If you grew up in the 80s, then you are familiar for the epic power struggle between The Masters of the Universe, He-Man and Skeletor. From 1983 to 1985, this animated battle between good and evil could be seen just about every day, and thanks to an impressive line of action figures and accessories (including the coveted Castle Grayskull and, if I remember right, some sort of slime pit) it continued for a lot of kids even after the TV was turned of. Whether you watched (or even understood) the show had little bearing on your familiarity with He-Man: he was unavoidable.
Flash forward then to 1987 when fans of the show were just two years removed from playing on the floor with their slime pits: a young, perfectly muscled Dolph Lundgren wearing a blonde wig brought He-Man to the big screen in a live action film also starring Frank Langella (!) as Skeletor. How old would those kids have been? Crap, how old are you when you play with action figures? Somewhere between seven and thirteen? Sooo, shoot, you’re how old now? Somewhere between nine and fifteen? Well hell, we’ll put some teenagers in this movie, count on your brand loyalty and hope you show up!
The end result is a movie that immediately begs the question, “who was this made for?” It’s not quite kid-friendly, and it’s not quite badass enough for teenagers or adults, but maybe the tweens who just recently abandoned their toys would have enjoyed it. Indeed, the movie attempts to make the Masters of the Universe even more accessible by bringing them to earth through some sort of freaky-deaky magic key anomaly.
On planet earth they meet the lovely young Julie Winston (Courteney Cox) who recently lost both parents to a plane crash. She’s planning to quit her job at a tiny diner and find her way in the world, presumably to live a life of mediocrity and penury. But He-Man and his pals change all that! Cause, like how can you watch He-Man fend off laser beams with his sword (tantamount to bringing a knife to a gunfight and having it work) without, like, transforming as a person?! Wait, did I forget to mention that Skeletor and his famous flunkies all come to earth as well and that Meg “Crazy Eyes” Foster stars as Evil-Lyn? Cause they totally do! Also, it’s not nice to talk about Meg Foster that way, because she’s kind of perfect and weirdly sexy as a stony mistress of evil. But wait, maybe it’s fine to make fun of her spooky eyes, because she has no problem shape-shifting into Julie’s dead mother and blowing poor Julie’s mind! In any case, Julie and her boyfriend, like, totally help He-Man and Teela (Chelsea Field) and Gwildor (Billy Barty) who stands in for Orko from the cartoon and as a result of this magically insane adventure, a really, really good thing happens to Julie. It’s almost as deep as a movie adaptation of a ten minute cartoon!
Again, it’s really hard to judge who the intended audience of this film was, but 25 years after it’s release, we can call it nostalgia and pretend we’re watching it to be ironic. Dolph is easy on the eyes and well cast as He-Man, and the supporting players bring their A-game to an otherwise bizarre production. The fact that this movie even exists is enough to make any child of the 80s smile and bust out their old toys. It doesn’t matter if it makes any sense.