In a world where “Game of Thrones” can be a global phenomenon, there’s no reason a “Masters of the Universe” movie can’t be a hit. Both properties have a lot of similarities: Villains who can make comedic and withering remarks toward their henchmen, a medieval fantasy setting, and good looking heroes with a strong sense of right and wrong, even when that sense leads them to do dumb things.
And yet, here we are. Almost 10 years after Warner Brothers, and then later SONY, both announced their intentions to make a film starring He-Man, Skeletor and their awesome friends. A movie now inching closer to going into production with McG as the director and Kellan Lutz (possibly) as the star. But given the vicious response that greeted the “Ghostbusters,” and that remakes box office failure, is the “He-Man” reboot doomed?
What Makes He-Man Different
I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s been no shortage of ’80s film getting remade right now. Hell, just recently news came out that we were getting a gender-swapped remake of “Splash” where Channing Tatum is the mermaid. In the works is also “Clue,” “WarGames,” “Commando,” “Police Academy,” “Flight of the Navigator,” and most upsetting, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
I don’t have a problem with remakes. I don’t like them, but the odds are good that many of you reading this have no idea what “Police Academy” is, and that makes me die a little inside. But. There’s a huge difference between “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” and all those other properties. He-Man was never meant to be anything more than a vehicle to sell toys. The franchise didn’t have years of well written Marvel comics to fill everything out in the way “G.I. Joe” did. Or have an incredibly dark animated film starring Orson Wells that also had the most ’80s soundtrack you could imagine like “Transformers.”
Now look, I grew up watching “He-Man.” I have older siblings who were into it (since I was only four or so when the “He-Man” fad started to fade). But I had the VHS tapes, and the toys, and remember what a pain in the ass it was for my parents to help me clean up the stupid Slime Pit playset.
So I’m not saying this to bash that franchise since it was a big part of my childhood. But if we’re objective, you can see there’s little sense in remaking “He-Man” in any medium. In fact, you don’t need to take my word for it. Remaking and relaunching “He-Man” has been tried multiple times since the ’80s in the form of comics, video games and cartoons and it just hasn’t caught on. Some things, like the “Dumb and Dumber” cartoon, are best left in the past. “He-Man” included.
The “He-Man” Movie Sucked
If you’re a child of the ’80s, and your parents hated you, the odds are good you saw “Masters of the Universe” in theaters like I did. (I’m convinced my mom’s substance abuse problems stem from taking me to see this film.)
Fortunately, most of your parents love you, so the movie based on the popular “He-Man” toy line was a massive box office failure. We’re not talking “Worst Movie Ever Made” territory, but check this out: The “Masters of the Universe” film did so poorly, the company behind the movie retrofitted the script they had for the sequel and turned it into another film. This new movie was called “Cyborg” and If you have no idea what “Cyborg” is, don’t worry. All you need to know are these three words: Jean-Claude. Van. Damme. Congratulations. You are now all caught up on “Cyborg.” So imagine everyone’s surprise when, 20 years later, Warner Brothers is like, “Yo. We’re remaking this.” And even more, surprise, after that falls through that SONY was like, “We’re totally doing this.”
The biggest of the many, many flaws of “Masters of the Universe” was that it had nothing to do with the cartoon. Sure some of the characters were there, but they had little resemblance to their cartoon counterparts. Skeletor may have been called Skeletor, but aside from the skull face, he could easily have been any generic 80s sci-fi villain. Dolph Lundgren may have had the body of He-Man, but he looked less like a medieval fantasy adventurer than he did someone who was on his break serving booze at a leather bar. Like he went out for his fifteen-minute smoke break and got sucked through a portal. Only to find himself embroiled in an adventure he had no interest in being part of. (By the way: Not only do I totally support this version of He-Man and his choice of lifestyle, but you know you would pay good money to see THAT version of “Masters of the Universe” in theaters.)
So you would think, almost 20 years later that SONY would have carefully investigated He-Man’s fundamental flaw of having practically nothing to sustain a big budgeted, 90-minute adventure and decided against making the film. That’s what a smart, rational person and organization would do. But movie studios have never operated like that.
Proving that, SONY seems to have doubled down on making the film as bad as it can be. I’m not even kidding. Kellan Lutz is in talks to be He-Man. Have you ever seen Kellan Lutz’s IMDB page? It’s a collection of movies and bad television shows you’d put on at a party when it was time to clear the room. In other words: He’s a good looking dude who can fill out the He-Man suit in a way that would make members of both sexes very happy, but he’s not going to win an Oscar anytime soon. And that’s before I tell you that McGee is attached to direct the film. You remember those really bad “Charlie’s Angels” remake movies from a few years back? How about “Terminator Salvation?” No not the bad one that came out recently. The other bad one. No not “Terminator 3,” the bad one that followed it. Yeah that one. McGee made that, and his movie directing career has been DOA ever since. These are not moves that inspire confidence.
So given the paper thin premise, the lack of interest in the franchise, and a craptastic actor and director combination, this “He-Man” film is doomed. I don’t even think my reluctant leather bar He-Man idea could save this film. And you know what? I hope you’re as OK with that as I am, because as fun as nostalgia is, sometimes it’s nice to leave the memories alone. Otherwise you get films that do nothing but waste your money, and your life.