Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 1 tried to do something different. I applaud the creative team for the effort. However, the result ended up being quite underwhelming.
Full disclosure, I’m not the biggest Masters of the Universe franchise fan out there. So, I don’t have a decades-spanning connection to He-Man which led me to collect figures, playsets, etc. But, as someone who has been covering geek news for close to a decade now, I could understand why certain people in the popular fandom shared their disappointment long before MotU Revelation Part 1 debuted.
It all dates back to a YouTube channel, Clownfish TV, tweeting a rumor about how the upcoming animated series was going to sideline He-Man and focus more on Teela. Said tweet led to Kevin Smith (the developer behind MotU Revelation) stating it wasn’t true. And while a large chunk of people went on, for basically a year, to say Clownfish TV was lying – because why would fan-favorite Kevin Smith lie about such a thing? – the truth finally came out when Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 1 debuted on Netflix on July 23, 2021.
I recommend checking out Clownfish TV’s videos about the drama. For me, it’s another example of how TPTB and other high-ranking creatives in Hollywood have no qualms about throwing smaller creators under the bus because said small creators reported something Hollywood didn’t like. The original tweet didn’t even tag Kevin Smith for him to even consider acknowledging its existence. But what’s done is done.
Putting the drama aside. Did Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 1 end up becoming the Teela show? Is He-Man/Adam sidelined for her to shine? Well, the answer to such a question is a bit complicated. Teela does have a lot of screentime throughout the five episodes. However, He-Man/Adam serves as a big presence in moving the plot along. In a sense, it is about him.
In my opinion, the premise of MotU Revelation sounded quite promising. I’m interested in seeing what the rest of the heroes would do to save a dying Eternia if the biggest hero of them all, He-Man, was taken off the board. But the narrative execution is where the show dropped the ball for me.
Unfortunately, the first episode had some of the most glaring examples of how certain writers focus on forcing the plot instead of putting in the work to allow the story to progress organically. The moment He-Man reached Castle Greyskull with two prisoners without Battle Cat insight should have made the Sorcerers (a wise and powerful being throughout the lore) suspicious.
Not only that, the writers did Teela no favors. They took an impressively experienced warrior, just promoted to Man-at-Arms (and basically the leader of the entire army), and converted her into a poorly written emotional mess. I understand her being angry about being lied to for years about Adam being He-Man. But the way she reacted could have been handled a lot better.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m here for characters showing emotion. However, it needs to make sense for their age and status in the story. Characters in Harry Potter and Avatar: The Last Airbender were emotional, too. But they were also kids or teenagers dealing with a lot of pressure. Also, the leads didn’t throw away everything during a tantrum and refused to save the world for a very long time.
Teela, on the other hand, a grown adult with an important military job, left everything because she was too much into her feelings. Even when she could see Eternia was dying because of magic going extinct, she took her sweet time to get back on the heroic track, and that too involved Evil-Lyn paying her for a mission.
I can’t think about any possible reason why the writers thought viewers would sympathize with such a character. Why should I care about Teela moping about how she wasn’t told the truth when the entire universe was dying?
I disliked X-Men: Apocalypse due to it focusing on manpain. Similarly, I disliked Teela’s characterization because it was a gender-bent version of manpain where she made Adam’s death about herself.
In contrast, Adam’s shown to be a hero through and through. He sacrificed his life to save the universe. Furthermore, even when he got into Preternia (the show’s version of paradise), he left it all behind to save Eternia. Seeing Adam always willing to do anything to save everyone, including leaving paradise, made me roll my eyes at Teela even more.
Even Duncan, who was banished by King Randor after Adam’s death, found ways to help his friends and others in need.
Moving on, even with He-Man and Skeletor out of the picture, seeing Teela and Evil-Lyn’s narrative be so strongly bonded to the men in their lives felt weird.
Teela’s characterization was just poor, in my opinion. The exact same high-stakes story about saving Eternia after He-Man’s death could have been told without making Teela walk away from her duties and, frankly, assassinating her character. Again, we are dealing with military-minded heroic adults here. She should know better than to ignore the plights of the entire universe because of her feelings. Adam could do it (and he literally died during the process). Why couldn’t Teela?
Coming to the other stuff featured in MotU Revelation Part 1, I have to say the animation was quite nice. The action sequences looked cool. He-Man’s punches felt powerful. Even Orko came through. Everyone looked great. As for the voice acting choices, opinions will vary.
There was also a bit of queer subtext going on. I don’t know about you, but similar to a number of critics, I also think Teela and Andra were supposed to be girlfriends even though the show didn’t necessarily go anywhere with it.
We also got a fun-looking magical girl transformation when Adam turned into He-Man, complete with rainbow colors and a butt shot. I mean, it’s about time the show leaned into the queerness of Adam (a twink) transforming into a bulky, harness-wearing He-Man.
The writers also handled Adam’s thoughts about becoming He-Man quite well. Even though everyone’s impressed by He-Man, he’s nothing more than a costume for Adam. I really liked the scene in Preternia where past heroes chose to live as the best versions of themselves. However, Adam decided to live in his non-He-Man form because that’s his authentic self even if the others called him Flea-Man and considered it a lesser version compared to how he looked as He-Man.
With how things ended on a cliffhanger, I’m mildly interested in Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 2, primarily because I want to see if the writers will walk back some of the narrative choices in Part 1 or will continue down the controversial route. The doors are definitely open for the writers to change a lot of what was shown, but as other reviewers have shared, even if stuff is “fixed”, the damage has been done.
Some other thoughts and questions:
- Skeletor killing Moss Man was way too easy.
- Teela’s greatest fear was her becoming too powerful? I mean, come on!
- With how she reacted to finding the truth about He-Man, I hope she decides to react differently after learning the truth about her parentage.
- I still think Evil-Lyn might backstab Skeletor. She did talk to Teela about how she could have acquired all of the power for herself instead of always supporting Skeletor.
- I liked seeing Adam/He-Man and Teela working together and knowing how to perform effectively as a two-person team. I want more of that.
What did you think of Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 1?
Let us know.
All five episodes (each being approximately 24 minutes long) in MotU Revelation Part 1 became available to stream on Netflix on July 23, 2021.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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