Kevin Smith loves He-Man, the power of Greyskull, and all things Eternia, and, if nothing else, the producer's love of this franchise absolutely beams through in each episode of Masters of the Universe: Revelation, while simultaneously taking the world of Masters of the Universe in some bold new directions. Powerhouse Animation joins the legendary movie director in exploring an Eternia that fans have known for decades, while also throwing some genuinely surprising curveballs into the mix that will definitely shock fans, giving us an extremely different picture of Greyskull while still harkening back to the original series and what made the characters work so well.
The new animated series is something of a soft reboot, focusing on He-Man and his friends as they once again find themselves battling against the evil Skeletor and his wealth of diverse underlings in his control. Following the major battle between the forces of good and evil in the introductory episode, the world of Eternia is changed forever, as both the heroes and the villains of the franchise now find themselves battling new threats, and forming new alliances, in order to survive the changed new landscape.
The ingenuity of Revelation is that the first episode truly does feel like it is an original episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe down to a tee. While I myself wasn't a huge fan of all things Eternia growing up, it's clear that, in having watched previous episodes to prep myself for this new tale, that Smith has an in-depth understanding of what made the original series work and the dynamic between the characters is one of the best parts of the show itself. The world feels lived-in and the shared history is put on display here front and center, while also making sure not to alienate newcomers into the world.
Eternia is a very different place following the events of the first episode, and without going into any spoiler territory, it's in these subsequent episodes that Smith tackles some interesting environments within the world, specifically when it comes to magic versus science and how that is able to split both the heroes and villains into interesting directions. Revelation sets up a world that does a fantastic job of placating the viewers who were looking to see this world return through a sequel series, while also molding the elements of Eternia into an interesting boiling pot for future stories to take place within.
I would be remiss if I didn't jump into the stellar voice talent that Smith was able to assemble for this experimental trip to the past, with the likes of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Diedrich Bader, Liam Cunningham, Lena Heady, Justin Long, Kevin Conroy, and so many others who are clearly just as in love with the project as Smith is. Of course, the biggest draw for many fans is Mark Hamill returning to the world of voice acting as the big villain of Snake Mountain in Skeletor. Hamill absolutely crushes the role, not simply because he is able to menacingly portray the skull-faced sorcerer, but also thanks to his understanding of the balance between Skeletor being this threatening magic wielder, while also being the butt of a joke at the same time. It's a tricky tightrope to walk across but it's one that Hamill, and the other actors, are able to pull off flawlessly.
Speaking of balancing acts, Smith takes on this Herculean task of continuing the events of the original series and bringing them into a world that is far more mature than the one that He-Man and his friends once inhabited. There's a specific moment in the first episode wherein the tables turn and an event happens that is a cue to viewers that "not everything is going to be all right," and this change in scenery works well in a number of respects, but it doesn't always quite work. Bouncing between flashbacks of more happy-go-lucky days to some events that viewers might consider "grimdark" can be disorienting, but they are minor bumps in the road for a journey that clearly has a lot of love behind it.
Smith and company really dive headfirst into the history of Eternia with this new series, exploring a lot of territories that are sure to satiate die-hard fans while also helping to bring in new viewers. On top of this, Powerhouse Animation is once again proving to be the premier place for animation on Netflix and really is able to show off their chops here, continuing the ground they covered with Castlevania and Blood of Zeus.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Masters of the Universe: Revelation will premiere on Netflix on July 23rd