The Watchers

The Watchers

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Masters Of The Universe (1987)

Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. It can often lead to rose-tinting, to believing something is better than it is because of the emotional ties you have to it. A case in point: this evening, I sat down to watch Masters Of The Universe, a film I haven't seen for twenty years or more. As a child, I loved this film; I even had the Panini sticker album of it. I have a certain image in my head of the film as I remember it from childhood. Was it going to live up to it?

Well, yes and no.

Billy Barty (Gwildor)
Dolph Lundgren (He-Man)
Yes, because it's still the same, fun, knockaround, good-vs-evil smackdown I remember from childhood. There's no real point trying to dissect the film, to look for deeper themes and meaning; it is what it is. A movie based on action figures. If you can't accept it for this, you really won't get on with it. Luckily, I can, so I do. Dolph Lundgren looks like he's been carved out of mahogany (and gives a performance to match); Frank Langella's a wonderfully arch Skeletor, really thesp-ing it up; Billy Barty is great as Gwildor, the Thenorian locksmith whose Cosmic Key causes the fight for Eternia to end up on Earth (although there's still a part of me that wishes they could have found a way for Orko to work); Meg Foster gives a quietly sinister performance as Evil-Lyn. I'd even forgotten about Courteney Cox and Robert Duncan McNeill appearing in it; it's weird to see them both looking so young.

So, where does the no come in?

Frank Langella (Skeletor)
Meg Foster (Evil-Lyn)
Technically, it's very dated- very, very 80s (Kevin thinks the Cosmic Key is a new form of Japanese synthesiser)- and a lot of the film hasn't aged well. Some of the culture-shock comedy that ensues when the Eternians end up on Earth is quite hit and miss. The fight sequences lack punch (especially the final showdown between He-Man and Skeletor, which looks like it was just shot against a light which changes colour). Some of the visual effects really do show their age- Blade's electro-whip, for instance and Skeletor's transformation (complete with laser-firing eyes).  That said, there are a couple of the make-up jobs which really have stood up well: there's a real flexibility to the Skeletor make-up which means Langella can really emote and enunciate and it gets picked up beneath the latex. 

So, all in all, looking back on it from an adult perspective, the film is dated and a little cheap-looking (despite the $22m budget). But it's still a lot of fun- and that's what's important.


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