‘Masters of the Universe’ wasn’t all bad: 13 things to actually admire about the 1987 flop

08.25.15 2 years ago

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Of the action-oriented Saturday morning cartoon series aimed at young boys in the 1980s, I always gravitated towards “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” which followed the homoerotic exploits of the blonde-tressed hero who fought to keep Castle Grayskull from the evil clutches of Skeletor. I loved the colors and the spectacle of it. I loved the fantastical setting of Eternia. And as a burgeoning gay man in particular, I loved that it integrated strong female heroes like Teela and the Sorceress into the action (the franchise would later be expanded to include She-Ra, He-Man's equally badass twin sister).

In the summer of 1987, the series (itself based on a toy line) was adapted into a live-action film entitled “Masters of the Universe,” which was…not a success. Originally ballyhooed as the “Star Wars” of the '80s, the Gary Goddard-directed film was ripped to shreds by critics and grossed only $17 million on a $22 million budget (its box office failure also helped lead to the dissolution of Cannon Films). Dolph Lundgren's performance was described as “polyethylene” (read: plastic) by one critic and “awful” (read: awful) by another, and the special effects as “painfully cheap,” among other choice descriptors. (I also happened to watch it about 97 times.)

And here's the thing: they weren't wrong! But having recently re-watched the film for the first time since I was a kid, I would attest that “Masters of the Universe” is not without its redeeming qualities. As “Thor” screenwriter Christopher Yost prepares to take a pass at the script for the long-developing reboot, here are 13 things to actually admire about the notorious 1987 flop and nostalgic (camp?) classic. Good journey.

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