Masters of the Universe (1987)

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Masters of the Universe (1987)

Post  BoG on Mon Nov 03, 2014 4:47 pm

He-Man and his compatriots (and foes) began as a toy line in 1982 and there was a now-famous cartoon in 1983. He was the type of super-hero that originated outside the usual scope of comic books and was influenced strongly by the success of Star Wars. Hence, there was a strong science fiction slant to the whole concept. It was also - obvious due to the toy origins - aimed at little kids. So, this eventual film version is likewise aimed at the young crowd, those in the 8-yr to 14-yr range.
The plot of the movie version starts on another planet (suspiciously resembling the alien planets sometimes seen on Star Trek TOS, i.e. Vasquez Rocks), where the hero warrior (Dolph Lundgren) and his allies are on the run after evil Skeletor (Frank Langella, wearing a skull mask) has taken over the main castle or something. Skeletor's main aide is evil Evil-Lyn (Meg Foster, non too subtle). He-Man's group is very small - just top soldier Man-at-Arms (Jon Cypher), his daughter (Chelsea Field) and a small gnome-like creature named Gwildor (Billy Barty, there for silly comic relief). These four suddenly get transported to Earth when Gwildor hastily creates a portal to escape Skeletor's soldiers, but they also take with them the "Cosmic Key" - the device which can create these portals. Skeletor, natch, wants this key. He sends a quartet of alien bounty hunters after it (and yet, Evil-Lyn is able to facilitate the transport of the hunters without the key... so is it that important?).  


On Earth, a young couple gets involved in the conflict (played by Courteney Cox, 7 years before her role in TV's Friends, and Robert Duncan McNeill, 8 years before Star Trek Voyager). The first scenes in this film definitely reminded me of Star Wars - Skeletor & his guards may as well be Darth Vader and his stormtroopers, except that the guards' armor is black. The set design also recalled the 1980 Flash Gordon film. But, once on Earth, the sight of these costumed characters - both the heroes and the chasing hunters - running about on our streets at night just made me think of Halloween celebrants involved in some shenanigans. One of the hunters, for example, is a beastman who, for some reason, reminded me of an angry, violent version of the cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz, especially when he begged for mercy from his master, Skeletor. As for Dolph: in the late eighties, when I was visualizing a possible Thor or Avengers film, I thought he was the only one who could play the Thunder God; he came closest with this role. He really does look like a big super-hero - even more than Chris Hemsworth - in perfect shape and exuding power (though a few of the top TV wrestling stars of that time probably were similar), and larger-than-life Nordic good looks. It might all be silly, the character devoid of personality, but he really was born to play such a role.
Langella is also pretty good as the main villain; though it's obviously a 2-dimensional character, he succeeds in presenting a being who reeks malice and sinister intentions; this was only possible from an actor who relished playing such a role and comes through even with the mask - he reminded me a bit of the evil emperor in Return of the Jedi (Langella took the role because his son was a huge fan of this property and it turned out to be Langella's favorite). Langella was always better at villains, going all the way back to The Wrath of God (72).  There is some entertainment here, no doubt, and they even try for some poignancy in the end, in regard to a young woman's dead parents, but the most juvenile aspect to all this - odd in that there are all these goofy characters in strange costumes milling about - is the representation of the local police detective (baldy James Tolkan), whose modus operandi just seems to be to get away with doing whatever he wants, including stuff that is against the law. I dunno - maybe that's just how it was with L.A. cops in the eighties...  BoG's Score: 6 out of 10
Masters of the Trivia:
director Gary Goddard based a lot of the visuals and overall scheme of the film on Jack Kirby's Fourth World DC Comics Series (New Gods, Darkseid), which itself influenced the earlier Star Wars.  The film was intended as the first of several but did not gross as much as expected based on its sizable cost; this and the box office failure of Superman IV:The Quest For Peace contributed to the downfall of Cannon Films.


Last edited by BoG on Thu Mar 05, 2015 9:53 am; edited 1 time in total
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Behind the Scenes of Masters

Post  BoG on Wed Mar 04, 2015 11:01 pm


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