Film Threat Review: He-Man & The Masters of the Universe (2002)

2009
Rated G
127 minutes

**

What do you remember most about He-Man™? The scantily clad cartoons? The hodgepodge of literally-monikered villains like Beast Man™ and Mer Man™? That annoying and incompetent flying Jawa, Orko™? Personally, I remember the moral lessons at the end of every episode because they’re the reason my mom let…nay, insisted on me watching the show. In the 80’s, the babysitter in a box was born. And it did more than entertain. It taught kids lessons. Important lessons that parents didn’t have time to teach themselves. Things like cooperation, reserving judgment and consumerism.

Speaking of consumerism, what’s the best way to get a new generation interested in old toys? Why, a cartoon remake, of course. “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” was remounted in 2002 in order to promote a “new” line of Mattel He-Man™ toys. The producers claimed it was a “fresh take on the retro classic.” But it’s about as fresh as a box of Velveeta. Not much has changed. All the familiar characters are still here and as single-faceted as ever. I’m pretty sure it’s just about the money. That would explain all the trademarks on the DVD box.

The series starts out going back. Way back to when Skeletor™ was called Keldor and still had a face. He was defeated by Prince Adam’s™ father, scalded himself with some sort of mystical acid and banished behind an impenetrable wall. Ever since, he and his cronies have been trying to find a way back into Eternia™ so that they can, you know, rule the world and whatnot.

Flash-forward to present day, where young, wiry Prince Adam™ spars with Teela™ (minus the Tequila), his childhood friend and the daughter of Man-At-Arms™. She is basically kicking his ass and taunting him. And on his 16th birthday, no less. Clumsy, unreliable and a little dim, he’s pretty much a disappointment to everyone. That is, until Skeletor™ discovers a way to penetrate the impenetrable wall. It’s then that Man-At-Arms™ takes Prince Adam™ to Castle Greyskull™ and reveals his destiny. Even though the King already has a pretty decent security staff and plenty of specially-abled forces to protect his kingdom, and even though Teela™ is quite battle-savvy herself, the useless Prince has a destiny. Royalty never has to earn anything.

So anyway, the Sorceress who lives in the castle gives Prince Adam™ the Sword of Omens…I mean, the Power Sword™, and he’s transformed from a 90-pound weakling into The Most Powerful Man in the Universe™. Likewise, his enormous cowardly tiger is transformed into Battle Cat™. And thus, He-Man™ saves the day.

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility. So Prince Adam™ can’t tell anyone he’s He-Man™ and has to go on pretending he’s incompetent, lest he “put his loved ones in danger.” This line of reasoning makes sense in present day New York, but not as much in a magical land where Skeletor’s™ main target is the King, Prince Adam’s™ father. It seems like his loved ones are already in constant danger. But whatevs.

Those familiar with original show might find some novelty in seeing all the characters they remember. But that wears off quickly, right around the time Orko™ botches his bazillionth spell and makes a mess. The lessons are still present at the end of each episode, which would make my mother happy. In fact, the only really discernable difference between this series and the original is the hair. Gone is He-Man’s™ girly pageboy haircut, replaced with a nice, tousled shorter do. Also, the non-super Prince Adam™ remains skinny and useless, squeaking at everyone in his pre-pubescent timber and not so much suspiciously resembling the all-powerful beefcake, He-Man™. This certainly makes the secret identity hiding a bit more plausible.

Though plausibility is the least of the show’s problems. The plot lines are cliché. The battle one-liners are as cheesy as ever and the whole thing takes itself way too seriously. That’s really saying something for a program with a character named Ram Man™. If they hadn’t already, they lost me during the episode in which they attempted to make Orko™ seem relevant.

The DVD box set includes all 39 episodes of the series on 4 discs. If that’s not enough, you can delve further into 12 audio commentaries, interviews with artists and scripts for every episode. There’s also a PDF comic book for the un-produced 40th episode for people who just love to read on their television.

If you’re a kid, well, I have no idea if you’re going to like this reHe-Mangining (sorry). Kids are fickle. If I knew what kids wanted, I’d be a millionaire. I can, however, speak for adults. Particularly adults who grew up in the 80’s. And I’m sorry to say that even a couple pulls on your Tall Boy or puffs from your water pipe aren’t really going to make this an entertaining show. I’d suggest looking up the old show on YouTube. Or, better yet, getting the Thundercats DVD. That shit is HILARIOUS.

Originally posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

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