Star Rating:

Masters of the Universe: Revelation 12

Streaming On: Watch Masters of the Universe: Revelation on Netflix

Release Date: Friday 23rd July 2021

Genre(s): Adventure, Animation, Fantasy

Picture the scene.

It's 1990. It's a warm, sunny day not unlike the one out there now. You've had a half-melted Fat Frog ice pop, you've ridden your slightly rusted BMX that could knock out your teeth in an instant around the green area all day, and now you're about to sit down in front of a dusty Sanyo TV and watch an animated TV show from a few years back on RTÉ 2 that was created solely for the purpose of selling toys. In fact, odds are you or someone you know nearby has a 'Masters of the Universe' action figure. They might even have Grayskull, the cheap plastic castle which also houses a wayward 'Barbie' doll and a bunch of crayons and smeared Digestive Biscuits.

Although Kevin Smith, serving as showrunner for the continuation of the series, means well and is obviously utilising the opportunity to write the kind of unabashed fantasy adventures he's always wanted, you have to wonder about who precisely 'Masters of the Universe: Revelation' is really for. Sure, it might have a subversive streak to it and yes, its story has been updated to 2021 with a Strong Female Lead, but beyond that, the story and its tale of magic extinguished from Eternia and replaced by lifeless technology is one that was cliched in 1985 and 1990 and is even more so today. If there is one thing that can be said, it's that 'Revelation' isn't concerned with being self-aware or trying to acknowledge its own cheesiness. Rather, it is leaning into it.

The choice of voice actors is varied, yet everyone is absolutely game for the cheese. Henry Rollins of seminal punk group Black Flag, for example, voices Tri-Klops. Our own Liam Cunnigham voices Man-at-Arms, the heavily moustachioed compatriot of He-Man. Stephen Root of every good Coen Brothers movie is Cringer, the chickenshit cat that changes into Battle Cat. Mark Hamill in full Joker voice-mode is Skeletor, Lena Headey is Evil-Lyn, Alicia Silverstone is Queen Marlena while Sarah Michelle Gellar voices Teela, ostensibly the lead of the series over Chris Wood's He-Man. Every single one of them knows and understand the assignment. No matter how clunky the dialogue, they go for it with the same intensity and without an ounce of shame or awareness of how ridiculous it sounds.

By the power of the almost painfully earnest writing, and the star power of its cast, 'Revelation' works when it probably shouldn't. Sure, it doesn't have the sly witty nature of 'Invincible', nor is it as funny. It doesn't have over-the-top violence either, which keeps it tame but only just about. The language is relatively safe for teenagers, and even if you can't recall any of the original episodes bar the earworm theme song and He-Man's catchphrase, you can pick up the story and the main characters with relative ease. You might even find yourself remembering some of them along the way too.

Yet, for all the ingenuity of its writing, its strong voice performances, and the good-natured way in which it's all approached, you have to wonder who this is really for. Would a thirty-five year old really sit through five episodes (and potentially another five in the second part due to be released in time) if they didn't have to? Moreover, would a teenager of twelve, thirteen, fourteen or fifteen latch onto this like a pre-internet, pre-'Simpsons' teenager would? The nostalgia factor is the enticement, sure, but when you get past that, there's a well-written, well-performed animated adventure fantasy here. It may be that it's all just a little too on the nose for a younger generation, but still, 'Masters of the Universe: Revelation' proves itself more than worthy of its name.