Posted by: Mad Ness Monster | 06/08/2011

“Masters of the Universe” (1987) Review

As we head on into the summer of 2011, people of a certain age are likely dreading this year’s deluge of terrible live-action/CGI movies based off cartoons they watched as children.  In particular, films where the cartoon characters are somehow transported to our world and get into wacky adventures, eating our food and misunderstanding our machines and other allegedly hilarious misadventures that makes a person who grew up with these characters just not care anymore.

Well it turns out that this kind of movie is nothing new.  I know this, because I have seen one of the earliest terrible live-action films based off an ’80’s cartoon.  It’s called “Masters of the Universe”, it’s based off “He-Man”, and it sure is a thing.

Now, to be fair, the original  “He-Man” cartoon wasn’t really any good to start with (I may have mentioned that Filmation makes my eyes bleed).  But the idea of a Robert E. Howard barbarian as a superhero with a magic sword battling a zombie wizard guy on a post-apocalyptic planet with monsters and remnants of weird technology was and is pretty cool, and the show was popular enough to warrant the 80’s cartoon equivalent of a lifetime achievement award: it would get it’s own movie.  However, and this was a pretty big deal, it would be a live-action movie.

As such, “Masters of the Universe” is at least unusual enough to deserve a watch if you are curious about it.  But if the characters didn’t have the same names as the characters in “Masters of the Universe”, it’d be mostly indistinguishable from all the other crazy post-“Conan” 80’s sword and sorcery movies.  It’s also pretty typical of what superhero movies looked like back then; there is a good reason why you only hear about “Superman” and “Batman”.

The Best Parts:
4 minutes in – Oh, don’t make a Michael Jackson joke, don’t make a Michael Jackson joke, don’t make a Michael Jackson joke…
5 minutes in – What did I say about referencing good movies in bad movies?
7 minutes in – Ugh, so that’s why Orko kept his face hidden all that time!
Except… this guy is a different character entirely.  Kinda.
12 minutes in – The Sorceress appears to have traded in her cool falcon motif for… generic 80’s fantasy movie crystals.
15 minutes in – This means that depending on the time of year, Skeletor may have until later tonight to take over Eternia.  Good luck with that.
17 minutes in – I like how they seemingly went out of their way to use genuine 80’s cartoon sound effects.
20 minutes in – “So no-one told you life was gonna be this way (clap-clap-clap-clap!) / You’re caught up in a war between barbarians from another world!”  Yeah, I don’t know.
24 minutes in – And suddenly, we are in a lifetime movie.
26 minutes in – “Oh, wow!  A mysterious machine that is possibly from space that landed in a cemetery and left a small crater!  Let’s play with it!”
28 minutes in – I would make the obvious joke, but it’s the 80’s and DRUGS ARE BAD!
29 minutes in – OK, I recognize Beastman, but did you find these other weirdos in the “Mortal Kombat” character concept reject pile?
31 minutes in – “Hey, hey!  You guys can’t do your LARPing here!  Go to the wildlife preserve!”
34 minutes in – “You can trust me!  I am a superhero!  And I am wearing a loincloth and not much else!”
38 minutes in – “Basically, it came from space.”
42 minutes in – Gnome my Ride.
44 minutes in – Snake-man Cruelty!!!
46 minutes in – What?
48 minutes in – Evidence of a more innocent time.
50 minutes in – Ed Wood would be proud.
55 minutes in – You know how I said this movie showed evidence of more innocent times?  Yeah, forget that.
58 minutes in – Oh, wow!  This situation is NOT A THING like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”!
1hour in – Acoustic Guitar Cruelty!
1 hour, 2 minutes in – Holy sh*t, cop-guy.  You are in the middle of a war between two armies from another world.  Will you have some freakin’ perspective?!?
1 hour, 4 minutes in – Wow, Courtney.  Really?
1 hour, 7 minutes in – “AH!  AFTER 10,000 YEARS, I’M FREE!  IT’S TIME TO CONQUER EARTH!!!
1 hour, 10 minutes in – Oh wow, what is goin’ on here?
1 hour, 14 minutes in – Get a puppy!  Skeletor is weak to puppies!
1 hour, 15 minutes in – Well, crap.  See, you should have got the puppy.
1 hour, 19 minutes in – Oh, so it’s Generic 80’s Fantasy Movie Music Cue #21.
1 hour, 21 minutes in – Faaaanservice!
1 hour, 22 minutes in – “THIS!  IS!  ETERNIA!!!”
1 hour, 25 minutes in – “Does the creepy little Gnome have to be watching us?”
1 hour, 28 minutes in – You are enjoying this a bit too much, Skeletor.
1 hour, 29 minutes in – OK, that happened…
1 hour, 31 minutes in – That poor tree…
1 hour, 35 minutes in – Where have I seen this happen before?
1 hour, 39 minutes in – Whaaaat?
After the end-credits – Yay Sequel Setup!

Classic Quotes:
“I must posses all!  Or posses nothing!!!” – Skeletor
“So if you’re through cleaning your gill-slits, would you mind telling us where we are?” – Duncan
“Only one of you, Kevin!  Only one of anybody!” – Not-Orko’s pep-talk to the boring Earth-man

Things I Learned from this Movie:
* – Billy Barty is an unimaginable good sport.
* – Gnomes are perves.
* – Also, Gnomes have gills.
* – A cheap synthesizer can help you travel to different planets.

Things That Can Save Any Movie:
Cool Creatures?
  You know you’re in for a strange ride when William Stout’s name appears in the opening credits.
Good Soundtrack?  If you like Generic 80’s Fantasy Movie Music Cue #21!
Hot Guys?  Eh.
Pretty Scenery?  Eh.
Nifty Animation/Effects/Art Direction?  Unfortunately, not much of Stout’s influence can be seen in the final film.

Drinking Game Potential?  Drink when you want to drop-kick the Gnome through a brick wall.
Head Movie Potential?  DRUGS ARE BAD!!!

Rating: Danny rating (2)
Danny has the power!

A Golan/Globus film released in 1987 by Cannon. Written by David Odell and Stephen Tolkin and directed by Gary Goddard.
Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, Billy Barty, and Courteney Cox
Related Links
IMDB page
Mutant Reviewers from Hell



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