Sunday, October 21, 2012

"BAD" COMIC BOOK MOVIES I STILL DIG: Masters of the Universe

In the late 80's it seemed every movie saviour was a leather jacket wearing kid with a knack for playing the keyboard and wearing ripped jeans. Not only would such a kid get to smooch a pre F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Courtney Cox in the big screen adaptation of Masters of the Universe, he'd also prove the trump card to the battle for Castle Grayskull, as the forces of Skeletor pursued He-Man's rebel alliance to Earth.

Heck, The Key at the heart of their pursuit even sounded like a keyboard when played, so no wonder everyone was after it!

Instantly Masters of the Universe follows the beats of the original toy packed comics, which never had He-Man as Prince Adam. Leaving the cartoon created alter-ego behind, the film focuses on a He-Man who is purely Eternia's greatest champion and the sole hope of freeing a captive Sorceress and her mystic castle, from the hands of Skeletor.

Up until Universal Soldier, this was actor Dolph Lundgren's best performance. While similarly, much has been made about Frank Langella's masterstroke performance as his bone-faced nemesis, for me the standout is Meg Foster as Evil Lyn.

And those eyes aren't contacts! It's this cold, firm and cunning face that successfully has her portray the evil sorceress as the true power behind the Skeletor's quest. Adding weight to some of the film's cheesier aspects, and balancing them out in the process. 

While He-Man's side sadly doesn't feature an Amazon-dressed Teela, all costumes are 'realistically' updated for an era where Hollywood was being led by aliens and terminating robots. Gwildor stepping in as a technological Orko helps this update, yet confusion reigns at the line-up of Evil Lyn's assembled team of mercenaries. Beastman (tick), Tri-klops - I mean Blade (cross), Mer-Man - I mean Saurod (cross), and with his hook hand, Trap-Jaw - I mean Karg (cross). Sure the new versions are all cool and all, but why go so close to the original characters, then wuss out when it comes to the names?

Despite the obvious hand of editorial / budgets in places, Masters of the Universe is a brilliant B-Grade action-er, with a straight forward plot that punches above it's weight in many occasions (despite the Sorceress now being a wrinkly old prune rather then belle of the ball). 

Dolph's purpose built bulk and natural accent/mullet make an action figure live, the special effects are decently trippy in all ways 80's, and not only will He-Man's merchandise launching catchphrase still have you tingling twenty odd years on, the humour in the film will still make it 'family fare', which is always good when a majority rules debate is needed to decide what DVD to watch.

 It should've stayed on the cutting-room floor:  The discovery Courtney's character makes upon returning to Earth. Seriously, I hate those cheesy 'everything-ends-with-happiness' resolutions. Bah Humbug. Luckily one of the first post credit scenes in comic movie history follows, and is so wicked, it is still a shame it was never followed through on.

 Did you know?  Masters of the Universe 2 had a script that saw Skeletor's fall land back on Earth and devastate the planet as industrialist 'Arron Dark'. With Cannon Films folding first, the script was rewritten as Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick Cyborg (yeah, I haven't seen it either).


  1. i was a big Masters of the Universe fan back in the day. i had a lot of the toys including Castle Greyskull. but even back then as a kid i couldn't stomach that movie. but i sure do miss those mini-comics that came with the action figures. i used to have that very one you have featured in this posting. speaking of comic book movies Dan have you seen Judge Dredd yet?

  2. Heya Dave! I had a few MOTU toys too, and always wondered why the comics changed from darker stories in the original wave, to more moral based tales after wave two. Still wish I had got a Trap-Jaw too - he always looked meanest. Well down from Panthor that is...

    As for Judge I'm hoping to get that box ticked soon as the last few weeks have been pretty crazy. It's been on the to-do list but just haven't got down that far. Will be in touch when I do!

  3. I loved the movie when I was a kid. I don't think I cared much about the changes between the comic and the movie, except for the fact that Teela was dressed right, or that the Sorceress was too old. But the rest was cool enough to hold my imagination for repeated viewings to my parents' nausea. I believe I even had the sticker book. Remember those? The ones you got at the check-out counter at super-markets. It really doesn't hold up well now. But then, neither does the cartoon. I will agree it is one of Dolph's best acting performances, and I know this for a fact because my husband makes me sit through MANY of his movies. And Meg Foster was a terrific Evil Lynn. I had no problems believing she was in hate/love with a skeleton bent on world domination.
    It's not a great movie. But it's a great "B" movie, along the same vein as BeastMaster and Red Sojna. Maybe just a little bit behind Flash Gordon. Because it doesn't have the soundtrack by Queen.

  4. I dont really know anything about He-Man and all that, but I must confess I only watched that movie for Meg Foster.
    Ive long being a fan of hers, having first seen her in 1974 in the Six Million Dollar Man ep 'Straight On 'Till Morning' where she played a benign alien stranded on Earth, a very haunting and melodic episode.
    Of course most people remember her as the second Chris Cagney in the prequel series of Cagney And Lacey, before it went to a full series and she was replaced.
    Her eyes have always intrigued me, are they grey eyes? My friend fancies an actor called Brian Bloom and she loves his grey eyes, theyr very similar. And grey eyes always put me in mind of Greg Rucka's run on Wonder Woman, where after her blindness was cured Pallas Athena gave th elovely one grey eyes, meaning 'hidden insight'.
    Meg Foster dosent give many interviews, but when I was in the Cagney and Lacey British fan club [DONT LAUGH!!!] back in the 80s she gave a short interview in which she attended Woodstock [she was a hippie in the 60s] and attended 'love-ins' and went completely nude to nudist beaches with her infant son, all very 'trippy' and that.

  5. Thanks for the great comments folks! Dave will check the mailbag in a moment!

    Random, it's been worn out at my place still - I am just a sucker for B grade movies sometimes and action ones especially - heck I've probably got a few of the same Dolph ones your husband has!

    As for sticker books - I think i was their biggest junkie, except, I hated how they never matched my colouring... I especially dug the ones with a poster scene in the middle and you got to place the sheet of characters where you wanted - not where those perforated lines suggested..

    Karl, as mentioned above Meg Foster to me made the movie. She just completely connives her way through the film (in a good way) and seems the bigger threat to He-Man, through force of will, look and voice. Apparently she reckons in auditions her eyes are a built in special effect directors get for free. When they are as catching as that, you can't really say that ain't true huh?

  6. Count me in as a fan of MOTU as a kid. I too had most of the action figures, as I was uber-fanatical about them at the time. Hell my mom recalls the time I woke up from nightmares inspired by Skeletor's face. Didn't stop me from being a fan though:)

    So far that MOTU movie is all fans have for now until someone ever gets around to making a reboot. But I loved that film myself, and like you, wondered where the other members of Skeletor's army(like TriKlops, Trap-Jaw, etc) were. But all in all, it was pretty good for its time.

    But yeah, time for a an updated version.