Plot: A radical return to Eternia, Revelation is a direct sequel series to the classic era of Masters of the Universe. Featuring fan favorites He-Man, Orko, Cringer, and Man-At-Arms, the story pits our heroic warriors, and guardians of Castle Grayskull against Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Beast-Man, and the vile legions of Snake Mountain. But after a ferocious final battle forever fractures Eternia, it’s up to Teela to solve the mystery of the missing Sword of Power in a race against time to prevent the end of the Universe! Her journey will uncover the secrets of Grayskull at last. This is the epic He-Man and the Masters of the Universe saga fans have waited 25 years to see!
Review: From He-Man on Saturday mornings to Masters of the Universe on the big screen, tales set in the realm of Eternia have been a staple since the 1980s. For myself, my childhood was defined by the action figures and animated action of the original cartoon. More than G.I. Joe, Thundercats, and Transformers combined, He-Man was the seminal cartoon of my formative years. With so many reboots attempting to capture the spirit of the 1983 Filmation and Mattel series, none have captured the tone quite right. That is until ultimate fanboy Kevin Smith. With Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Kevin Smith does for He-Man what J.J. Abrams and Disney tried to do with Star Wars and has crafted a sequel series that respects the source material while forging a contemporary narrative. At once the ultimate work of nostalgia and a modern reboot, Masters of the Universe: Revelation is classic He-Man for a new generation.
Set after the conclusion of the animated series, Masters of the Universe: Revelation wastes no time in jumping into the action. Over the first six episodes of the show, we find Eternia still mired in attacks by the evil Skeletor as he tries to undermine the power of Castle Greyskull and the Sorceress who resides within. The planet’s champion, He-Man, remains the protector standing between Skeletor and his goal. Right away, a massive battle consumes the sides of good and evil as heroes and bad guys clash. Every classic character you know is back from Teela and Man-At-Arms to Orko and Cringer as well as Evil-Lynn and Beast Man and more. As the epic battle rages, Kevin Smith makes the shocking decision that alters the tone of the entire show.
While spoilers have leaked some of the plot decisions that Revelation takes, I will not spoil them here. I will simply say that Kevin Smith and the creative team behind this show do not play by the rules that Masters of the Universe would have followed thirty years ago. As such, Revelation is free to change things up and dive into characters in a way that adds a lot of pathos to their journeys while keeping the puns and silly dialogue that made this cartoon such unabashedly fun viewing. Knowing this was a concluding chapter to the original cartoon means that beloved characters may die, permanently, and that is something I was not prepared to experience. Despite that, it lends an authenticity to Revelation it otherwise may not have had,
The animation style of Masters of the Universe: Revelation also contemporizes the old school Filmation cel animation with an anime style similar to Netflix’s Castlevania series. It looks a little grittier without altering the trademark character designs. In fact, the animation team stays very true to most of the characters and their classic looks including many characters that only existed as action figures until now, including Scare-Glo (Tony Todd), He-Ro (Phil LaMarr), and King Grayskull (Tony Todd). Some have noted the revised look for Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar) which is an important update tied to the direction that Revelation takes her character, but it is one that is much easier to support once you start watching the new series.
The voice talent for this series is the biggest victory He-Man fans could have asked for. While He-Man himself is voiced perfectly by Chris Wood, the talents of Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela, Liam Cunningham as Man-At-Arms, Mark Hamill as Skeletor, and Lena Headey as Evil-Lynn are the real triumphs. Every performance is steeped in respect for the original cartoon while never ignoring the inherent pulp that made this show so good. Kevin Smith’s writing staff embraces the use of puns in the dialogue but never to excess while making this a serial story spread over multiple episodes. Not the standalone adventures of the 1983 series, this is a massive story designed to be consumed like a twelve-chapter narrative. With only the first half of the story released so far, even I don’t yet know how this story will finally end.
Just like the Star Wars sequel trilogy, Masters of the Universe: Revelation will not appeal to everyone. There is no agenda hidden behind the decisions in this story nor does it force inclusion or diversity measures on audiences. This is a series rooted in a love for the source material that takes narrative risks, something I never thought I would be saying about a He-Man cartoon. Kevin Smith manages to modernize this story in a way that allows new viewers to jump into the mythology of Masters of the Universe while not alienating die-hard fans of the classic series. I appreciate that this show, unlike any remake or He-Man reboot that came before it, brought me back to my elementary school days playing with the best toys I ever had. Masters of the Universe: Revelation is a blast from beginning to end and I have not had this much fun with an animated series in years.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation premieres July 23rd on Netflix.