Skeletor has conquered Castle Greyskull and He-Man only has until the next moonrise to stop his rise to power. Using a device called the Cosmic Key, he and his friends escape to Earth, but the key is picked up by a couple of teens and Skeletor is hot on their trail. Can He-Man get back to Eternia and stop Skeletor before it’s too late? Find out in… Masters of the Universe.
How?! After years of plotting, Skeletor has finally been able to get past He-Man’s forces to conquer Castle Greyskull. The power will be his once the moon rises and aligns with the Great Eye of the Universe. Wasting no time, He-Man discovers that Skeletor tricked a tiny inventor, Gwildor, into giving him the Cosmic Key, a musical invention capable of opening portals to any time or place. Dismayed, Gwildor helps He-Man use the remaining Cosmic Key prototype to enter the castle, but they find themselves outnumbered and in a desperate moment Gwildor uses the key to transport them to Earth. On Earth they find they have lost the key and begin the hunt. Meanwhile a couple of teens, Kevin and Julie, discover the key while visiting the graves of Julie’s parents who tragically died in a plane accident (somehow this is an important detail). Thinking it’s a musical instrument, Kevin, a gifted musician the likes of which we haven’t seen since Patrick Swayze, takes it to his big show at the prom before deciding that he needs the local music store owner to check it out first. While this is happening, Skeletor sends his minions to Earth to find the Cosmic Key but all they find is Julie. After destroying the school, they are on the verge of murdering her but He-Man steps in and sends them scurrying back to Eternia. Upon returning to the exploded school, Kevin is concerned for Julie, but for some reason he’s arrested by a zealous local cop. But soon they too are attacked by Skeletor’s forces and find themselves in the middle of a battle… for the universe. Descending on the local music store they hunker down to do battle, but Evil-Lyn uses some eeevil magic to trick Julie and get the Cosmic Key. When one last effort fails to stop Skeletor and the key is destroyed, He-Man gives himself up to spare his friends. While he is back in Eternia getting tortured, the rambunctious group teams up to fix the key, return to Eternia, and help He-Man take down Skeletor. With peace returned to the universe, Gwildor returns Julie and Kevin back to Earth to the time just before her parents were killed, allowing her to save them. Hooray! THE END.
Why?! Major MacGuffin alert, obviously, as the motivating factor in the film is the Cosmic Key. With its power to take people to different times and places in the world, it’s a powerful military weapon and allows Skeletor to finally enter and conquer Castle Greyskull. So while the key itself doesn’t confer the power Skeletor desires, it grants him the ability to get the power. The military mind of Skeletor also recognizes that it would also confer similar powers to He-Man, so his only goal is to destroy all the remaining Cosmic Keys. He-Man is just an all around good guy hoping to save the universe. Duh.
Who?! Is it weird that the Sorceress in this ended up playing Courtney Cox’s mom on Friends? Or that Courtney Cox’s mom in this film is also Chris Pine’s actual mom? Or that IMDb claims that Tony Carroll, who played Beastman, died in 1992?… Because I’m pretty sure that isn’t even true. I think they may have confused him with David Carroll.
What?! There are a lot of interesting props beyond the Cosmic Key in this one. I found an interesting site that catalogued all the ones that have gone on sale and the prices over the years. Some are kinda crazy, including the gold Skeletor costume that apparently went for under $1000. So you’re saying I could have been a gold Skeletor for like $700? Sold. No Cosmic Key on there though. There are some forums online that suggest that a toy collector has one of the fully functional Cosmic Key props and occasionally puts it up for private sale. They also mention that it’s exquisitely built… I find that strangely beautiful.
Where?! Julie and Kevin are a couple of California teens, although Julie is about to leave to upgrade to beautiful New Jersey. Interesting note is that originally Wikipedia implied that the film took place in New Jersey, but Patrick went ahead and fixed that glaringly obvious and terrible mistake. Sometimes, you know, you have situations like this that make you wonder about Wikipedia and humanity in general. Overall OK California film, good-to-great Eternia film. B.
When?! While there isn’t anything super specific about when this film takes place, you can be pretty confident that it’s probably sometime around May. It’s prom time and Julie implies that she’s going to skip out on graduation to make an early escape to New Jersey to try to get over the tragedy that has befallen her.
The movie is pretty insane. It’s a classic use of IP to just say, “OK, it’s He-Man… but he’s on Earth for some reason… and also there is a device he needs,” and leave it at that. No more thought seems to be put into the concept of adapting Master of the Universe. I think it looks just crazy enough to be fun and there are particular scenes, mostly involving Courtney Cox, that remind you that they also probably didn’t know what they were doing outside of failing to successfully adapt some IP. The peak of this is her character getting tricked by Evil-Lyn masquerading as her Mom, who had died in a plane crash. Even Evil-Lyn doesn’t seem convinced as she explains that she never was on the plane and survived and Courtney Cox is like “wow” and not like “so where have you been for the last few months?” Add on some super 80’s plot points and I think this is a quite enjoyable BMT film. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! Masters of the Universe? Well, they certainly aren’t masters of the box office! Heyyoooooooooo. Let’s go!
P’s View on the Preview – Long ago when Patrick was but a young child Masters of the Universe would occasionally pop up on cable television. So over the years I probably have seen the entire film in bits and pieces here and there. I’m skeptical I’ve ever actually sat down and watched it though. I obviously remember the Cosmic Key and everything, so it did make a mark in my mind nonetheless. What were my expectations? Unlike when I was a child I now know there was a time in the 80s in which non-companies like Cannon were ripping off films for that sweet IP. So I expected it to be an embarrassing piece of crap. I will say I was particularly interested in Robert Duncan McNeill who played Kevin in the film. He’s one of the stars of Star Trek: Voyager so I wanted to see his acting from when he was a young man just trying to make it in that crazy town called Hollywood.
The Good – All things considered the look of some of the costumes are at least interesting in their cheesy glory. And the film itself is definitely a piece of cinematic history. Cannon Films would soon go bankrupt partially due to this film, so that was probably a good thing for Hollywood as a whole. Cox is actually pretty good. McNeill wasn’t, although his acting was somehow more subtle than it is in Voyager (which I assume is just a consequence of the notoriously intense Star Trek film schedule from the 90s). Lundgren looks super strong. He makes a nice He-Man, especially since the film is garbage so his acting isn’t too much of a liability.
The Bad – The costumes, despite their cheesy glory, are real real bad. It is like with Howard the Duck really. You had a bunch of people wondering whether they could, when they should have been asking whether they should, if you get my drift. The idea of bringing He-Man to Earth is stupid and an obvious ploy to keep the cost down. Hey Cannon, do you know what else would keep costs down? Not trying to adapt effects-heavy IP. Skeletor is the stuff of nightmares, even if Langella maybe brought something impressive to the role. And finally, the B-story about Cox’s dead parents was just wooooooof. Unnecessary, and diverting from He-Man action. It is also a crime that we didn’t get to see Lundgren as Prince Adam. A true travesty.
The BMT – The films got that BMT cred. Notoriously bad, tons of amazing bad straight-to-video stars pretending to be real Hollywood leading actors, and the squandering of truly sweet IP. There is not very much I would ask for beyond that. Did it meet my expectations? Yeah, the movie is actually a more entertaining bad movie rewatch than I expected. I expected it to be boring, but in reality there is enough insanity and weirdness to keep things going at a good clip throughout. It’s embarrassing, but only really for Cannon and not really for the others involved … Lundgren has plenty of other things to be embarrassed about than this film.
Roast-radamus – There is just an out of this world Product Placement (What?) in this guy with everyone just chowing down on Burger King in the middle of the film, it’s wild. The film is also a pretty great Setting as a Character (Where?) with everything happening in a very Los Angeles area of Los Angeles. This is one of the quintessential dumb 80s MacGuffins (Why?) with the Cosmic Key which … uh, I guess it just allows you to instantaneously transport around? Sure whatever. And I think this will be a decent contender for BMT as well.
StreetCreditReport.com – The film historians here at BMTHQ can personally attest to how dire the state of wide release films were in 1986 and 1987. We did a whole cycle on 1986 and there are a lot of Masters of the Universe-esque non-films. And it turns out it wasn’t just us that noticed. Here’s an entire article claiming 1987 as the worst year of the blockbuster era of filmmaking! I also think there is a lot of credit to be gleaned from this movie quite literally bankrupting a production company.
You Just Got Schooled – With Masters of the Universe comes an abundance of possible things to school myself on. First, I got just a taste of the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon. He-Man started as just a toy, but then quickly branched into mini-comics and this animated series. Considering how ubiquitous He-Man is to at least my childhood it is quite shocking that the series only ran for a few years. I watched an episode from the second season called The Quest for the Sword which annoyingly did not have Skeletor in it. I have to say … this is like Rambo: The Animated Series level of animation. It is quite crap. But it did confirm that indeed, for some reason people have like lasers, but then He-Man is there with a sword looking like a dope. Because I’m sheltering in place and have nothing better to do on weekends I also watched the Lundgren straight-to-video film Silent Trigger from 1996. I actually really dug this film. It is directed by the same guy as Highlander, and outside of a bunch of weird and mostly bad looking flashbacks, the entire film takes place in a futuristic skyscraper on the night Lundgren is sent to assassinate a political leader. It felt very Highlander (which I also dug), with very cool set designs. It might be a bit odd to say, but this is the type of movie that could be remade into something really interesting if people were looking for sweet IP. B+ if you are into that kind of grungy Highlander style.