I freely confess that I’m old enough to remember Masters of the Universe first-hand. I remember being thrilled by the adventures of He-Man, as he raised his mighty sword and uttered the immortal words: “By the power of Grayskull!” With so many parts of my childhood now making their way on to the big screen, I’m not particularly surprised that McG – director of Terminator Salvation and Charlie’s Angels – is working on a film reboot. Yesterday, IGN published a fascinating interview with McG, and I want to look at why Masters of the Universe has the potential to be a hit…
A Rich Fantasy World
Welcome to Eternia, a feudal fantasy-tech world that would be at peace- were it not for the evils that lurk in the shadows. Greatest of these evils is Skeletor himself, a dark manipulator who craves power, and draws all that is bitter and twisted to his side. Should he gain the mystic power of Grayskull, his reign would be established across all of time and space.
Standing against Skeletor are the Masters of the Universe, a band of unlikely heroes and champions who – by virtue of battle – are organized into a formidable fighting force. Their greatest warrior is He-Man, secretly Prince Adam, who wields a powerful sword that grants him tremendous physical power.
Although He-Man is certainly the most iconic character in the franchise, the reality is that Eternia is populated by countless fascinating characters. You have the winged Stratos, ruler of a kingdom of avian warriors; you have Man-At-Arms, the seasoned warrior and commander of the king’s guards, and his daughter Teela, He-Man’s romantic lead. On the side of the villains, you have the likes of Evil-Lynn, a dark sorceress and Skeletor’s second-in-command, and the ferocious Beastman. Essentially, you have a whole world of fascinating characters, uneasy allies, or deadly enemies. There’s a tremendous amount of potential, just waiting to be tapped.
Learn the Lesson of Game of Thrones
In the interview, McG talks about how Game of Thrones has inspired him.
“Obviously, we're all cognizant of what's going on with Game of Thrones. It's incredible.“
Game of Thrones is an interesting touchpoint for a modern-day Masters of the Universe; as I’ve already hinted, you essentially have two power-bases, each drawing other heroes into the conflict. Done right, Masters of the Universe can be the ultimate battle between good and evil, with everybody drawn into the conflict – however unwilling. To pull it off well, you’d need more than one movie; you’d need a whole franchise to be born, one that explored the farthest corners of Eternia, that charted Skeletor’s manipulations of Mer-Man, that unveiled the menace of Tri-Klops, that showed Adam and Teela negotiating for Stratos to join their side. Done right, Eternia can become a whole world, populated by an incredible variety of characters.
Learn the Lesson of Guardians of the Galaxy
Another film that’s inspiring McG is Guardians of the Galaxy. He observes:
“We're cognizant of what's going on in Guardians of the Galaxy. James Gunn's doing a great job.”
Guardians of the Galaxy proved that even the craziest of concepts can work, if it’s done with heart. I mean, the film starred a talking raccoon and a walking tree, and yet it was a blockbuster hit! The reality is that no character – not even the pint-size magician Orko or the terrified Cringer – can't be made into a star by a good script and the right director.
My advice to McG would be not to flinch from the weirdness and the wackiness of Masters of the Universe, but rather to embrace it – and, critically, ensure that every weird and wacky character is loved by viewers, and that we have a real investment in the characters.
Take the Warning of Ghostbusters
These days, fandom is a very dangerous thing. The Ghostbusters reboot reminded everyone how protective fans can be of the things they loved as children; Sony tried to face that storm head-on, and were defeated. As a result, Ghostbusters didn’t even make a profit in the box office, and the sequel is almost certainly canned. I personally don’t feel that it deserved the controversy that engulfed it, but it serves as a very useful warning.
Like Ghostbusters, Masters of the Universe is something that was dearly loved by a generation of fans – and those fans are likely to be seriously protective. There’s already a lot of controversy just over the fact that McG is the one who’s directing Masters of the Universe; he needs to ensure that he takes his fans with him as he makes his film. Otherwise, the fan reaction could be almost as rabid as the outpouring of anger that greeted Ghostbusters.
- Why Has 'Ghostbusters' Been So Controversial?
- Fandom is Broken - but it's Still Worth Fighting For!
- The Strange History of He-Man!
Masters of the Universe is in a very early place, and right now I’m watching with fascination to see how the film comes together. I think McG is looking to the right places – from the feudal sorcery of Game of Thrones to the kooky fun of Guardians of the Galaxy – but he has a real challenge: to keep the fans on-board. I wish him good luck, if only because I kind of love the idea of once again hearing that cry:
“By the power of Grayskull! I have the power!”
Are you excited about the idea of a Masters of the Universe reboot? Let me know in the comments!