Masters of the Universe (1987)
Director: Gary Goddard
Synopsis: The heroes of Eternia must find a way to defeat their nemesis, Skeletor.
Overview: There are films we like that we know are bad. We know they have poor writing, bad plotting, clunky special effects, silly dialogue, broad characters, and amateurish direction. And even with these faults we can’t help but enjoy the film. In some cases the silliness and wonkiness translates into a fun watch instead of something boring.
One such movie is Masters of the Universe. At Audiences Everywhere our Netflix Hidden Gems are usually great movies you can stream that you may have missed on the theatres or in your country. With this Gem we’re going a little more for what Netflix sometimes ends giving us: a film we can watch when we just can’t think of anything to else and we’ve got two hours to waste. Masters of the Universe is a perfect example of the Sunday afternoon Netflix. The weather’s bad, you’ve had plans cancel, or you’re hungover from Saturday? This is the movie to get you through.
The plot of this movie is relatively simple, to a point. The evil Skeletor has taken over the land of Eternia by imprisoning the old ruler, The Sorceress, and crushing a rebellion. He only needs to wait for “moonrise” and then he will be filled with cosmic power and become the Master of the Universe. Where things get a little more complicated is when the rebellion, consisting of He-Man, Teela, and Man-at-Arms, end up, for some reason, finding a leprechaun dude called Gwildor who has created a key that, through music, can open dimensional doorways. They storm Skeletor’s castle but are overwhelmed and need to use the key to escape, ending up in present day, 1987, America. Skeletor’s minions are sent to retrieve the key and hijinks ensue.
Hijinks ensue, all of which involve a young Courtney Cox, the principal from Back to the Future, and a town that seemingly has no people in it, or perhaps the studio simply couldn’t afford the cost of casting extras. The movie begins as a sort of Conan the Barbarian meets Star Wars and then becomes a fish out of water story that never really commits to the premise as no one ever seems out of place, no matter how much of a leprechaun they are.
This may all sound like nonsense or cheesy fun, but the glue holding everything together and keeping you watching is Frank Langella as Skeletor. Dolph Lungren says that this is his least favourite movie of his own, while Langella regularly brings this movie up as his favourite. He took the role because his son was a big He-Man fan and he throws himself into the role with abandon. It’s like everyone else is in some low budget genre cheese and Langella is performing Shakespeare at The Globe. He is chilling, menacing, and excels little touches and moments. He has all the best dialogue, some of which he wrote himself, and he is an eye magnet every time he is on screen. I started watching this movie a little sleepy and just wanted something on the TV, but Skeletor’s scenes, to use the parlance of the age, gave me life. There was a moment where he arrives in Small Town, USA that I actually found myself saying, ‘Oh, shit! Skeletor’s here!’ as though he was Darth Vader or something.
This isn’t a good movie, but it is an entertaining one. The actors playing the villains throw themselves into their strangely named roles, be they Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Beast Man, or Karg, and ham it up with such abandon that it is impossible to not have fun while watching this movie. It definitely has a certain time and a place to be watched, but if you’ve got the time and the mindset for it, then I would advise getting some Skeletor into your life.