I watched the new He-Man cartoon, “Masters Of The Universe: Revelation” and I gotta say it was a really rewarding return to the long-abandoned franchise. He-Man stabs a guy, lots of people die, and no one is introduced solely as a means of selling action figures. There’s even moments of character development and relevance for classic characters like Fisto, the guy with a giant metal fist, who gets to have his moment of heroics and screen-time despite his truly unfortunate name. It was a great watch, had moments of unexpected heart, and did a great job of bringing this ancient cartoon to modern audiences. It even had a few hints toward the end that it might get attached to the larger universe created by “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” so the show could continue in some form if Netflix doesn’t spike it into the dirt because it didn’t get enough streams immediately after being released. That said, the writers did a good job of wrapping most things up in the show so even if it does vanish into the great abyss of abandoned shows on Netflix, there will be no lingering questions.
I actually only watched it because I’m a fan of the modern She-Ra show and I was hoping this old, campy show would get a similar chance at redemption. I never watched the original He-Man show aside from a few episodes here and there. It was far too campy, product-centered, and… I guess “80s” for me to enjoy. It was over by the time I was born and I never really had much of an introduction to it beyond the sort of vague cultural knowledge one accumulates through osmosis, but as I grew older, I enjoyed the various memes made of it and having it as a shared point of exhuberence with my friends. I own the entire collection on DVD but have never watched it because it’s really just not great. Like the old D&D cartoon. I do not enjoy it and refuse to force myself to sit through it just for jokes, memes, and the occasional 80s pop-culture reference.
I had very low expectations, zero nostalgic connections, and increidbly high standards set by the excellence of the She-Ra cartoon, so I honestly expected to barely tolerate it. It was only going to be ten episodes, so I figured I could at least get through it if it proved barely passable. I was pleasantly surprised that I not only enjoyed it, but was even occasionally moved by it. I’m fairly easily moved these days, given my levels of stress and roiling emotions (in response to said stress, my family problems, and confronting the fact that I was largely denied a childhood by my parents foisting responsibility for my other siblings and their own emotional well-validation upon me), but I still think it says something that I grew to care about Orko to the point that I was invested in his character arc.
I’m not saying it should win awards or anything, mostly because there are far superior shows out there that definitely deserve them, but I would definitely recommend the show to anyone who has a healthy relationship with their nostalgic remembrances of the original cartoon, who enjoys modern cartoons, and who enjoys movies with things like giant robots fighting monsters and battle-action sequences. This show doesn’t have giant robots, but it has monster battles and some well-animated action sequences that feel impactful in a way that most shows never quite manage. The creators and animators knew what their job was and knocked it out of the park.
I don’t want to delve into the themes too much, but there are a lot of great moments that have given me plenty to think about as I watch other cartoons and reflect on their origins. One I do want to touch is is from a moment where He-Man is battling Skeletor and, right before He-Man yeets Skeletor into the distance, he yells “It’s not about us!” The first episode of the show makes that abundantly clear, but it’s an interesting lense through which to think about the franchise and the different ways that the character of He-Man/Prince Adam views his role as the current He-Man and protector of his world. It’s also a great thought to keep in mind when dealing with a lot of modern problems as someone who wants to leap in to lend my weight and shoulders to what I believe is a worthy cause. Most of the time, it isn’t about us, it’s about the people we’re trying to help, and no matter how successful or powerful we might be, losing sight of that is a sure sign that we’re becoming a part of the problem.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed me thinking maybe a bit too much about a cartoon and I hope that you get a chance to watch it on Netflix and think about it for yourself.