For many years, fans of Masters of the Universe have waited for the franchise to be given another chance by Hollywood. The 1987 adaption starring Dolph Lundgren was a disappointment, promising a sequel that never arrived thanks to one of the earliest examples of a post-credits stinger.
While the sequel was prepped, it was quickly relegated to the rubbish heap of history, its set pieces and costumes repurposed for Jean-Claude Van Damme's 1989 sci-fi thriller Cyborg.
There was the odd false start, with the 2008 leaking of a script treatment called Grayskull that teased an interesting take on the origin of archenemy Skeletor. Face/Off director John Woo was also attached at one point. All these dangling carrots, yet not one sprouted to fruition.
Thirty years later, we're still waiting for that movie. The wheels had slowly been turning at #Sony, albeit with a controversial choice of director in #McG, who's best known for the Charlie's Angels films and Terminator Salvation — the movie more memorable for Christian Bale's epic off-camera meltdown than its cinematic content.
Fans of Masters of the Universe were cautious when Sony announced a new date, set for December 18, 2019, where Star Wars: Episode IX had previously been scheduled. Many were also apprehensive about McG and what he might bring to the franchise.
In somewhat of a shock, Entertainment Weekly has reported that McG is officially off the project altogether and Batman Begins writer David Goyer is now rewriting the script, which had previously been overseen by the now-ousted director.
Sony Need Tentpoles
The behind-the-scenes reshuffle should come as a welcome surprise. With Sony no longer retaining the rights to the James Bond franchise, and Spider-Man representing the only big-name superhero (aside from Venom) the studio's got, it's clear some new tentpoles are needed. After staking a claim for a Christmas release — which, for a new franchise, is a somewhat ballsy move — it's perhaps clear that Sony's concern over McG's vision for Prince Adam and co. took him out of contention.
The EW article makes mention of "many actors, including A-list talent" showing interested in a role in the Mattel-created universe, which could also be part of the reason for a behind-the-scenes change-up. While beefy vampire Kellan Lutz has made the most noise, a post-Thor Chris Hemsworth as #HeMan could be fitting. However, it's unlikely the bronzed Aussie would want to do a flesh-baring, campier version of the towheaded savior he's already played to perfection.
Likewise, a more serious take on Masters of the Universe could steer bigger names toward the pivotal roles of antagonist #Skeletor, the Sorceress and Man-At Arms. McG perhaps couldn't attract the required caliber of A-listers with his version of the man-bobbed muscleman. His only sequels to date are Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, which underperformed compared to its predecessor, and Terminator Salvation, whose middling performance didn't result in another movie for the director within that franchise.
What Could This Mean?
Goyer, the aforementioned scribe behind Batman Begins, Man of Steel and the Blade trilogy, has already proved his bankability at the box office. While those properties are diverse, it's easy to see how a similar tone could translate to Masters of the Universe, with its origin story marking the backdrop of Eternia as an abrasive, realistic world rather than a frothy fantastical cartoon kingdom.
From a director standpoint, this situation isn't unlike The Batman, with a longstanding director being replaced by someone who has a completely different vision altogether. It's not beyond the realm of possibility for a bigger name than McG to attach themselves to Masters. While the likes of Steven Spielberg feels like a reach, Guillermo del Toro, who directed Goyer's Blade II, could help make Masters of the Universe a more franchise-worthy property. It may also help to fill the void left by the as-yet unfulfilled promise of Hellboy 3.
Who Has The Power?
One thing is clear: There is a massive opportunity with Masters of the Universe if a posturing, merchandise-pandering type of movie like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra or Transformers can be avoided.
With Game of Thrones coming to an end, there will be a big gap in the market for fantasy that the lore of He-Man, Skeletor, Castle Grayskull, She-Ra and the Evil Horde could more than capably fill. There is scope to make it a Batman Begins cameo-style affair, where nearly all the actors who appear are big-name properties; the generous catalog of Masters characters lends itself to this.
Whereas Batman Begins had Liam Neeson as its main villain, with Cillian Murphy and Tom Wilkinson alongside as lesser creeps, it'd be easy to imagine an Oscar winner like Jeremy Irons playing Skeletor, with recognizable stars as his henchmen — Dave Bautista for Beast Man? Vin Diesel for Trap Jaw? Amy Adams as Evil-Lyn?
Nope, McG was never going to be the one to get this movie made for Sony — but now at least Sony seems serious about it. The kids who grew up with He-Man didn't pass it on to the next generation and there has never been an entry point for new generations to gain access into the early-'80s franchise. We wonder if the new movie will try to appeal to younger generations, or if it will be aimed at nostalgic fans now aged in their 30s and 40s, most of whom enjoy Game of Thrones and its gritty portal in the fantasy genre.
The wild card of course is Mattel, who owns the toy rights. The company is likely to want to merch the hell out this movie, which could be premature. Let Sony and whoever is brought in to helm it focus on creating a quality product and should it prove successful, the toys will return organically, even if it's grown-ups buying collector versions of original figures. If #MastersoftheUniverse turns out to be a campy, comedy dud? Those toys stay locked in the attic and Sony is then free to move on to Voltron: Defender of the Universe.
Masters of the Universe is scheduled for release on December 18, 2019. Who do you wish to see direct it? Sound off in the comments section below.
- The 'Masters of the Universe' Reboot Will Be Inspired By 'Game of Thrones' & 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
- The Strange History of He-Man (and the Masters of the Universe)
- Where Are They Now? Cast of The Masters of The Universe!
[Main image: Mattel]