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  Masters of the Universe That Wasn't Skeletor, That Was Bez
Year: 1987
Director: Gary Goddard
Stars: Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, Meg Foster, Billy Barty, Courteney Cox, Robert Duncan McNeill, Jon Cypher, Chelsea Field, James Tolkan, Christina Pickles, Tony Carroll, Pons Maar, Anthony De Longis, Robert Towers, Barry Livingston, Jessica Nelson
Genre: Action, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: There is a crisis in the land of Eternia as the wicked Skeletor (Frank Langella) has has become successful in his bid to take over Castle Greyskull, seat of all power in the world, and has overcome the forces of good to do so. He-Man (Dolph Lundgren) is vanquished, but he and his remaining companions Man-at-Arms (Jon Cypher) and Teela (Chelsea Field) believe they still have a chance to succeed. If they can free the Sorceress (Christina Pickles) from Skeletor's grasp before the moon reaches its zenith, then they can wrest back control. But it's not going to be easy...

Masters of the Universe was a novelty in 1987, because where all films up till that time based on a line of toys had been cartoons, and mainly drawn from their television incarnations - Care Bears, My Little Pony, and so on - this was a try at providing epic entertainment in live action. It was brought to you by Cannon, responsible for so many action movies of this decade, which explains why it closely resembles one of their more traditional thrillers complete with shootouts and a square-jawed hero doling out the violence to overcome the wiles of a despicable bad guy.

In fact, this version of He-Man was not as impressive as was hoped and ended up being a flop at the box office, probably because it fell down when trying to recreate adventures that small children could make up themselves while playing at home, and for being a sight less imaginative with it. The production was strapped for cash, which explains why about fifteen minutes in most of the cast are transported to Planet Earth circa 1987 to act out their titanic struggle; funnily ennough, the Transformers blockbuster of twenty years later also took place on then-modern day Earth, although that was a huge hit.

There is a gizmo which has spirited He-Man and his friends to Earth as they try to escape thanks to little Billy Barty, slathered in rubber makeup, as an inventor. Naturally they lose their device and Skeletor, even though if he simply left them alone they would never defeat him as they were safely out of the way, demands his rival be captured and sends yet more actors wearing make-up as immobile as his own after them. Predictably, the area they all end up in is California, and two teens, Julie (a young Courteney Cox, providing snide mirth for Friends fans) and her boyfriend Kevin (Robert Duncan McNeill from Star Trek Voyager) find the gadget and think it's a Japanese synthesiser.

Well, it might well have been, but it's also what everyone in the cast wishes to get their hands on, but there's a problem here and it's that He-Man comes across not as a great leader in the Conan the Barbarian mould, he only has a handful of colleagues anyway, but more of a supporting character in his own movie. The expected clash with Skeletor (Langella overacts manfully through the latex) doesn't occur until the last ten minutes, and barely makes an impression. It's obvious what was hoped for here was a new Star Wars, but what they got was a distinct lack of intergalactic-level profits, and perhaps if they had spent more time with Lundgren and Langella it might have given us something to get excited about, but when most of the running time is more concerned with the teens it's as if the filmmakers recognised that He-Man simply didn't have enough personality to carry the story. After all, he was just a little plastic doll. Music by Bill Conti.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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