When Mattel and Netflix enlisted Kevin Smith to reboot He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in 2021, the aim wasn’t a complete modernization. Instead, Masters of the Universe: Revelation served as a continuation of the 1980s syndicated adventures for adult fans who grew up with the original animated series. However, the bold decision to seemingly kill off the main character, voiced by Chris Wood, in the first episode led to fan backlash and disappointment.
In response, Kevin Smith returns with Masters of the Universe: Revolution, a somewhat confusingly named follow-up that appears to address fans’ concerns about the previous reboot. This iteration provides a pulpy, vibrant He-Man-versus-Skeletor story. Skeletor is given a technological upgrade, refocusing on ruling Eternia, while He-Man grapples with his own struggles. While not overly complex, Revolution reunites the characters to face a new threat, attempting to mend the wounds left by Revelation.
In terms of animation, Revolution maintains a familiar style, seamlessly progressing from the hand-drawn work of the original He-Man studio, Filmation. The characters and backgrounds are vividly rendered with popping colors, creating a visually pleasing experience. CGI is sparingly used to enhance high fantasy and sci-fi elements, preserving the nostalgic charm of ’80s TV animation.
However, the action in Revolution is less consistent. While some moments evoke excitement, others move at a slower pace, failing to convey the urgency or impact of each punch, zap, or boom. The visual imagery, especially during power-up sequences, can be both awe-inspiring and messy. Despite this, Revolution maintains its cool factor, appealing to the nostalgia of ’80s kids.
The writing is filled with cheesy quips and heavy-handed exposition, embracing He-Man’s clunky one-liners. While it may prompt an occasional eye-roll, the writers’ reverence for the source material injects Revolution with heart. The characters are not treated as mere fighting machines, and their motivations are rooted in genuine emotion. However, the landing is more successful for some characters than others.
One significant challenge facing Revolution is the current TV landscape of shortened episode orders and all-at-once releases. With only five 30-minute episodes, it attempts to recreate the feel of an ’80s cartoon without considering the original show’s structure, which thrived with 130 episodes over two years. Revolution, despite its comforting embrace of the familiar, lacks the time to fully immerse viewers in that warmth. Doubling the episode count could have enhanced the nostalgic experience.
In conclusion, Masters of the Universe: Revolution is visually appealing with a storyline and writing style that comfort long-time fans. However, lackluster action sequences and its short length detract from its potential as a classic crowd-pleaser, even for newcomers.