This critic has no particular emotional attachment to either He-Man or Kevin Smith. The main reason he knows about the latter( aside from some broad cultural osmosis) is the ubiquity of the He-Man/4 Non-Blondes meme on the early internet.
So why did he watch the new sequel series that crosses over two creative forces he has little to no interest in. There is a simple answer to that. This is the new project from Powerhouse Animation. Having seen their Netflix Castlevania series the studios visual style and aesthetic is immediately attention-grabbing. The Castlevania series may have had its ups and downs The high points were enough to maintain a level of interest in future projects from the studio behind it. The first part of this new series is only five episodes long and based on another beloved property. The interest peaked again when the five episodes debuted to a level of critical acclaim. In the process got severely review bombed by butthurt fans. Now things are starting to get interesting. The question is how do these first five episodes play to someone with only the broadest surface-level knowledge of the original material.
The first episode may be entirely composed on a very glossy surface-level appeal but is mostly solid in that context. Powerhouse certainly gets to flex its visual muscles. The show generally looks very good from an aesthetic perspective. The starey voice cast, ( Mark Hamill. Lena Headey and Sarah Michelle Gellar among them) are mostly solid. The premiere mostly feels like Kevin Smith and his creative team playing with that big box of He-Man Toys. That is until the first episode ends with the central getting killed off. The plot for the remaining 4 episodes is essentially various fetch quests t resulting in finding another incarnation of the man from an alternate Eternia. This edition also gets promptly killed off. Skeletor now has control over Greyskull. See you for Part 2.
On one level beginning, your Masters of the Universe show with killing He-Man off can be treated as a bold statement. On the other hand, this did market itself as a sequel to the original series. Grown-up fans of the source material will be tuning in. Killing off the original hero one episode into your new incarnation in the age of the internet/social media is prime fodder for review bombing. It’s hard to imagine the creative team did not expect a certain amount of this. Beyond the Mark Hamill connection, the whole scenario from both a creative and storytelling perspective comes across like Luke Skywalker throwing his lightsaber over the Cliff in the opening minutes of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. When looking at the remaining 4 episodes this project crystallises more definitively. The sequel comes across as being put together by a team who likes the mythology and world-building potential in Masters of the Universe. Simultaneously they do not want to engage with how silly proceedings can be. The campy delivery is a key part of why this franchise has lasted even in meme form. Go a level deeper and strip away the franchise branding. What do you have? A solid if decidedly unspectacular animated action show. The initial 5 episodes are fine within this context. They don’t do a lot to differentiate themselves from the truly great stuff in the sub-genre
When the credits rolled on the episode 5 cliffhanger, this critic found himself asking who this was truly for. He concluded that this production tried to have fingers in as many appealing pies as possible. It did not go deep enough in exploring any one of them to truly harvest its potential and audience.
After Part One Masters of the Universe: Revelation comes across as a decidedly odd project. Its full-hearted jump into the subversive for the sake of subversive subgenre means it’s not really for original fans. They do have some right to be annoyed at the creative decisions made. The series is strong from my visual and aesthetic point of view. Is not that much of a departure from Powerhouse’s previous visual work. In trying to have some level of appeal for the broadest subsection of its potential audience it does not go far enough in any one area to hold appeal or interest for any length of time. Those that are hungry for new action-based animation might get something out of it. The show doesn’t make a strong enough first impression in this regard, to enticing viewers back for future episode drops.