The best reboots of popular shows manage to tread a fine line between nodding to the older fans while still making themselves accessible enough to a new audience, and with the Netflix machine behind it and some big name talent attached, Masters of the Universe: Revelation will be looking to introduce an entirely new generation to the enduringly popular mythology.
Created and executive produced by Kevin Smith, who made his name as the writer and director of low budget R-rated slacker comedies before going on to gain a status as one of the geek community’s most well-known Hollywood voices, feels like an inspired choice to steer the project. As you’d expect, he possesses an in-depth knowledge of canon, and his efforts helming episodes of The Flash and Supergirl showed that he could handle broad genre properties without having to rely on dick and fart jokes.
One modern trope that film and television loves to embrace is positioning a new movie or show as a combination of sequel and reboot, which is no different when it comes to Revelation. The first episode establishes that the series is a direct continuation from where He-Man and the Masters of the Universe left off way back in 1985, but you don’t have to know the ins and outs to keep up. Thankfully, the premiere also lays out the broad strokes of the battle for Eternia in an opening voiceover, which will get newbies up to speed in the space of a couple of minutes.
Without diving into spoiler territory, the first episode shifts the landscape significantly, giving the creative team free reign to take the narrative in a brand new direction, one that pays tribute to everything that came before, but still manages to carve out its own identity. It’s evident that all of the major players in the writing, design and directorial teams are huge fans of Masters of the Universe, and that clear love for the brand shines through in every single frame.
A post-apocalyptic bent of sorts also turns the standard ‘Chosen One’ arc on its head, throwing in elements of the ‘man on a mission’ subgenre and the classic revenge story into a fantastical melting pot that packs plenty of punch in terms of visuals, action, storytelling and voice performances. Revelation is a brand new show, but the world of Eternia possesses a lived-in quality, partly due to it following directly on from the beloved 1980s favorite, but also creating an instant immersion thanks to the dynamic and interplay on show between all of the main characters, of which there are many to keep track of as the episodes progress.
It shouldn’t come as much of a shock to discover that Mark Hamill is an absolute delight as Skeletor, with the villain of the piece still the obliviously inept dork he’s always been, but Hamill’s work continues to further his legacy as one of the all-time great voice actors, and he’s clearly having a ball sinking his teeth into the exaggerated dialogue and mannerisms of the big bad.
The real MVP of Revelations‘ ensemble is arguably Sarah Michelle Gellar, though, who didn’t jump out as an obvious choice to play Teela, but she brings warmth to a constantly-evolving role that requires both steely heroism and heartfelt emotion in equal measure. In fact, the entire roster are all solid across the board from Liam Cunningham’s Man-At-Arms to Lena Headey’s Evil-Lyn via Chris Wood’s He-Man and Stephen Root’s Cringer, while there’s the obligatory appearance of Jason Mewes as Stinkor, seeing as this is a Kevin Smith endeavor we’re talking about.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation could have easily been a straightforward retread of the 1980s favorite, and it would have drawn in plenty of fans regardless, but it’s a much braver decision to upend many of the franchise’s tropes to forge a brave new path, and the good news is that Smith and his team have pulled it off successfully. There are genuine stakes instead of simply watching the good guys march to victory without facing many obstacles, and the end of the first episode will change your perception of the entire series moving forward. Flashbacks fill in the gaps, which admittedly does result in a few jarring tonal shifts, but if you’ve never even heard of He-Man before, there’s still plenty to love.
It’s a Saturday morning cartoon on a Netflix budget, but in this instance that’s meant as the highest possible compliment. Take the streaming service’s funds, throw in a dash of nostalgia, lashings of reverence to the source material and the desire to tell a brand new story with some unexpected twists and turns, throw it all together in the hands of Kevin Smith, and you get Masters of the Universe: Revelation, which could outstrip its niche origins to make a serious dent in the most-watched list once word gets out that it kind of rules, even if you’re not a fan.