HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE Review – Reinvented for 2021 While Still Feeling Familiar.

The second animated series based in Eternia is now available on Netflix

by Michael

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is now available on Netflix. We now have 2, count them 2 new He-Man animated series on Netflix. Two!

When Netflix released the trailer and first images for this new iteration, I will fully admit I dismissed it almost immediately. I said then that they geared this show towards kids, and the show is for sure geared towards younger kids. However, I’ll admit, this show did not skew as young as I had expected. While still geared towards a younger audience, there are for sure some darker elements to this show I was not expecting for a show rated TV-Y7.

Is this the He-Man of old? No.

Is this the He-Man of the 200Xs? No.

This is the He-Man of 2021. This is the He-Man for this generation. A reinvention, while still feeling like He-Man at its core. This is, dare I say it; a fun He-Man.

Just like with Kevin Smith’s Masters of the Universe: Revelations, this He-Man will not be everyone’s cup of tea. For some older fans, they may take offense to this reinvention of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, ignoring the fact that they made it for a new generation.

We now have He-Man in CGI animated form. Character designs are original but are of the times. A few changes to characters may cause them to be harder to identify with older fans, including the gender-swap of Ram Man, but the thing is, this isn’t for us. This is for our kids. I wish I had a child of the age that I could sit and watch this with. Alas, this show currently falls in the range between the youngest and his older siblings. Thus, Dad gets to watch the latest Netflix cartoon solo.

And I’ll admit, I enjoyed it. I even laughed a few times at Skeletor’s quips.

Speaking of Skeletor, this iteration may just end up ranking high on my Skelly rankings. He still has his menacing essence, including some of those darker elements that surprised me. There’s personality and a sense of cockiness, that while not earth-shattering in terms of character development, fits him. I’m sure this Skeletor’s “humor” turns some off, but I came away as a fan. It almost borderlines “Dad Joke Skelly”, or in his case, “Uncle-Joke”. Also, I’m a fan of the general concept of his design. I think I’d like him if he wasn’t as bulky and top-heavy, but that is a minor qualm and likely too picky.

The show itself while a reinvention definitely pulls from distinct elements and mythos from the previous iterations and makes it it’s own.

After the first season has concluded, we’ve had mention of Avion, Mer-People, and Snake Men. They referenced Snake Men a few times when talking about Skeletor taking refuge in Snake Mountain and giving the history and background of the location.

We have Skeletor, who in this version is in fact Keldor. We’re again treated to suggestions that Teela might be related to the former Sorceress. An element that I actually enjoy in this version, and ironically was a key element to the strife in Kevin Smith’s Revelations, is how there are no secret identities by the time the first season has wrapped. Adam/He-Man knows Skeletor is his Uncle Keldor. There’s something about that extra level of personal strife in the rivalry/battle that I enjoy. When you consider Keldor is aiming for the throne that his brother has, and that King Randor knows Adam is He-Man and Keldor is Skeletor, everything is turned on its head in a more personal spin that gives this version of He-Man elements that harken back to an alternate universe where Game of Thrones was a more innocent family squabble.

It also leads to some of the jokier elements, including when He-Man refers to Skeletor as “Uncle Keldor” which leads to Skeletor unveiling his new name, and confusion from the heroes.

While this show is meant for a younger audience, it definitely takes the time to thread in a few things that feel above their targeted age range.

The show and the universe have a different feel to them. Eternia has a more futuristic feel compared to the more medieval feel of the original. Which again, makes sense for the show’s target demo. It’s 2021. You will not hold children’s attention with medieval elements and battles.

Throw in that He-Man now shares the power of Grayskull with his friends (Teela, Kaas, Cringer, and Duncan) who also transform into their own Masters; Sorceress, Ram Ma’am, Battle Cat, and Man-at-Arms respectively, and this new He-Man has elements that feel almost Power Rangers-esq.

You’ll walk away loving Cringer, voiced by David Kaye. When we look back at this show in a few years, Cringer may prove to be the soul of it all. And While I was highly skeptical of this new take on Orko, I find myself enjoying it. It is a unique take and approach that could have a lot of potential down the road if they choose to take it.

Again, this is for a new generation. While back in the day, every episode of He-Man had to end with some lesson or uplifting message, you get feelings of teamwork, family, and trust within this new dynamic. A dynamic that proves to be so successful that Skeletor turns around and duplicates it with his Dark Masters that include Evil-Lyn, Trap Jaw, and Beast Man.

Ultimately, this new take on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is well written. The character work is impressive for a show with its intended audience. You have good placement of subtle meta jokes, along with the quips from Keldor/Skeletor. Some elements are darker and more intense than you’d expect, but this show is definitely kid-friendly.

I’m nothing but impressed with how Netflix and Mattel have reinvented He-Man for 2021. Other franchises should take notes on how to reinvent an established IP from the ground up while keeping it familiar.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe stars Yuri Lowenthal as Adam/He-Man, David Kaye as Cringer/Battle Cat, Grey Griffin as Evelyn/Evil-Lyn, Antony Del Rio as Duncan/Man-at-Arms, Kimberly Brooks as Teela/Sorceress, Trevor Devall as R’Qazz/Beast Man, Judy Alice Lee as Krass/Ram Ma’am, Roger Craig Smith as Kronis/Trap-Jaw, Ben Diskin as Keldor/Skeletor, Fred Tatasciore as King Randor, and Tom Kenny as the robot Ork-0. Bryan Q. Miller (Shadowhunters, Smallville) is the story editor for the series, which was created and developed for TV by Rob David, with animation by CGCG (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and House of Cool (Trollhunters).

Season one is now streaming on Netflix.

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