Reboots and remakes happen almost as a given these days. Masters of the Universe: Revelation is none of those things, mercifully enough. However, there’s certainly something to be said about having the guts to sequelize a series nearly three decades after the original aired, when one knows that the fandom is so intense that some people will be unhappy no matter how one handles the project. It sounds stressful, honestly! And this Netflix sequel is that kind of (as silly as this sounds, given all the things in this world there are to get worked up about) hot-button project. Obviously, the show follows up on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which originally aired back in 1983. Even if you don’t remember all the particulars of the show (which spun off the She-Ra: Princess of Power series), you know enough to likely have some residual feelings (and fear of a wrecked childhood) if you clicked on this review.
You most definitely are familiar with the Mattel toys and know the whole “By the Power of Grayskull” chant. Everyone, even a casual observer of He-Man, as an entity, knows that bit. And you’re likely well aware that Kevin Smith is the showrunner who brings this whole sequel thing together. Smith already had to confront rumors that he made The Teela Show because someone (and this is still floating around on social media) wanted to stomp all over what they haven’t even seen. It’s a situation that’s similar to the fake-review-bombing of Captain Marvel a few years ago. It’s not a fantastic thing to fend off, but people will get their kicks in any way they can.
Brace yourselves, for I’m here to break some news to you: Revelation does have a lot of Teela. Relax, this is not a bad thing. I promise. Because the original series, you know, did have a lot of Teela, too. She was a strong player in the original show, while helping to protect and train Prince Adam as Royal Guard leadership. Yes, she was badass. And she didn’t even know that Adam was He-Man. That was actually pretty awful, too. Seems like a lot of those in Adam’s inner circle knew about The Secret, including Orko, Man-At-Arms, Sorceress (duh), possibly Queen Marlena, and (obviously) Cringer/Battle Cat. The Secret was actually one of the most absurd and corniest (albeit forthright) parts of the original show. And this sequel takes a strong position on how ridiculous The Secret, as well as other parts of the original show, really were. And those flaws are both embraced and harnessed to propel the story into further action.
So yes, Revelation is a very direct sequel that’s meant to pick up (with much snazzier-looking animation) almost immediately after the O.G. show. A lot happens, really fast, and the first episode feels Earth-, or rather, Eternia-shattering. Skeletor returns again and clashes with He-Man in a battle that threatens to destroy the very fabric of reality. The Sword of Power goes missing, and there’s deception and rebellion and all manner of drama. There’s a quasi-Shakespearean powerhouse of a story, accentuated by Mark Hamill dangling from the curtains (and swinging from metaphorical chandeliers) while shredding them as the voice of Skeletor. The first episode carries a lot of shock value, and my god, this is a risky proposition. I imagine that many, many nights of sleep were lost while weighing courses of action with fondness for the old show and childhood memories in mind. Somehow, everything ends up working. I don’t know how they did it.
Smith and his writers (Marc Bernardin, Tim Sheridan, Diya Mishra, and Eric Carrasco) climbed inside of this story and, clearly, did so with a lot of love for the original show. They realized what parts of the original show worked well, and what needed to happen to pave the way for even better stories. They justified the very existence of this sequel by keeping the original spirit alive and packing the show so full of heartfelt emotion that a few nerd heads might implode. People don’t like change, but I will say that what change transpires here might seem radical. Yet it’s not out of left field. It’s all consistent with the nature of these characters and what they would have done, had the original show revolved around a higher jackpot of consequences.
Long story short, the dynamics of this show descend into anarchy. The future of magic and the fate of the universe are at stake. Things can get a little stressful, too. I mean, it’s worth that stress. What progresses throughout the first five episodes makes all of these happenings a rewarding journey. Yet I’m not entirely sure that those who are predisposed to skepticism will hang tight to find out what happens, though it’s wasted effort to give up. That’s especially the case when one considers that the stakes of the original show were actually pretty low. No one really stabbed anyone, even, and there was no danger of true peril. And this series really hits the ground running while trusting that the target audience is (mostly) grown-up and can handle story developments of consequence.
With that said, you don’t really need to be obsessed with the original show to enjoy this new one. Although the episodes are breezy in length, they squeeze in the right amount of exposition to remind everyone where these characters sit in various hierarchies. And there’s more shading and development, too. Skeletor gains a great deal of dimension and Hamill has so much fun voicing him, just crushing the whole gig. Griffin Newman makes Orko a lot less irritating than I recall (though he is still not great at magic). And although this show, as with the original, exists in order to sell toys — let’s get real, all of these nerd-endeavors ultimately do so — this sequel does a lot more legwork to make this an engrossing and bingeworthy experience.
Ultimately, Masters of the Universe: Revelation feels much deeper and transformative than the original show, yet there are no giant and unconvincing leaps to where this story goes. Likewise, the voice cast members slide into their roles quite nicely. Everyone is great here, really. Obviously, Hamill is the voice here. There’s also Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela and Chris Wood as Prince Adam/He-Man. And there’s so many more, all of whom — including Lena Headey, Henry Rollins, Liam Cunningham, Stephen Root, Diedrich Bader, Alan Oppenheimer, Tony Todd, Kevin Conroy, Justin Long, and (of course) Jason Mewes — who give it their all. Everyone involved in this show clearly wants to treat your childhood well and holds respect for Eternia. You should give them a chance to make magic happen (again).
Netflix’s ‘Masters of the Universe: Revelation’ streams on July 23.