REVIEW: ‘Masters of the Universe: Revelation’ Reignites The Power of Grayskull

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Masters of the Universe: Revelation is a Netflix Original Animated Series developed by Kevin Smith and produced by Mattel Television and Powerhouse Animation Studios. A direct sequel to the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated series, Revelation begins after a ferocious battle between He-Man (Chris Wood) and his archnemesis Skeletor (Mark Hamill) leads to the destruction of magic in Eternia. Without magic, Eternia will die-and when it dies; the entire universe will die with it. It falls to Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and a collection of friends and foes, including genius inventor Andra (Tiffany Smith) and Skeletor’s right-hand sorceress Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey), to restore magic before all life is snuffed out.

I freely admit that I was never a big He-Man fan; most of my knowledge of the series came from the short-lived 2002 revival that aired on Cartoon Network. And although Smith said that he intended for Revelation to be a love letter to fans who grew up watching the original series, it’s presented in a way that will appeal to new viewers as well as longtime He-Man fans; the opening of the first episode “The Power of Grayskull” even gives a brief overview of the series’ concept. All anyone needs to know going in is that Adam, the Prince of Eternia, uses a magic sword to transform into He-Man and battle Skeletor’s forces.

Smith is no stranger to injecting new life into classic characters, with his work on Daredevil and Green Arrow serving as a major example. This time, he isn’t alone as a collection of talented writers have joined Revelation‘s writing staff. These writers include Smith’s Fatman Beyond podcast partner Marc Bernardin; Tim Sheridan, who also serves as the lead writer on the Revelation prequel miniseries for Dark Horse Comics; and fellow genre show writers Diya Mishra (The Tick) and Eric Carrasco (Supergirl).

Each writer takes an episode and infuses it with the same mix of sci-fi and fantasy from the original series while tackling more adult themes such as the zealotry that religion can inspire and the pain of keeping secrets from loved ones. And thankfully, it does this in a way that actually feels adult; the heroes and villains have frank discussions about the past and their emotions. Nowhere is this made more clear than in the fourth episode, “Land of the Dead,” where the heroes are forced to face their deepest fears and win by acknowledging, then overcoming them.

Revelation‘s biggest asset is its stacked voice cast, featuring an assembly of actors who are best known for their roles in other genre projects. Gellar is no stranger to portraying highly skilled warrior women, portraying the titular character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; in Revelation, she plays Teela with near-volcanic anger that conceals layers of hurt and fear. Wood turns in an impressive dual performance as both He-Man and Adam, with a difference in vocal timbre and confidence; He-Man is bold and charges into battle while Adam is more down-to-earth and approachable. Other standouts include Henry Rollins as Tri-Clops, Liam Cunningham as Man-at-Arms, and Smith’s bench of collaborators, including Justin Long as the mechanical Roboto and Diedrich Bader pulling double duty as Trap-Jaw and Adam’s father, King Randor. Even Justice League voice veterans Susan Eisenberg, Phil LaMarr, and Kevin Conroy pop up in surprising roles.

The standouts of the voice cast for me were Smith, Headey, and Hamill. Though he is probably best known for his role as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films, Hamill has also done plenty of voice work-specifically as the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. His performance as Skeletor is fairly chilling; he manages to infuse Skeletor with the menace that I thought was lacking in the original series. (A massively meta moment occurs when Moss Man-voiced by Skeletor’s original voice actor Alan Oppenheimer-faces off against Skeletor.) Headey’s Evil-Lyn is a little less evil than her name implies; she even forms a bond with the diminutive sorcerer Orko (Griffin Newman) and seems openly dismissive of her time working with Skeletor. And as Andra, Smith serves as the de facto audience surrogate-new viewers will experience the world and characters of Grayskull through her eyes, and Andra proves to be a foil to Teela in many ways, including her skillset and outlook on life.

Revelation also marks the latest collaboration between Netflix and Powerhouse, and as usual, the results are a sight to behold. Series directors Adam Conarroe and Patrick Stannard deliver some great fight scenes, including a high-pitched battle between He-Man and Skeletor in “The Power of Grayskull” and a duel aboard a boat in the third episode, “The Most Dangerous Man In Grayskull.” While the violence is not on the same level as Powerhouse’s previous Netflix series, such as Castlevania or Blood of Zeus, characters do die, and there are elements of body horror, especially where Tri-Clops’ technology-themed cult is concerned.

The character designs feel like a streamlined version of the original animated series, with Orko having more expressive eyes and Teela sporting a new uniform and haircut. And the world of Eternia feels ripped from a Frank Frazetta painting; the sea is dotted with crystal formations, Castle Grayskull remains dark and foreboding with storm clouds hovering over it, and there are two realms that characters refer to as Eternia’s version of heaven and hell-and trust me, those are apt descriptions.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation boasts stunning animation and an all-star voice cast and will appeal to longtime He-Man fans and newcomers to the franchise alike. I was hooked from beginning to end, and I can’t wait to see what Smith and co. have in store for the second half of the series.

Part 1 of Masters of the Universe: Revelation will be available to stream on Netflix on Friday, July 23.


Masters of the Universe: Revelation
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TL;DR

Masters of the Universe: Revelation boasts stunning animation and an all-star voice cast and will appeal to longtime He-Man fans and newcomers to the franchise alike. I was hooked from beginning to end, and I can’t wait to see what Smith and co. have in store for the second half of the series.