealing with, like the misuse of religion.
Throw in the occasional paraphrase of a Julius Caesar quote, and you end up with something you don’t expect to see in a cartoon, never mind one based on He-Man action figures, but something that not only is curiously prescient, but accessible to not only children, but adults.
Masters of the Universe is currently on Netflix.