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Why Masters Of The Universe Will Blow You Away

The Power of Grayskull will soon be returning to cinemas. After spending years in development hell, a new Masters of the Universe movie has finally started production at Columbia Pictures, with a scheduled release date of March 5, 2021. The film will mark He-Man's return to the big screen following what will by then be a 34-year hiatus, and all eyes will be on the film and star Noah Centineo to see if they can restore the 1980s icon to his former glory. Now, before you scoff at that, you should understand that He-Man and the Masters of the Universe's heyday was indeed glorious.

The franchise began as a Mattel toy line launched in 1982 which quickly became one of the hottest sellers around. The toys were originally sold with mini-comics that expanded the backstory of the characters, and the desire for more of these stories soon outgrew the mini-comic format. The 1983 animated television series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe blasted the franchise's popularity all the way to the planet Eternia, resulting in a live-action movie adaptation in 1987. But unfortunately for He-Man, the movie failed on just about every level. It bombed at the box office, critics hated it, and perhaps most importantly, many fans considered it near-blasphemous. In the 30-plus years since, He-Man's popularity has ebbed and flowed, but it has never approached the height of his early '80s fame. 

But that's about to change. The upcoming Masters of the Universe film is poised to usher in a new mastery over the universe for He-Man and his friends — and here's a look at all the reasons why.

Masters of the Universe fans have been waiting over 30 years for this

To say that the 1987 film Masters of the Universe was a disappointment would be a massive understatement. The movie starred Dolph Lundgren as He-Man, Frank Langella as the villainous Skeletor, and a young Courteney Cox as a newly introduced Earthling character named Julia Winston. Cox's character, in a way, embodied many fans' major problems with the film. There wasn't anything wrong with the future Friends star's performance, per se, but her having such a key role in the film left a bad taste for a lot of fans for two reasons. 

First, she is from Earth — which is also where most of the film takes place. By contrast, the cartoon and comics were based on the planet Eternia, a fantastical land that combined elements of sword and sorcery with science fiction. By taking He-Man out of this beloved and familiar setting and transporting him to Earth, the movie was stuck telling a fish out of water story that prevented fans from seeing He-Man at his best. Secondly, Julia Winston was not a character from the cartoon, nor the comics, nor the toy line. She was created for the film, and she wasn't the only one. Despite having dozens of well-liked and interesting characters at their disposal, like He-Man's trusty steed Battle Cat, the filmmakers chose to forego them in favor of introducing their own characters, like some dude from New Jersey named Kevin.

The makers of the new Masters of the Universe know what went wrong with the original, and there's no way they're going to repeat the mistakes of the past. Sorry, Kevin.

The '80s are so hot right now

It may be 2019, but you'd be forgiven for thinking it was 1989. Seemingly everywhere you turn in pop culture, the decade of big hair, neon clothing, and Reaganomics is taking over. Just look at what's on TV these days: Modern reboots of classic '80s series MacGyver and Magnum P.I. are both important members of CBS' primetime lineup, while ABC's comedy lineup is partly anchored by the '80s-set The Goldbergs and The Conners, a continuation of '80s hit Roseanne. Streaming sites are also overrun '80s-inspired series. Netflix has a Voltron reboot, the Full House continuation Fuller House, the '80s wrestling drama GLOW, and the massively popular Stranger Things, which even got Coca-Cola to bring back New Coke — one of the biggest product failures of all time — as a tie-in. Netflix also produces She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, a reboot of He-Man's female-focused spinoff series, She-Ra: Princess of Power, which debuted in 1985.

If anything, the movie industry is even more in love with the '80s — 2019 alone has seen reboots for Child's Play and Pet Sematary, with sequels for Terminator and Rambo on the way. In 2020, things get even more retro with belated sequels for Ghostbusters, Bill & Ted, Coming to America, and Top Gun. Even the upcoming Wonder Woman sequel takes place in the '80s, with the film actually being called Wonder Woman: 1984. People just can't get enough of the '80s right now, which means the time is perfect for a reboot of one of the decade's most iconic contributions to pop culture, Masters of the Universe.

Noah Centineo is ready to break out

Noah Centineo is probably not who most Masters of the Universe fans had in mind for the role of He-Man. The young actor has dark hair rather than Prince Adam's signature blond, he is fairly slight of build and lacks a bodybuilder's physique, and he is only 23 years old. Centineo wasn't even born until 1996 — long after He-Man had his moment in the sun. But despite his unorthodox appearance and youth, Centineo is who Sony Pictures chose to cast for the lead role in the new Masters of the Universe. And believe it or not, they knew what they were doing.

Centineo may not look like He-Man, but he is poised to deliver a memorable performance as the character. Centineo burst onto the scene in a big way in 2018 thanks to his role in the Netflix teen romance To All the Boys I Loved Before before going on to appear in two more films for the streaming giant: Sierra Burgess Is a Loser and The Perfect Date. Thanks to his charismatic performances in these films, Centineo has become an internet sensation, and that likability factor will go a long way toward helping him sell his incarnation of He-Man. For proof, just take a look at Chris Pratt. He wasn't anyone's idea of an action hero when he was playing chubby slacker Andy Dwyer on Parks & Recreation, but his performance as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy completely changed people's perception of him, and now he's arguably the world's biggest action star. Look for Centineo to undergo a similar transformation. He can work out and wear a wig to pull off the look of He-Man, but what's really going to make his performance memorable is his inherent star quality.

Sci-fi & fantasy go together like peanut butter & jelly

Two of the hottest genres in pop culture right now are science fiction and fantasy. The box office is dominated by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has been trending more and more toward straight-up science fiction in recent years. Avengers: Endgame deals with time travel, aliens, and intergalactic insanity, and it is now the second all-time earner at the domestic box office after another sci-fi film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. On television, fantasy is in vogue, with the series finale of Game of Thrones recently becoming the most-watched episode of any show in HBO history. And with multiple Game of Thrones spinoffs in the works, along with adaptations of Lord of the Rings and Wheel of Time, it seems like fantasy will continue to dominate TV for years to come. But it's when you successfully blend these two genres that the real magic (or science, for you sci-fi fans) happens. 

Thor: Ragnarok managed to pull this off — by taking Thor, the most fantasy-friendly Marvel character, and putting him in a retro science-fiction environment, the movie came up with something truly special and unique. Except that it wasn't all that unique, because Masters of the Universe was doing this 35 years earlier. MotU is about a society on the planet Eternia where magic and alien technology exist together and are employed equally. He-Man may wield a magic sword and hang out with a sorceress, but he's also at home driving a flying ship that shoots lasers. Fantasy and sci-fi can be extremely fun when they're mixed together, and given the franchise's long history of doing just that, the new Masters of the Universe movie ought to be a blast.

There's more to it than just He-Man

Look, not everyone likes He-Man. We get it. Prince Adam is kind of a dork, and He-Man himself is just a buff guy with a bad haircut and no personality. But the movie isn't called "He-Man," it's called "Masters of the Universe." Masters, plural. He-Man is part of an Avengers-like squad that fights evil, and each one of them is more awesome than the last. There's Man-At-Arms, who's a master at every weapon and has a sick mustache; Teela, a unicorn-riding goddess; and Battle Cat, the armored steed that Prince Adam's cowardly tiger Cringer turns into whenever Adam becomes He-Man. And as cool as the heroes of the franchise are, the villains are even better.

Battling against He-Man for the power of Castle Grayskull are evildoers like Beast Man, a hulking Bigfoot-like monster; Evil-Lyn, a magic wand-wielding sorceress with a pun for a name; and Trap Jaw, a cyborg with sharp metal teeth and an arm that can be swapped out for numerous weapons. All of these bad guys act as henchmen to Skeletor, one of the most iconic villains — with one of the coolest designs — in all of genre fiction. Skeletor is a diabolical blue-skinned brute with a skull for a head and an unquenchable lust for power. For many, he is the best part of Masters of the Universe, and seeing him get adapted for the big screen using today's technology will be worth the price of admission all on its own.

Special effects technology has caught up to the material

As we've already established, Masters of the Universe is a very fantastical franchise. There are magic powers, barbarian battles, huge snarling beasts, spaceships, a race of snake people, and a castle shaped like a skull, among other things. It was relatively easy to show all of these things in animated form in the 1980s; all you had to do was draw them. But bringing it all to life convincingly in a live-action movie was a far more difficult task. In the '80s, CGI was practically unheard of and most movies were still using puppetry and other practical effects. Puppetry can be fun and definitely has a strong nostalgia factor, but it typically isn't the most convincing visual effect movies have at their disposal today.

Over the past few years, CGI has finally reached the point where it can create entire worlds and characters that are virtually indistinguishable from real life. In Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel Endgame, for instance, the villain Thanos is completely computer and motion capture-generated. And yet, he still feels like a real character. His facial expressions and other movements are incredibly lifelike, and at no point in either of those movies does he feel artificial. Utilizing this technology will be the key to creating a convincing Eternia, and we're definitely excited to see the planet come to life like never before in the reboot.

Masters of the Universe's surprising MCU connection

As of this writing, MCU films have earned over $21 billion at the worldwide box office, which is more than twice the haul of the next highest-grossing franchise, Star Wars. As a result, pretty much every other studio is trying to copy the Marvel formula, with mixed results. Universal Studios' Dark Universe, which it attempted to launch with The Mummy in 2017, is already so dead not even an Ancient Egyptian curse could revive it. Warner Bros.' DC Extended Universe, by contrast, is now humming along after some initial stumbles, with Aquaman and Shazam both scoring recent hits for the studio.

Luckily for Masters of the Universe, the movie already has a pretty major MCU connection: The script is undergoing a rewrite by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, the duo who wrote the screenplay for 2008's Iron Man — the movie that launched the MCU back in 2008. In other words, if you're looking to start your franchise off on the right foot, hiring these two is certainly a step in the right direction. That's a lot of foot-related analogies, but we just want to make it clear that Masters of the Universe has got a leg up on the competition by snagging Marcum and Holloway.

The studio needs Masters of the Universe to succeed

Sony Pictures, through its subsidiary Columbia Pictures, is the studio behind the new Masters of the Universe. And while you may think it doesn't matter which of the major studios is producing the film, it kind of does. You see, Sony hasn't exactly been on fire over the past few years. Today's box office is driven by franchises, and if you don't have a big money-making IP, it's tough for a studio to survive. The reason Disney has been able to dominate in recent years is their ownership of Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and their own brand of animated classics and live-action remakes of said animated classics. Also putting up respectable numbers are Universal, with their Jurassic World, Fast & Furious, and Minions franchises; and Warner Bros., who have the DCEU and J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World. Sony, by contrast, is starving for a franchise.

The studio lost the distribution rights to James Bond after 2015's Spectre. Their Ghostbusters reboot attempt the following year was a box office flop (though they're going to try again in 2020), as was their Men in Black reboot. They still have Spider-Man (though Marvel gets all the merchandising revenue), and they've scored surprise hits with Venom and Jumanji, but it isn't enough. Sony knows they need a massively successful IP to compete in today's market, and Masters of the Universe has the potential to be just that. With so much riding on the film, the studio is likely to put a lot of resources into it to make sure it's really good. By the Power of Grayskull, they are ready to put out a blockbuster that will save their bottom line.

Skeletor will finally keep his promise

Post-credits scenes have become expected while watching big blockbusters over the past decade, thanks largely to Marvel popularizing the trend, but they've actually been around for far longer. Although they were rare at the time, post-credits scenes would still occasionally pop up in some 1980s films. Most of the time, they were utilized in comedies to squeeze in one more joke, like in 1980's Airplane!, 1987's Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and 1986's Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which had one of the most memorable of the decade. Then, there was the post-credits scene in the original Masters of the Universe, which remains one of the most notorious ever made. 

Spoilers for a very old bad movie to follow:

Near the end of the film, He-Man and Skeletor engage in a final battle that ends when He-Man knocks Skeletor into an unfathomably deep pit. Skeletor is presumed dead, and the film ends on a happy note. But after the credits roll, Skeletor's head rises up from a pool of pink liquid at the bottom of the pit, where he looks straight at the camera and declares, "I'll be back!" But he lied. Due to the film being such a massive flop, no sequel was ever produced, making Skeletor's tease at the end of the film utterly pointless. But now, with the new Masters of the Universe on the way, Skeletor will finally make his long-awaited return to the silver screen, allowing the character to keep his promise after all these years.