REVIEW: ‘He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe’ Reinvents Greyskull for a New Generation

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He-Man and the Masters of the Universe - But Why Tho

He-Man & The Masters of the Universe is a Netflix Original Animated Series produced by Mattel Television and developed by Rob David. A reboot of the original He-Man animated series, this series finds Adam (Yuri Lowenthal) discovering the Sword of Power after he runs into magician Teela (Kimberly Brooks). Together with Teela, his allies in the Tiger Tribe Cringer (David Kaye) and Kress (Judy Alice Lee), and mechanic Duncan (Anthony Del Rio), Adam harnesses the power of Greyskull to become He-Man and battle the malevolent Skeletor (Benjamin Diskin).

While Masters of the Universe: Revelation was targeted toward fans of the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series, this series is meant to appeal to a younger audience. It mainly succeeds, largely due to the animation by studios House of Cool and CGCG. Both studios utilize the same sensibilities that permeate their work on Trollhunters and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, with character designs that wear their anime influence on their sleeve. When Adam becomes He-Man, his Sword of Power grows to a size that dwarfs even Cloud Strife’s Buster Sword, and he has a “Lightning Strike” attack that calls down meteors in the vein of Final Fantasy VII. And when Duncan transforms into Man-at-Arms, his armor will no doubt inspire comparisons to Samus Aran’s.

As this is a new take on the Masters of the Universe mythos, the writing team led by story editor Bryan Q. Miller (Smallville, Shadowhunters) invert several familiar elements of the He-Man story. Adam, usually a prince, has been adopted by Cringer and his Tiger Tribe. Cringer himself is depicted as a wise, fatherly figure rather than the cowering feline he was in the original series. Duncan, usually an older mentor figure, is around the same age as Adam and a nervous chatterbox. But the two biggest changes come from how Eternia is presented and how the series delivers upon the “Masters of the Universe” premise. While Eternia usually mixes sci-fi and fantasy elements, in this incarnation the sci-fi is full and present with hoverbikes and spaceships as modes of transportation and robots who carry out duties including apprehending criminals. Previous Netflix series Voltron: Legendary Defender took a similar approach to its storytelling, and I think it worked extremely well for both properties

The other biggest change is how Adam utilizes the Power of Greyskull. He can now share it with his friends, transforming them into more powerful versions of themselves. This plot point not only leads to Tokusatsu-esque transformations for the respective Masters of the Universe, but it also taps into the theme of “found family” that permeates the series. Adam considers Cringer and Kress to be his family, while Teela and Duncan are attempting to atone for working with criminals Kronis (Roger Craig Smith) and Evelyn (Grey Griffin). And like any family, the Masters are stronger when they work together.

In contrast, the minions of Skeletor scheme to overthrow their master, and Skeletor views power as something only he should wield. Diskin is a delight as Skeletor; he has the right amount of menace laced with a wicked sense of humor, proving that no matter the project, He-Man shows will always have an element of corniness to them. His rapport with Lowenthal’s Adam only serves to highlight the differences between both characters, while still having that classic hero/villain rivalry. Both voice actors previously worked on The Spectacular Spider-Man as Venom and Spider-Man respectively, so they have experience with this type of dynamic.

If there is one issue with the season, it’s that its two-part finale “Cry Havoc” ends rather abruptly. Granted, the ending scene is a great setup for a second season, but I honestly felt like the series could have used one or two more episodes to flesh out the world a little more. Hopefully, now that the main characters’ powers and goals are established, Season 2 can dig deeper into their individual characterizations.

He-Man & The Masters of the Universe is a welcome update of the classic series, leaning into the themes of family and teamwork. Younger viewers will enjoy it, while longtime He-Man fans will hopefully enjoy the updated series. Between this series and Revelation, it looks like He-Man truly does have the power to stay relevant in pop culture.

Season 1 of He-Man & The Masters of the Universe is currently available to stream on Netflix.

He-Man & The Masters of the Universe
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    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

He-Man & The Masters of the Universe is a welcome update of the classic series, leaning into the themes of family and teamwork. Younger viewers will enjoy it, while longtime He-Man fans will hopefully enjoy the updated series. Between this series and Revelation, it looks like He-Man truly does have the power to stay relevant in pop culture.