the Silver Screen
Musings on Masters of the Universe: The Motion Picture
First of all, a general notice to all those who have
been writing me about getting a hold of Masters of the
Universe items. Generally, I am of no help in such quests.
Most of my material was acquired back during the 1980s,
through friends, or through individuals and dealerships
who would be difficult to locate now, even if they are
still providing material. You're better off checking
the resources we have available here at He-Man.org.
Now, on to this editorial's topic, which is one of the
most controversial elements of the MOTUniverse -- Masters
of the Universe: The Motion Picture (hereafter MOTU:TMP).
I sat down to watch down the film straight through for
the first time in several years -- I usually start at
the last half-hour or so -- and found some things worth
I still appreciate the introductory voice-over of the
film. The narrator does a fine job of conveying the
scope and longevity of the battle for Eternia. The only
problem is that while the cosmic element of the struggle
is discussed, the persons of the conflict are glossed
over -- we hear nothing about He-Man and Skeletor.
The inital moments of the movie are also impressive.
Skeletor's entrance into Castle Grayskull is played
up as the momumental event we knew it would be, and
the Lord of Destruction gets a good chance to gloat.
Meg Foster's portrayal of Evil-Lyn is a bit of a divergence
from the cartoon version, but quite good with a lot
of little touches that bring the character to life --
watch for her triumphant smirk after Skeletor starts
draining the energy of the Sorceress.
Christina Pickles doesn't get much to do as the Sorceress
-- only appearing in four scenes. Most of her lines
are general exposition and encouragement, with few real
character touches. Still, she does well enough with
what she's given, and her dialogue with Skeletor upon
the triumphant return of the Dark Lord to Castle Grayskull
is, in my opinion, one of the high points of the movie.
Speaking of Frank Langella's Skeletor... well, what
is there to say that hasn't been said already by most
fans? Langella steals the film with his portrayal of
the Lord of Destruction, giving us a Skeletor who's
darker and more sinister than any other version, and
imbued with malevolent presence. Langella's charisma
and acting skill make this Skeletor more imposing and
threatening than any other version. The script also
gives him many of the best lines.
The only areas of Eternia we see outside of Castle Grayskull
are a few rocky areas and Gwildor's home. There isn't
much of an Eternian 'feel' to them, but they aren't
blatantly un-Eternian either.
As for the Heroic Warriors, who we first meet after
Skeletor's address to the people of Eternia...
Jon Cypher does a decent Man-at-Arms, although the master
of weapons is played for comic relief a bit too much
for my tastes. Of all the characters in the movie, he
most resembles the original toy version; aside from
a color change and a few small details, the likeness
The same can't be said for the movie's version of Teela,
who bears almost no resemblance to the classic version
in either appearance or character. Chelsea Fields makes
a game attempt, but the script for Teela is so weak
that she's has nearly no impact on the movie.
As for Dolph Lundgren as He-Man... the character design's
not too bad, but the script doesn't give him much more
material than Teela -- the wisdom and nobility that
made the Hero of Eternia more than a muscle-bound barbarian
are lost. Lundgren's not the worst actor, but he doesn't
quite catch the character either, something made worse
by his fluctuating and sometimes distracting accent.
As for the one new Eternian addition to the forces of
Good, Gwildor... he's a good Billy Barty character,
but he just doesn't seem to fit. The character's far
too whimsical and comedic for my tastes; even Orko,
who was sometimes a jarring note, didn't quite seem
to get that bad. Once you get past the first half of
the movie, though, he becomes less bumbling and actually
begins to show a bit of courage. All in all, he's not
a bad character once the spotlight's off him.
The journey to Earth is the worst major element of the
movie, in my view. If Gwildor was a slightly discordant
element, then this practically breaks the movie. While
I'll agree there's a certain charm to seeing people
like us get caught up in the struggle for Eternia, spending
over half of the movie on the planet Earth seems like
a waste of time, especially when so much of it is spent
with the Earthlings. The fact that the first few scenes
on Earth (the encounter with the cow and the scenes
at Robby's Ribs) are bad comic relief doesn't help matters.
It doesn't help that the three Terran characters we
spend the most time with aren't very likeable. Robert
Duncan McNeil and Courteney Cox do a decent job as Kevin
Corrigan and Julie Winston, but the characters are somewhat
flat and spend too much time as victims of the forces
of Skeletor, without having any real strength in their
own right. As for Detective Lubic, James Tolkan does
what he can, but he's saddled with the role of an arrogant
buffoon who does almost nothing worthwhile for the story.
It's not until about a third of the way into the film
that we meet the remaining Eternian characters, of whom
only one -- Beast Man -- is familiar to us. Karg, Blade,
and Saurod are actually decent villains; I've always
had a fondness for Blade, myself. Beast Man would have
been a good 'savage' warrior in his own right, but he
doesn't mesh with any other portrayal of Skeletor's
Despite all of these problems, there are things I like
about the movie. Some of the dialogue is enjoyable,
as are some of the individual scenes, such as the assault
on the record store, and Skeletor's grand arrival on
For me, the real height of the movie comes when Skeletor
returns to Eternia with He-Man as his prisoner. The
growing sense of doom, with the Lord of Destruction
finally triumphant and about to steal the Powers of
Grayskull, pervades the scenes as the Sorceress fades
and He-Man is battered -- but not broken. Skeletor's
ascension is a dramatic moment, and the final battle
isn't perfect, but is exciting. I do wonder why they
used that strange and dim lighting for the final battle
between He-Man and Skeletor, though. Maybe it was to
disguise the fact that Skeletor was probably being played
by Anthony deLongis (Blade) for that scene?
Thus, while MOTU:TMP is a disappointment, it has some
redeeming qualities. My habit is to start with Skeletor's
return to Eternia, and fast-forward through the Earth
scenes interspersed with the Eternian material -- I
feel I get some of the best material that way.
Still, whatever way you choose to watch the movie --
including not watching it at all -- enjoy it, and good