Oh my goodness me, Masters of the Universe, people! My second-favourite film as a child (the first was Return of the Jedi), I absolutely love this film, 28 years after its initial release… Such fond memories!
The film follows He-Man and his friends Teela and Man-at-Arms as they battle the evil Skeletor for control of Eternia, opening somewhat in media res, with the forces of evil having secured a victory and occupying Castle Grayskull. The heroes discover that Skeletor’s forces were able to sneak into the castle with the help of a cosmic key, created by the inventor Gwildor. He-Man and his friends try to liberate the Sorceress, and the castle, but are forced to flee through a portal created by Gwildor’s prototype key, and are transported to Earth. There, they lose the key and must search to recover it, while Skeletor, obsessed with control, dispatches forces after them.
On Earth, the key is found by high-school musician Kevin, who is in the process of ending a relationship with his girlfriend Julie following the deaths of her parents. These two become embroiled in Skeletor’s search for the key, and after some heated battles, Skeletor himself comes to Earth to claim his prize – the key, and He-Man himself.
Gwildor, with Kevin’s help, manages to open a portal back to Eternia to rescue He-Man, just as Skeletor begins to merge his power with that of the Sorceress to become lord of all the land. The climactic battle between the two ends with Skeletor’s defeat, and Gwildor is able to send Kevin and Julie home to Earth, shortly before Julie’s parents were killed, leading to a happy end for all.
The film is often maligned – unfairly, in my view – for its production problems, where budget cuts led to placing the film on Earth for significant periods and the like, and also for its poor performance from Dolph Lundgren, whose He-Man was his first leading role. Personally, I don’t have a problem with him, whether that’s from nostalgia or not, I can’t really say. A contentious point, perhaps, but the film feels more of an ensemble effort, anyway, so doesn’t need to be carried by one person. Anyway.
Something that strikes me as I watch this film as an adult is just how subtle and brilliant the performances of Frank Langella (Skeletor) and Meg Foster (Evil Lyn) come across. Skeletor is of course something of a pantomime villain, though Langella’s performance transcends that through sheer commitment to the part. Meg Foster’s Evil Lyn is, quite possibly, the greatest role in the film, however – the subtext of lovelorn acolyte to Skeletor, to ruthlessly saving her own skin, works tremendously well, and serves to add depth to the villains. Plus… those eyes!
Of course, it’s not a perfect movie, no matter how impressive that throne room set is (the largest in Hollywood since Cleopatra, I believe). There are some very wonky bits, and some of the effects (air centurions spring to mind) don’t really hold up anymore. Not to mention, we have to wait a full hour and a half before He-Man even says the iconic line:
But sit back, let the 80s awesome take you, and enjoy the adventure! It might well be camp, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still fun!
Buy it on amazon here!