Masters of the Universe
Masters of the Universe 1987
First off, I’d like to thank everyone who voted in my poll, it was a very close race but in the end most of you wanted to see me review some classic cheesy superhero movies. I’m not sure if some of you wanted to torture me with bad movies, or if you are more like myself and actually enjoy watching these low budget (or in some cases high budget) over the top cheesy superhero flicks. I have a lot to choose from but I went with a movie that was actually on the list of 33 of the worst superhero movies ever made. Of course, it wasn’t one of the movies that I chose because I enjoyed it a lot when I was younger, and ever since it was mentioned, I’ve been dying to watch it again. It’s got Dolph Lundgren as a guy who never wears a shirt, playing a character who usually only wields a sword, and yet he manages to grab as many huge laser guns as he can get a hold of. It’s got the great Billy Barty playing comic relief, and it’s Courtney Cox’s feature film debut. And yet it takes itself so seriously that you just have to get wrapped up in it all, and for the first time in quite a while, Jena actually sat with us and was invested during the entire movie. She cheered for He-Man and booed Skeletor, saying she hated “the stupid skeleton guy” and that she would “break his bones”. It was great seeing her get so worked up.
One of the first things I noticed was how much the opening credits borrowed from Superman. It has a similar theme song and the titles zooming in and out of frame with similar sound effects. It also borrows heavily from Star Wars, with the look of Skeletor borrowing heavily from the Emperor. Not only that but even his theme music is very similar to the Imperial March. His army consists of essentially black armored storm troopers wearing motorcycle helmets. When he uses his powers it even looks just like force lightning of a different color, and he falls down a giant shaft that was never seen before or after, had no explanation, in fact in only seemed to serve to create a similar death scene as the Emperor. It’s almost as if it was a nod to Star Wars fans, but unfortunately it never felt like it was a tip of the hat, more like a blatant rip-off. And Dolph Lundgren spent the entire movie playing Dolph Lundgren action hero, and not really playing anything resembling He-Man. He had the sword, but rarely used it, there was never any transformation, and he only speaks half of his famous line “I have the power” and not until the very end.
One thing I do have to give this movie credit for is that the costumes and makeup looked amazing. Aside from He-Man’s weird looking shoulder pads and cape, and the fact that none of the mouths moved very much, they did a pretty good job. Many of them looked pretty bizarre, like the leader of the group of mercenaries with a giant white head of hair. I personally thought that the lizardlike mercenary looked the best, especially with his moving throat sac, too bad he never got much screen time. There was a pretty big handful of creatures and lots of metal clothing. Hands down the best work was saved for Skeletor, it looked amazing, with great features, though it was kind of odd that it looked like they gave him some sort of vampire fangs. His transformation design was a little less impressive if much more grandeur, with plenty of ornate gold accessories. It was kind of funny that they did sort of have the He-Man transformation scene, but Skeletor got to have it instead of He-Man. And the cosmic key, the musical dimensional portal that everyone is after is somewhere between looking like a weird cheap plastic contraption and a pretty impressive high tech device with all its spinning forks and sparkly light show.
Aside from the makeup, Skeletor was fantastic as the villain in this movie. Frank Langella owned the screen any time he spoke, giving an alien that looks like a giant skeleton in a hoodie the gravitas of Shakespearean acting. He made you believe everything that he was saying. He wanted to rule his planet and he wasn’t going to accept defeat. He doesn’t accept the incompetence of his minions lightly and will easily make an example out of a failure like any good mob boss. Evil-Lyn wasn’t quite as impressive, but Skeletor was a pretty tough act to follow. She had a couple breathy scenes between him and her, but they never really amounted to anything. There was also the great little moment where she uses the information about Courtney Cox’s dead parents to trick her into giving them the cosmic key.
The plot is a fairly basic “aliens get stranded in our world” scenario. The two Earth kids are Courtney Cox’s Julie and Kevin. They were given just enough backstory to make them interesting without taking too much away from the Eterians. She’s getting ready to move away after her parents had died even though she’s still in love with Kevin. He’s a fairly bland musician in a band that we never meet and has a good ear for musical notes. The death of Julie’s parents basically existed as an excuse for a couple of story points like the earlier one I mentioned with Evil-Lyn. There’s also the obligatory scene where Julie breaks down, blaming herself for their death. It was also used for the sappy sweet everybody’s happy ending where they’re sent back in time to just before her parents got on the plane that crashed. The worst part about the ending is how it was set up to be the “it was all a dream” ending, but they didn’t even play off of that, they just ran to each other and held up the evidence of their trip. Not to mention the cop in the movie stayed behind in Eternia, gaining a wife out of nowhere.
It may have had a lot of bad moments in it, but it was held together by the fact that everyone was completely into the movie. Even when things didn’t make a whole lot of sense, or were derivative of other movies, they were presented like it was pure gold. I was invested, Jena was invested, my wife was the only one of us who got annoyed with it. It may not be perfect, but I thought it was pure 80’s awesome. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.