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Jul29

Is Masters of the Universe: Revelation a bait and switch?

There has been a lot of buzz lately about Masters of the Universe: Revelation. The brand new Netflix series helmed by self proclaimed comic geek Kevin Smith. MOTU: Revelation brings back the classic cast but not everyone is happy with this revival. Some fans are even claiming that Masters of the Universe: Revelation is a bait and switch.

I have watched the currently released five episodes (five more coming later) and I have some thoughts.

Before we talk about whether the MOTU: Revelation is a bait and switch, let’s talk about the production quality. Can this show stand on its own if you ignore the grossly mishandled marketing by showrunner Kevin Smith? Let’s find out . . .

Voice acting

Masters of the Universe: Revelation boasts a star studded cast that hits and misses at the same time. If you look at the IMDB credits you will see names such as: Mark Hamil (Skeletor), Lena Headey (Evil-Lyn), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Teela), and Liam Cunningham (Man-At-Arms). But you may be surprised to see that He-Man, the star of the show, is voiced by Chris Wood. If you don’t know who Chris Wood is then you probably don’t watch the DC, CW shows. That’s okay, I don’t watch them either.

Straight off the bat, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Chris Wood are the weakest voices in the cast. He-Man’s voice is painfully underwhelming and does not command the vocal presence of the original 80’s voice actor, John Erwin.

When it came time for Prince Adam to utter the famous line, “By the power of Greyskull.”

Chris Wood’s delivery is more akin to an excited child than a boy transforming into a superhero.

I think Chris Wood fits perfectly as Prince Adam but his He-Man voice is woefully inadequate.

Teela, Sarah Michelle Gellar, is another questionable choice. Although SMG has a track record of playing strong female characters (Buffy), her voice for Teela is a complete miss. Another reviewer said it best, SMG still sounds like a 15 year old Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The voice doesn’t match the body.

In contrast, Lena Headey’s Evil-Lyn seems to fit perfectly. Although the Cersei Lannister vibe is a little hard to shake off. Lena’s performance feels appropriately matched with Evil-Lyn regardless of her new muscle gains. Sarah Michelle Gellar can’t compete with her fellow cast and the generic dialogue doesn’t make it easier.

Man-At-Arms, Orko, and even Teela’s sidekick Andra (Tiffany Smith) give stronger performances than our lead characters.

Although Mark Hamil steals the show with his performance, his Skeletor feels like a repeat of the Joker.

Animation

The animation in Masters of the Universe: Revelation is, for the most part, great. All of the colors, character designs, and title text feel like a modern version of the 80’s cartoon. Eternia looks like Eternia and Snake Mountain is more epic than ever with lava flows pouring from its mouth.

Comparison between 80s Snake Mountain and Masters of the Universe: Revelations Snake Mountain.

The man himself, He-Man, is more musclebound than ever and makes the original 80’s one look extremely thin by comparison. He definitely earns the title, “Strongest man in the universe.”

Comparison between scrawny 80s He-Man and Beefier Masters of the Universe: Revelations He-Man

Also, Teela and Evil-Lyn’s muscular arms and shoulders do not bother me.

These women fight all the time, so of course they’re a bit more muscular. The ones who don’t are drawn slender and less muscular.

I still don’t think Evil-Lyn should technically have such big arms considering she is a spell caster. Mages should generally be smaller and less athletic. So Evil-Lyn’s beefy arms don’t make sense, but oh well, not really a big deal. Also, and I’m not ashamed to admit this, Evil-Lyn is quite attractive. When she takes off her silly helmet, it turns out she is quite beautiful underneath.

Evil-Lyn has long white hair blowing in the wind with Teela behind her

Overall the animation is strong and definitely utilizes modern animation techniques to save budget and still maintain high fidelity.

I also think the art style is a huge improvement over the awful 90s Adventures of He-Man reboot. I don’t care what anyone says: He-Man should not be thin, and he should not have a ponytail! /end rant.

DVD cover image of awful 90s Adventures of He-Man show

Story

So what is the story of Masters of the Universe: Revelation? In order to talk about the story, I need to give some slight spoilers. Don’t worry, it’s going to be absolutely bare bones.

A battle between Skeletor and He-Man destroyed most of the magic in Eternia and destroys the power sword. During this battle, Teela finally discovers He-Man’s secret identity as Prince Adam. This sets off the events of Masters of the Universe: Revelation.

I have to say that the story of MOTU: Revelation is pretty compelling. MOTU: Revelation takes place in an Eternia that is a bit more grey (in terms of theme). A place that has lost its magic. King Randor is a lot more prone to anger and more . . . human. What the show failed to do was show us why “magic” was so important for the longevity of Eternia. Supposedly the world will end.

And this world ending plot, I feel, is where the story of MOTU: Revelation kind of drops the ball.

We never actually see the effects of magic disappearing from the universe. With the exception of Orko, no one seems to be bothered by the fact that magic was disappearing. Therefore, it becomes a plot device to get the characters going.

What keeps me invested in this series are the questions the show presents. Kevin Smith and his team have done a good job of leaving crumbs of mystery. I still don’t know where they’re planning on taking Teela. I’m hoping it’s not what the Internet has guessed because I feel it would be a waste of the character.

The character development for the most part, is weak. The only character who truly gets an arc is Orko and maybe Evil-Lyn. Teela is by far the weakest character and unfortunately the one who carries the show. Yes, that’s right, it’s time to talk about the controversy surrounding this MOTU: Revelation. The spoilers here only involve He-Man and will not spoil the plot. Still, if you’d rather watch the show first, I suggest you do so now.

MOTU: Revelation Bait and Switch

So . . . the crux of the controversy with Masters of the Universe: Revelation has been with who the actual star of the show is. Some fans discovered that MOTU: Revelation was not a show about He-Man but rather a show about Teela. In response to these allegations, Kevin Smith said Masters of the Universe: Revelation is not the “Teela” show. He-Man will feature prominently throughout the show.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation – Absolute Disaster by Critical Drinker (Youtube).

This was a partial lie. He-Man does show up several times . . . as a cameo.

Claims that MOTU: Revelation is a Teela show is absolutely accurate.

Personally? I don’t mind seeing female characters take the lead (I used to own She-Ra action figures). Teela was an interesting choice to lead the show but I don’t think the team executed the concept well enough

For starters, Teela is a very unlikable character. Once promoted to Man-At-Arms, Teela quits her job because Prince Adam never told her his secret identity as He-Man. So because of this she throws a temper tantrum and disappears for several years.

This was a petty and unbelievable motivation to me. However, I also didn’t understand why Teela wasn’t in on the secret. Man-At-Arms, Orko, and the Sorceress already knew his identity and Teela was always by his side. What was the reasoning to keep her in the dark?

So Teela abandons her post because no one told her a secret. Pretty freaking lame.

As if Teela being perpetually angry and unfun was not enough, she’s also a part-time Mary Sue. Teela doesn’t lose any external or internal battles until the writer decides she needs to. Great message for girl power, awful for storytelling.

If you’re thinking Teela sounds like Rey from Star Wars, you would be 100% correct.

MOTU: Revelation is best when the characters interact with each other and when faced with insurmountable obstacles.

There are several shocking moments in the series that will leave fans dumb struck and maybe even a little sad.

MOTU: Revelation is a darker portrayal of Eternia that is appropriate for the older demographic of viewers. Now that we’re adults instead of kids, the show has aged its themes accordingly.

I think it’s a refreshing take but Kevin Smith should have embraced the show’s differences instead of misleading the fans. Mattel and Smith should have promoted this as a spin-off story told in the Masters of the Universe setting. They should not have said that He-Man was the star. He-Man is a huge draw, but false marketing always leads to huge backlash. They should have been honest from the door about Teela.

Also, I am aware of people saying that there’s gender politics in MOTU: Revelation. I don’t fully agree with this. Wonder woman 84 and Batwoman are prime examples of gender politics. All men are evil unless you’re in love with them. The Ghostbuster reboot was another example of men being incompetent or useless.

MOTU: Revelation, doesn’t have incompetent men. Man-At-Arms is still an incredible bad ass warrior and He-Man still dominates when he’s on screen. Fans complained that Teela’s half shaved head was a symbol of homosexuality or androgyny. I don’t agree with this either.

People need to stop policing how another person looks. Plenty of straight women can rock the half shaved head without being gay or bi-sexual. Same deal with muscles. Also, if it turns out she’s gay, who cares?

However, I do think the marketing of this show was a big misstep. The idea behind it is exciting, create a new, powerful female character to become the lead of the show. But having that character replace He-Man? Big mistake.

The producers should have told the truth about MOTU: Revelation. It’s not a bad show and it refreshes a world that was old and out of date with the times.

I think Masters of the Universe: Revelation is an enjoyable watch and one that will continue to promote more female heroes.

Unfortunately, this trend of replacing already established male heroes with female ones is a path in the wrong direction. It’s also creatively bankrupt.

It does not take any creative energy to change a character’s gender or race. Putting in the work to create new and likeable characters is where the real challenge is. At the end of the day, Bruce Wayne will always be Batman; Tony Stark will always be Iron Man; and Captain America will always be Steve Rogers.

The original hero will always be the one people remember fondly. Having Teela take up He-Man’s mantle is a lazy choice. It’s especially more frustrating when the character is unlikable and overpowered.

There are definitely instances where it is appropriate for the original heroes to pass down the torch. Like when the Power Rangers transfer their powers to a new generation of heroes. But when someone asks you to name a Power Ranger the response will always be: Jason, Kimberly, Zack, Trini, Billy, and Tommy.

If you want to replace the original heroes with new faces or different faces, don’t disrespect those who came before.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation is available on Netflix and definitely worth a watch.


https://www.thesilverninja.com/2020/02/28/seis-manos-an-adult-show-that-looks-like-its-for-kids/

https://www.thesilverninja.com/2018/12/19/the-punisher-is-the-best-marvel-show-on-netflix-heres-why/

Wilmar Luna