Warning: There are some spoilers ahead for Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 2!
First things first. If anyone was holding out hope that the second half of Masters of the Universe: Revelation would make He-Man the primary protagonist again…don’t. It remains Teela’s tale. And while Prince Adam takes a prominent role, most of his time as He-Man is spent as a Hulk-like savage, based on the early minicomics design of a pre-civilized barbarian He-Man. (Toy collectors may know that version better as Oo-Larr.) Revelation remains a show for fans of Masters of the Universe the property, and not necessarily just He-Man the character. As before, it contains some deep cuts: whoever thought we’d see Goat Man and Pig Boy? Also some shallower ones, as Adam delivers his classic opening monologue multiple times.
Wrap-ups are seldom as fun as set-ups, and that’s especially true on Eternia. Numerous Masters of the Universe adventures, particularly in the Filmation cartoons, relied on He-Man having some ridiculously overpowered ability or coincidence in his favor to beat anything, ever. Then, of course, came the familiar moral, tacked on to appease critics who claimed the show was a toy commercial, wrapping up with “Until next time!” That aspect of the old cartoons gets maybe too much of its due this time around.
While Kevin Smith isn’t credited as a writer, but rather showrunner, his love of character monologuing comes in full effect. Just like the speech in his never-made Superman script that he said was the heart of his movie (it wasn’t), key characters in the second half of Revelation love to speechify. Now, that works perfectly for Skeletor, a character who loves to hear himself talk. Mark Hamill, incorporating equal parts Joker and Frank Langella, has fun with it, as do we. But when Diedrich Bader as King Randor starts going on and on about his failures as a father and a husband, it’s painful. Crackers the Clown painful, to make a He-Man reference all ’80s fans will get. And he’s far from the only one who gets a similar moment.
It’s arguably as true to Masters mythology as anything else for characters to spell out morals and themes, however. So even if it’s not your particular thing as a fan, it’s not unfaithful. But then again, Masters of the Universe canon changes in every different interpretation. Sometimes overtly, like in that other new He-Man CG cartoon. Other times, creators pick and choose, which gets weird when character backstories come into play. Evil-Lyn’s origin story becomes significant this time around, and it’s quite different from recent interpretations. And if the Evil Horde were once a thing in this reality, why don’t the Eternian royals remember a daughter named Adora? Is She-Ra off-limits, but Hordak not? Maybe if there’s another season, we’ll find out.
Without spoiling plot details, thematically the story goes places touched on by Rick and Morty. Like, if the universe is vast and meaningless, and nothing truly matters, why not do whatever feels right? It’s weird that on a planet which literally contains the power to create gods, atheism could be a thing. Yet, here we are. Perhaps a better question is whether character deaths matter in a world where time travel and magic occur regularly. Well, not all character deaths stick, but it may be surprising just how many do. The status quo by the end absolutely changes.
It’s a recurring issue with all forms of this canon, but Eternia still seems weirdly small. If a key battle truly calls on everyone from across the world, shouldn’t they fit in more than an area the size of a few city blocks? The quest phase of this story in part one went to new places. Part two mostly stays in and around Castle Grayskull. (Just like childhood toy-room scenarios.) With godly power in play, the series faces the dilemma so many anime shows before it have. How is a fight scene to have any stakes or consequences if both participants in it are indestructible?
For serious Masters of the Universe fans, this remains a rollicking adventure with favorite characters. It’s not perfect, nor even the best interpretation. (The 2002 cartoon and some of the comics still have it beaten.) But it does make a serious go of pushing the story forward and explaining why exactly the stakes of this saga are what they are. If the writers could trim out some of the speeches along the way, though, that would be nice. And there’s a bit stolen from The Lord of the Rings that feels unearned.
Now, as much as Teela deserved to have an adventure, can we maybe get somebody who’s up to writing He-Man next time? Yes, like Superman, he’s harder to get right than less-powered protagonists. But both have prevailed in pop culture for a reason.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 2 debuts on Netflix Nov 23.
Recommended Reading: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Minicomic Collection
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