This weekend, Netflix has added a new animated show to its streaming service. The series is Masters of the Universe Revelation – a belated sequel to the 1983 cartoon, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Overseen by showrunner, Kevin Smith, the series is a modern take on the MOTU mythology. It boasts new animation, an epic new storyline, and a whole new voice cast that includes Mark Hamill, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Tony Todd, Kevin Conroy, and Chris Wood.
The first five episodes of the show landed on Netflix on Friday and form Part One of the series. Additional episodes will arrive later in the year and this will form Part Two.
Although Masters of the Universe Revelation is a sequel to the old show, you don’t need to be all that familiar with what came before in order to watch this series. Revelation provides enough exposition for newcomers, before it moves forward with a whole new tale.
I won’t give away too many details about what that new tale is, but know that it begins on familiar ground, with He-Man and Skeletor locked in battle, fighting over the secrets of Castle Grayskull. But unlike the old cartoon, where He-Man would defeat Skeletor and save the day, things take a turn for the worst and this puts the entire universe in danger.
In order to readdress the balance, a band of heroes and villains join forces, with He-Man’s pal, Teela leading the charge. The group’s mission is to undo the damage caused by He-Man and Skeletor’s showdown, before it is too late.
Across the course of the five episodes, the show catches up with various fan-favourite characters and highlights plenty of MOTU lore. However, don’t go thinking this is ‘The He-Man Show’, because it is not.
There’s a reason He-Man’s name does not feature in the title of the show and that’s because this series is about far more than the most powerful man in the universe. Revelation spends a great deal of time exploring other MOTU characters, including Evil-Lyn, Orko, and Man-at-Arms, and places a specific focus on Teela.
Teela takes centre stage for most of the action, and becomes a key character across every episode. Her journey drives the narrative forward, and she is the essentially the lead of the series.
While this change in dynamic has irked some fans, I personally welcome this side step to other characters. He-Man has been the go-to guy of three previous cartoons, as well as a live-action movie, so it feels like a breath of fresh air to see someone else in the spotlight.
Reducing He-Man’s involvement in the story forces the other characters to step up, and in turn provides scope for a new adventure. Teela is the logical choice to lead, as she worked side-by-side He-Man in the original show, yet was previously unaware of his double-life, meaning there is plenty of drama to mine.
Plus, giving Teela space to develop and grow allows the series to revisit an old plot thread left over from the ‘80s series. Fans know she is destined for greatness and now they are getting to see this story being put into motion.
Now, you’ll notice that in the description above, I kept the premise of the show very brief, and very vague. This is deliberate, because I feel the less you know about the plot of Masters of the Universe Revelation, the better.
The show is filled with numerous surprises, a few shocks, and at least three significant events designed to make audiences gasp. This series has been written to entertain, but also to shake up the status quo – and it does exactly that!
No character is safe from danger in these five episodes, and some heroes don’t make it out of Part One in one piece. Sacrifices are made, tears are shed, and the stakes have never been higher.
For the first time in the history of MOTU cartoons, it feels very much as if all bets are off. This is a show which wants to push forward, and if that means giving some characters the chop, then so be it. This is not something I would have expected from a Masters of the Universe cartoon, but boy, I am here for it.
The original cartoon was conceived purely to sell toys, which means characters often remained in perpetual stasis. Character development was very limited, to ensure that kids could watch almost any episode and still be encouraged to pick up their favourite heroes or villains from their local toy store.
This time around, however, there are no such constraints. Toys will be sold off the back of this show, but Revelation’s existence doesn’t rely solely on selling action figures.
As such, there is far more freedom to make bold choices, resulting in a greater depth in the storytelling. This is a more adult take on Masters of the Universe, which kids can certainly watch, but older fans can really get their teeth into.
As mentioned above, the series has many leading names amongst its voice cast and they all fit into their roles quite neatly. Mark Hamill’s Skeletor is suitably menacing, while Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Teela has a hint of Buffy about her, yet still brings something new to the table.
The show also boasts superb character designs, great music, and plenty of action. Some of the fight scenes are fantastic, and far superior to what has been served up in the past.
If you’re a long-time fan, the show is also loaded with references to MOTU lore. Lines are taken from the Masters of the Universe movie, characters are lifted from the original toy line, and there are plenty of nice little touches here and there.
When I started Masters of the Universe Revelation – Part One, my plan was to space out each of the five instalments over the course of the weekend, but after I watched the first episode, I abandoned the plan and devoured it all in one sitting. I’m glad that I did – the whole thing felt like a mini-movie, with a neat little hook for a sequel, and I have to admit, I have now watched every episode twice.
Masters of the Universe Revelation is a whole lot of fun. It pays homage to its predecessors, yet at the same time isn’t afraid to try something new.
The show won’t sit well with every fan, and I am aware of some very vocal grumblings from one corner of the MOTU community, but for this fan, it exceeded my expectations. Hopefully it will inspire a whole new generation of kids to dive head first into this imaginative universe, and continue to move the story forward.