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All The Rumors And Spoilers Leaked About Masters Of The Universe So Far

The long-gestating new Masters of the Universe movie has been stewing on and off since 2009, when Sony acquired the rights from Warner Bros. (who had attempted their own reboot in 2007). In the decade since, multiple prospective directors have marched in and out of the studio revolving door, while the script's seen a slew of rewrites that have contributed to the seemingly endless difficulties plaguing He-Man's return to the silver screen. 

It's been a long road for Masters of the Universe, in other words, but the movie finally seems to be escaping pre-production limbo — with its leading man in place, it's set to begin filming soon, and current plans call for a theatrical release on March 5, 2021. Any movie with this much troubled backstory fosters its own mythology of rumors and speculation, so we've rounded up all the best and juiciest hot gossip we can find about the new adventures of Eternia's greatest warrior. By the power of Grayskull, here's a look at all the rumors and spoilers leaked about Masters of the Universe so far.

Who's writing and directing Masters of the Universe?

In early 2019, the final slate of production staff finally began to gel. David Goyer, who'd earlier delivered a script treatment for the new Masters of the Universe movie and was briefly in talks to direct, opted to serve as executive producer on the project instead due to other directorial commitments. In his place, the studio hired the directorial sibling duo Adam and Aaron Nee, best known for the comedy Band of Robbers, a modernized pseudo-sequel take on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with its main characters as adults. Escape Artist producers Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, and Steve Tisch (who've been attached since rights were purchased by Sony in 2009) are also still on board.

Finally, screenwriters Art Markum and Matt Holloway, renowned for their credits on the original Iron Man, have taken a fresh pass at the script. With Goyer and at least four other known writers having made their own attempts to crack the story, it's unknown how much credit any of them will receive — or if any of their previous ideas will make it into the final product. Goyer's script in particular appeared to be relatively complete, but Markum and Holloway reportedly started over from scratch.

Not simply signs of life, but He-Man momentum

In the first six months of 2019, a sudden flurry of activity brought Masters of the Universe back into the spotlight. Most promising of all is the announcement of a hard date and location for the beginning of principal photography: August 19, 2019 in Prague, Czech Republic. Plans call for filming to take three months, ending sometime in November. While the name of the city might prompt visions of Cold War gloom, it's actually a perfect spot to utilize marvelous European vistas as a stand-in for Eternia. In the past, Prague has made an excellent location for films like Casino Royale, The Spy Who Dumped Me, and Van Helsing. Given that the 1987 version of Masters of the Universe was set partially in New Jersey, the Prague location could be a great sign that this version will offer a substantial tonal and aesthetic departure from its much-maligned predecessor.

Who's in the Masters of the Universe cast?

You can't have a Masters of the Universe movie without a star to play He-Man, and in 2019, the new version found its lead in Noah Centineo. Arguably best known for his work in the Netflix rom-com To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Centineo marks more than a slight departure from his predecessor in the role, Dolph Lundgren. This appears to be intentional — when asked about his preparation for the project, Centineo teased, "It's a new universe... The Nee brothers, Adam and Aaron Nee, they're directing it, and they're the filmmakers in charge of the story, and they are doing one hell of a job developing the world and all these things."

A new perspective on the characters and their setting is to be expected from any reboot of a well-known property, but the fans are always quick to offer their opinions. The immediate response to Centineo's casting was... not great, with critical Twitter users calling the young actor everything from "a fine actor, but a poor choice for He-Man" to "pathetic."  Of course, Centineo is far from the first star to suffer the sting of preemptive scorn — even Heath Ledger's casting as the Joker was met with downright uproar from comic fans who sounded not unlike Centineo's critics. Anyway, when you're following a movie that generated a pathetic $17 million and is widely regarded as one of the more embarrassing flops of the '80s, you've got nowhere to look but up, right?

Was the Masters of the Universe movie canceled?

After years of stopping and starting production — and moving from one studio to another — it was was easy to believe that the new Masters of the Universe movie was simply dead on the vine. In fact, this belief was so prevalent that the rumor had to be publicly denied — more than once. It was first debunked in 2011. A somewhat tragic quote by the now-former VP of Production for Columbia Pictures, DeVon Franklin, sums it up well: "Should have that script very soon. I'm praying that we can start figuring out how to make it." The script in question was penned by Mike Finch and Alex Litvak, who are no longer on the project; Franklin, meanwhile, left Columbia Pictures in 2014.

It had to be debunked again in June 2019, mere weeks before filming was slated to begin, after rumors of budget concerns. The article that suggested cancellation was eventually taken down. If a shutdown occurred at all, it was temporary at most, and the announced release date remains in place. According to Sony, everything is still full steam ahead.

The business reality behind Masters of the Universe

From a studio perspective, films are investments, and return on any investment is the ultimate demand. Toy giant Mattel owns Masters of the Universe's intellectual property, and as such, is in a marketing partnership with Sony as distributor of any live-action film. Sony purchased the film rights from Warner Bros. after Warners' failed attempts to get a movie off the ground, but Sony faced their own difficulties — their licensing agreement actually expired and Mattel shopped the MOTU property around Hollywood until Sony negotiated a new one. This negotiation was apparently the reason Art Markum and Matt Holloway were brought on as the newest screenplay writers in order to please Mattel for unknown (or, at least, unreported) issues with the previous script by David Goyer. 

To date, Sony's alleged expenditure on MOTU is approximately $15 million. Since Sony has been sharing custody of Spider-Man with Disney and the MCU, the studio has struggled to craft a truly successful franchise to call its own. The redoubled effort on the MOTU reboot seems to be part of their strategy going forward. Eating up that sum of money in pre-production isn't exactly insurmountable today, but it is a dent in any potential return on investment. 

A Masters of the Universe teaser poster... sort of

What gets a fanbase going better than a teaser poster, right? Just enough information to give all the biggest fans fuel to speculate with their friends and whet the collective appetite. Give a sense of aesthetic and tone, as all great movie posters do at their best. So, you'll be delighted to know that MOTU released one in June 2019! Or... you will be, until you see that it's really just a logo and a release date.

To be fair, this poster was displayed at the Las Vegas Licensing Expo. This may be puzzling at first blush, but remember that all Masters of the Universe IP is owned by Mattel. They are an official partner on the film's production, and they will doubtlessly be interested in revamping a toy line and all sorts of other merchandise as part of the film release. The aim of this teaser poster (loosely interpreted) is not so much to stoke nostalgia in fans of the animated show or even the film, but rather to catch the attention of commercial interests in regards to licensing and product tie-ins. And maybe also to reassure everyone the film really is going to follow through.

Is OG He-Man Dolph Lundgren involved in the new Masters of the Universe?

Dolph Lundgren was the original live-action He-Man in the 1987 film, and in an era of pop culture callbacks and novelty cameos, there is no doubt longtime fans would appreciate his appearance in any reboot. At one point, Lundgren was indeed actively wanted — previous director Jon Chu publicly expressed interest in including him. This interest, however, doesn't appear to have ever brought about any serious negotiation towards casting Ludgren under Chu's direction, and Chu departed the project in 2014.

Lundgren himself has in the past expressed his own interest in being involved. In 2012, he called the reboot "a good idea... [but] I wouldn't want to take my shirt off again for three months," before suggesting that he could play He-Man's father, King Randor, instead. That was, of course, some time ago, but Lundgren still very much around and enjoying a healthy bump in his celebrity status, recently appearing in Aquaman and reprising his famous role as Drago in Creed II. Including him now (even with a new script, writing team, and director) would be an easy and fun shout out to stitch into a refreshed franchise while still giving a wink of respect to older fans.

A tiny look into the artistic aesthetic of Masters of the Universe

When a film such as Masters of the Universe struggles the way it has, the studio keeps most production updates very close to the vest because of the fragility of the pre-production process. Directorial vision determines much of the aesthetic of the film, and if the director's position isn't ironclad, any announcement of art direction can and usually will change. The 1987 film is a portrait of '80s lavish costuming and elaborate physical sets, but it had been considered hammy enough even in its day, and to repeat that now almost certainly would draw only deeper mockery and disdain rather than nostalgic appreciation.

The only tantalizing peeks we've yet seen at the new movie's visual conceptualization come from (yet another) former director Jeff Wadlow of Kick-Ass 2 fame, who was on the project from 2014 to 2017. He commissioned storied prosthetics designer and sculptor Mario Torres to mock up some busts of two secondary characters from Eternia: Beast-man and Ram-man. Torres later shared images of these sculptures on his Instagram account, revealing designs that would be fitting avatars of the more photorealistic and gritty modern superhero film.

In addition to that, Wadlow also made an appearance at a Masters of the Universe fan gathering during San Diego Comic Con in 2014, the year he came onto the project. While his visit was unofficial — he has been a MOTU fan in his own right for most of his life — he talked a while with fans and asked them what lesser-known characters they might enjoy seeing in a rebooted franchise, even into potential sequels.

An enduring plot twist

Script leaks and spoilers are part and parcel of film speculation, and always need to be taken with a fairly-sized grain of salt. In the case of Masters of the Universe, there is one spoiler that seems to have been carried through the ages and has real potential to play out on the screen. An unproduced 2010 version of a script draft was reviewed by the screenwriters' blog Write to Reals in 2018. This screenplay bore a significant plot twist that reveals Skeletor (first appearing by the name Keldor) and He-Man are brothers, and that Keldor transforms into the evil Skeletor after King Randor sacrifices him to die for the benefit of the kingdom early in the film. In the original lore, Skeletor is He-Man's uncle and brother to King Randor.

This plot twist continued to swirl as rumor into 2018 under David Goyer's (presumed) direction and (now former) writing credit. The 2018 script rumors also include a laundry list of characters to be seen in the film: Man-At-Arms, He-Man's closest ally and friend; Teela, Royal Guard captain and adopted daughter of Man-At-Arms; Stratos, the bird-human warrior; the magician Orko, and the enigmatic warrior Zodac, just to name a few. The general summary again promises a story about Keldor being betrayed by his father the king and becoming the iconic villain Skeletor, while Prince Adam, the younger carefree brother, grows into a leader and earns his title of He-Man. All in all, it's not a bad bet — those themes and concepts worked out pretty well for Thor, after all.

A return to form and format: Kevin Smith's animated He-Man

At 2019's annual Masters of the Universe fan convention, Power-Con, actor/director Kevin Smith — of Jay and Silent Bob fame, yes — was announced as a last-minute Guest of Honor just days before the con began. While initially presented as an "interview panel" for Mattel's VP for Content Development Rob David with Smith hosting, it ended up being a surprise reveal for a brand-new animated MOTU limited series for Netflix entitled Masters of the Universe: Revelation, with both Smith and David as executive producers. 

Very little has been revealed about the project, but we do know that the story is set to resolve unfinished business from the original animated series' two seasons, which ran from 1983-1985. Eternia is headed for the ultimate war between He-Man and Skeletor at Castle Grayskull, and the Sword of Power must be recovered before the universe falls to ruin. Currently, there is no announced release date, but the series will be produced by the Powerhouse animation studio, who have also made the celebrated Castlevania animated series for Netflix. 

For the moment, there is no official word and no reason to believe that this modern return to the animated source material has anything to do with Sony's live-action feature film currently in pre-production (or Netflix's She-Ra animated series, for that matter), but the future is already heating up after a very long, cold break for longtime fans of the franchise.

A possible change of venue for Masters of the Universe

In October of 2019, The Hollywood Reporter passed along information from confidential sources claiming that Sony was in discussion with Netflix to potentially distribute the new Masters of the Universe, rather than releasing it themselves in theaters. This is nowhere near a signed and sealed decision, but it's an interesting glimpse into which way the wind is blowing inside Sony's film division. Firstly, this implies that filming did not begin as scheduled in August of 2019, as the deal with Netflix would reportedly include financing for production costs. Also supporting that assertion is the fact that Noah Centineo remains the only official cast member to date. A one-(He-)Man show may be an interesting experiment in an art film sort of way, but Sony probably wants more and equally-notable talent attached to the project, and that takes cash.

It's not a terrible idea when you consider that Netflix currently has She-Ra and the Princesses of Power as an exclusive animated series (one that is extremely successful, by the by), with Kevin Smith revving up to produce another animated series set in Eternia called Masters of the Universe: Revelation. It also leverages risk for Sony; any movie they distribute through Netflix will not make the kind of money a theatrical release does, but since this Masters of the Universe live-action reboot has been stewing for years as an unflattering public mark on the company, there's not exactly a guarantee of even box office mediocrity anyway. Netflix is the safe bet and — if we can be brutally honest — probably the right one.