Reader’s Recommendations: “Masters of the Universe”

masters_of_the_universe_ver2Hey everyone, we’re back with another entry in the Reader Recommendations series!

The Reader Recommendation series is intended to help me formally pursue all the great films that commenters bring up each week in discussion which I’ve never seen. If there’s a movie that comes up that I haven’t seen, but you think I should, email me @ or let me know in the comments that you’d like to participate
BubbawheatThis time up, our movie recommendation comes from Bubbawheat of Flights, Tights and Movie Nights! Bubba has served us all up a delicious serving of cheese today by selecting the 1987 classic “Masters of the Universe”, starring Dolph Lundgren!
Bubba knows I’m a big fan of cheese, so I’m pretty psyched to check this one out!
Click through to see what we had to say!

My questions in bold. Bubba′s answers below.


1) Do you remember when you first saw the movie?

I have a horrible memory when it comes to stuff like that, I imagine I saw it on cable as a teenager. I loved every sci-fi/fantasy movie I could get my hands on and this one was no different. For a long time I was extremely optimistic when it came to movies, there was never a bad movie in my eyes.

2) Why do you think that it’s recommendable? What do you like about it?

I like the cheesyness of it, it’s the right amount of absurdity mixed with the actors playing it completely serious, and Frank Langella as Skeletor is chewing scenery like you wouldn’t believe. And who doesn’t love Billy Barty as the annoying little tinkerer.

3) Is the movie underappreciated, do you think? Or does pop culture have it fairly rated?

I think it’s appreciated by the right people. As a He-Man movie, it’s completely awful, but as a random 80’s B movie, it’s entertaining as hell.

4) Is there any particular reason you thought I should watch it, or were you just surprised I hadn’t seen it?

I got the feeling that you appreciate the “so-bad-it’s-good” appeal that certain movies have, and I thought that if you were to review it, it would get your coveted (?) split grade where you have to give it a low grade on its merits, but a high grade for train wreck value.

5) Have you written about the movie yourself? (Insert plug here! LOL )

Why yes, I have,

Thanks, Bubba! My review is below!


Right from the beginning, I know I’m in for a beaut of a movie. Just seeing Dolph Lundgren with top billing makes me chuckle. That’s followed by a title sequence that shamelessly rips off Superman; John Williams and Richard Donner should sue. Once the movie actually starts it takes me all of two minutes to think “Good Lord, this is cheesy”. I was getting Flash Gordon flashbacks. The sets and props look cheap. But that’s ok, so is the dialogue: “The dark can embrace the light, but never eclipse it. You’ve not won yet Skeletor, He-Man is still alive! I can feel it!”

Of course, have no fear, Dolph is here. Dolph looks bored as shit when he first turns around, but he redeems himself throughout the course of the film with some fantastically leaden line deliveries. And I do mean leaden. I think that his dialogue would sink in water. He says “Let her go” at one point and it takes 45 seconds. He IS rockin’ the frizzy blonde mullet though, gotta give him props. Of course, the best part is watching him fight with a drawn broad sword in one hand and a laser pistol in the other. It’s even better when he trades up to a laser rifle and is still dual wielding! He’s shooting people at range, but, you know, gotta have that sword to deflect lasers.

The McGuffin of the movie is a teleportation tool that makes music like a keytar. It allows He-Man and his crew to teleport right into Skeletor’s lair and attempt a rescue of a captured Princess. After a brief shootout and some techno-babble, He-Man and his handful of loyalists get teleported to Earth. This allows for some fish out of water comedy, and allows the production to save money on sets, as Skeletor and his minions follow, and battle here.

For someone so “powerful”, Skeletor doesn’t actually do shit. He kind of just barks orders. Even after he has “The Power of Greyskull” (which apparently is just yellow “Force Lightning” and a fancy suit of armor. That’s ok, He-Man really doesn’t do shit either. He runs away, gets caught, has to be rescued and basically has one big final swordfight against Skeletor.

God the acting is bad! It’s funny to watch Langella chew scenery through a skull mask in this piece of nonsense, while just a few days ago I watched him in the sublime “Robot & Frank“. Nothing will give you a shock like seeing a “Dancing in the Dark” era Courtney Cox show up 30 years younger than she is now. Well, maybe James Tolkan having a major role as a clownish cop. That’s alright, with Dolph Lundgren setting the pace in the lead role, no one has to worry about looking bad.

“Masters” is laden with cornball mythology. Techno-babble, nonsense about the Power of Greyskull, the fact that they all come battle in a small town on earth… The costumes and creature designs are ridiculous in the most awesome of ways. I saw a snake man, and Sasquatch looking dude, and guy with the face of a reptilian Pekingese. “Masters” has soldier characters in black armor like Stormtroopers and Billy Barty made up like a Leprechaun. Top it off with some poor special effects in the few moments where it actually has special effects, and this movie does wind up cheesefest city!

I suppose it shouldnt be an insult to call a movie based on a cartoon cartoonish, but “Master of the Universe” is, in a big way. At least half a dozen times I laughed out loud and thought, “This is the awesomest movie ever“. You wanted the split grade, Bubba? You got it, baby. If I didn’t have a sense of humor, and was reviewing this straight up? I’d have no choice but to flunk it. But its undeniable how much fun I had watching it. I might have been laughing AT it and not WITH it, but I had a blast nonetheless!

Bad acting, horrible plot, silly characters, bad special effects even!



Near continual source of laughs, an 80s B movie cheesetacular!


Daniel Fogarty

57 thoughts on “Reader’s Recommendations: “Masters of the Universe”

  1. Rofl!!! I loved this movie as a young teen! Now I love it cause it’s so cheesy!!! Glad you got a good laugh out of it. You should review the Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the 8th Dimension. It is something else. If you need me to, I can submit that suggestion in an email. 🙂

    • Yeah, I’ve SEEN Buckaroo, though… 😦 Love that movie. “Remember, wherever you go, there you are…”

      Let me ponder whether I should open the door to rewatch reviews here. Must think, must think…

      • HA! I’m so glad I’m not the only person in the universe who likes that movie. I’m not alone in my strange taste. 🙂

      • In all fairness, I should watch Buckaroo Bonzai then – a movie I’ve never seen before. I’ve heard about it a lot but never got around to it. I imagine I’d love it.

      • Buckeroo Banzaii is one of the all time best movies ever made. We’re talking right up there with Citizen Kane and Ghostbusters.

        “Buckaroo, The White House wants to know is everything ok with the alien space craft from Planet 10 or should we just go ahead and destroy Russia?

        Tell him yes on one and no on two.”

        I mean, seriously: “Laugh-a while you can, monkey-boy.”

      • “BIGBOOT! Where’s my Bomber?”

        LOL, yeah, I’ve had a lot of fun with that flick over the years. It hasnt made the jump to blu ray yet though, so I havent watched it in awhile. It needs to make that leap!

  2. My god man! This is a blast from the past. I loved this a young wipper-snapper but I don’t think I could bring myself to watch it again. I’d feel embarrassed I think 😉

  3. I’ve never seen the film but that was a fun review to read. I laughed a lot even though I don’t the satisfaction of remembering all that stuff. Nice one!

  4. Teenage Courtney Cox should at least bump it up a grade, eh? No? Okay, maybe that’s just me. Looking back, this movie Michael Bay’ed the MOTU franchise long before Transformers was ruined. As a kid, it didn’t bother me as much because i was getting to see He-Man on the big screen. I would venture a guess that allot of people who look down on it like me now, loved it as kids.

    I’m with Eclectik though that if MOTU came back in epic Lord of the Rings style, it would be a huge success and reinvigorate the franchise as a whole.

    • Thats funny. Yeah, I was thinking of Transformers as I watched this (even though the movie I couldnt shake was “Flash Gordon”). I’m sure a lot of MOTU fans were like WTF was that!!! ARGGHG!!! LOL

      The thing is though, Jay, I think LotR had an enormous. pre-existing fanbase that MOTU doesn’t. Not saying there’s no MOTU fans, but Tolkien’s works had a much larger footprint in pop culture. So they didnt have to work as hard to get people to buy into the mythology. Here, the characters and mythos just seemed laughable to me. I’m not certain that it has a possibility of avoiding that even with a well made film! 😦

    • There have been near-continuous rumors about a MOTU movie since around 2000, I think…. John Woo was attached at one point…. I don’t think anything’s in the works right now, but it’ll happen some day, under some director. No question about it.

  5. Hi, Fogs and Bubbawheat:

    Great questions and even better answers!

    ‘Masters of the Universe’ is a cheap set, rubbery masked ebullient buffet of well intentioned, unintended cheeziness. Even the ever stoic, slightly smarmy Jon Cypher (Chief Daniels from ‘Hill Street Blues’) couldn’t help. As he delivered his lines and tried to raise the film from its Titanic depths.

    Right up there with ‘Howard the Duck’ and the Adam West/Burt Ward live and animated ‘Batman’ franchise of the 1960s.

    Though ‘Buckaroo Banzai…’ is a neat little updated ‘Doc Savage’ kind of tale that is in a class by itself.

    “The deuce you say!”

    • “‘Masters of the Universe’ is a cheap set, rubbery masked ebullient buffet of well intentioned, unintended cheeziness.”

      Heh! That’s a hell of a sentence right there Jack. LOL Quit showing me up on my own reviews! 😉 😀

      Howard. The. Duck. Good grief, I havent thought of that one in awhile! LOL Geez. THAT one I’ve seen though 😀 And of course, who doesn’t love Adam West and Burt Ward’s Batman? I proudly have both of their autographs on my autograph wall, and I got to ask them both a question at Big Apple Con a few years back, it was one of the highlights of my conventioning career!

      If Worlds reads this, she’ll be happy to see our little Buckaroo Banzai club growing!

    • Doc Savage is another one I need to see sometime. Saw it recently at the used movie store, but was way overpriced.

      Sometimes it’s when the actors are trying so hard with such a bad script that makes movies like these so much fun. I had a lot of fun re-watching it just last year and I’m glad I could pass it on to someone else who could appreciate the cheesy goodness of it.

  6. I was in high school at the time. In the 80’s, if the movie had a sword in it I was “soooooo there”. I’m pretty much afraid to go back and watch it now.

    • Hi, Fogs:

      That is kind of a flowery sentence, isn’t it? 😀

      Congrats on acquiring West’s and Ward’s autograph at Big Apple Con.
      Frank Gorshin’s Riddler still reins supreme

      Remember: “No, no, no, don’t tug on that. You never know what it might be attached to.”.

      OT: You and everyone else is cordially invited to show me up over at Michael’s ‘It Rains… You Get Wet’. 😉

  7. Saw this in theaters when I was 10. I was a HUGE He-Man fan, and like Bubba, I loved every movie I saw. Until this one. Even at that age I was totally disappointed, and recognized that it wasn’t just a terrible He-Man movie, but a terrible movie, period.

    • Awwww. DB… your first “This Movie Sucks”?

      Yeah, I’m glad I came into this decades after the fact, and with no attachment to the property. If they wanted to be foolish and goofy, I could laugh without pain.

      And I did.

      Sorry to dredge up painful memories for you buddy!

    • Wow, since you mention it, I kind of remember my first “this movie sucks” moment, though I don’t remember what movie it was, I just remember how I watched it.

  8. One of my favourite things about this movie was that on the VHS copy I owned it has the tagline of “This is the Star Wars of the 80s!”

    Um… But…

    Love, love, LOVE this complete shit show. I do remember where I was when I first watched it. After dying to see it in theatres, but misssing out, I got to watch it at Doug Armstrong’s 9th birthday party. His parents made us watch the other movie they rented first, which was the Frankie and Annette throw back, “Back to the Beach”. (Another god awful cheesefest, I might add.) Despite the birthday cake, and being allowed to play with Doug’s brand new Grimlock, I was basically squirming in my seat with anticipation waiting for that ****ing beach movie to end.

    I could tell there was something wrong with it, but loved it anyway. I remember us all laughing and saying how the wound on Courtney’s leg looked exactly like vegetable soup.

    I didn’t get the chance to watch it again until University, and watched it with a huge group ready to trash it, which is probably the absolute best way to watch it.

    • “This is the Star Wars of the 80s!” LOL, personally, I think Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were the Star Wars of the 80s, but that could just be me!

      Geez, though, how did I know you’d be a huge fan of this one? Nice to hear a little more about the origin story there though. 😀

      This would have been great at college, just teeing off on it. 😀 My friends and I used to do that with GOOD movies, I dont know what we would have done with this one… Ha!

      • I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this movie, because I really want there to be a good He-Man live action movie in existence… there’s some great storytelling done in various places, like the old mini-comics, and some of the show’s episodes.

        But this just takes a steaming dump on everything. Obviously, this works as a Cheesy Cult Classic, and I would never change it now, but for a while I would’ve gladly traded it for something that felt like He-Man, and not “Conan meets Star Wars on Earth” that looks like it was made for a buck-fifty.

    • Great story! I remember playing with He-Man figures when I was a kid and I’m pretty sure I watched the cartoon, but I was never a huge fan of it. Probably why I didn’t end up hating the movie too much.

  9. I was a kid when this came out, and I enjoyed it then, even though I could tell it was kind of goofy and was clearly a non-canonical take on He-Man. Sadly, even though my brother’s a huge MOTU devotee, I haven’t seen it as an adult — so I have it on my “need to see” list simply because I want to know exactly what I think of it as a grown-up. I’m sure the split grade is appropriate, though; I kind of figured that was going to be the result the moment the link to this showed up in my inbox. 😀

    A couple fun trivia bits:

    There was going to be a sequel at one point, but the lackluster reception disrupted it a bit, and Dolph Lundgren decided not to come back, which killed it. The script was retooled into Cyborg, a 1989 film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

    When Frank Langella was being interviewed about Frost/Nixon, he was asked what his favorite film role was that he had played, and he said he had the most fun playing Skeletor.

    • Oh, you’ll love it CO. Basically almost a candidate for the “Morbid Curiousity Files” 😀 You should feature it there!

      I dont think it was a great sign for He-Man 2 if they could retool the script to be “Cyborg”. Makes you wonder how it would have worked as He-Man.

      Thats funny about Langella. LOL. I wonder if thats true or if he was goofing around. LOL 😀

      • I think when I watch it I’ll try to view it with an open mind. After all, it is a franchise I loved as a kid. And I can even watch the cartoons as an adult without “loving them ironically” or any of that bullshit. 😀

        But yeah, realistically, I’m not expecting a 5-star rating, you know?

      • Morgan: I think this movie is much harder to like when you’re coming into it with a big love for He-Man, because aside from a couple names and character designs, this has nothing to do with He-Man.

        And Fogs: I saw that interview as well, or possibly a similar one and it seemed like he was being truthful about it. I believe he also mentioned that he wanted to do a role that his kid would enjoy at the time (though I could be mixing that up with another interview about someone else’s bad movie role)

    • Yeah, I had a lot of fun with it in a cheesy so bad its good sort of way. I wouldnt know how much it works as a “He-Man Movie”, myself, aside from the fact I’m told that it doesnt LOL. I never watched the cartoon, myself. 😦

      Thanks for chiming in Maurice!

  10. Well I am from India and I haven’t watch this movies what the people discussing here, it seems that I should watch this Movie as soon as possible. Thanks for your effort to take this short review as well as user review.

  11. Wow. It has been years since I thought about this movie—thanks for the memories.
    I am SO glad that I grew up in the 80’s and not today. Going to the movies as a kid was so much fun. I was totally enchanted by films like Time Bandits and The Neverending Story. Back then, the kids’ fantasies had a strange, nightmarish quality that is missing today. Compare Return to OZ to Oz: The Great and Powerful.
    In the 80’s you had Spielberg, Lucas and Henson working at the top of thier games, and everyone else was trying to imitate them. And even back then, I could tell the genuine articles from the knock-offs. I was fully aware that He-Man was terrible… just terrible. And yet, when I look back, it has its awesome qualities. I’m sure that when someone does a He-Man reboot, the version from the 80’s will still be preferable. It might be awful, but in recent years, awfulness has taken on a whole new dimension.

    • LOL, I guess the thanks for the memories should go to Bubba, he recommended it! It was fun, I definitely enjoyed it.

      You know, I’ve thought that at times too, about it being better (at least from a media standpoint) to have grown up in the 80s. But I’m not sure. That’s really hard to say without having a kid’s eye on the entertainment they’re getting. Youre right about the live action stuff, but theatrically at least, they’re getting way better animation than we did. Not that I dont hear what you’re saying, but kids nowadays will find their own movies to latch on to, I’m sure.

      In other news, PDB, a He-Man reboot IS in the works. Another live motion picture. At least according to what I read here!

  12. I wish that Pixar had existed when I was a kid. Thier films are so sophisticated, technologically and also in terms of content. And I wish I could have visited Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth when I was eight or nine, and reading The Hobbit for the first time. Also, I am an outspoken Prequel-defender who believes that Episodes 1, 2, and 3 of Star wars are more meaningful for kids than the Original Trilogy. I wish that TPM had come out three years after ROTJ.
    In general, fantasy films from the 80’s have a unique quality that I miss, a strange, almost unsettling, feeling. The special effects are much better today—I’m not suggesting that rubber masks are superior to CGI—but there was a tangibility to the older films; there was room for imperfection and chance in thier fantasy universes.
    I know that modern kids really enjoy today’s slick, frenetic, candy-coated films, and who can blame them? I simply feel that these movies don’t challenge kids as much, because they are fundamentally safe.

    • LOL. I’m with you on everything but the Star Wars prequels, PDB. 😯 There was no need to make those movies as infantile as they were at times (and then dark and violent at others). The original trilogy appealed to kids without being aimed so squarely at that age group. Everyone loved tham. The prequels only appealed to kids. 😦

  13. Also, Fog, I am not surprised at all about the He-Man reboot. The ONLY way it could possibly work is if they play it totally straight.
    They tend to get these old properties wrong. If I had been making a Smurf movie, I would have played up the medieval/fantasy aspect of the old cartoon; I would have made the Smurfs more like Hobbits.

    • Ughck. Well, there’s always hope they gets it right in Smurfs 2!! LOL!! 😀 HA!!

      And it’s plural PDB, for future reference. 😉 Fogs with an s at the end. Short for Fogarty. Long O as in Ghost.

      Just letting you know, I know a lot of people think Fog as in mist, but that’s not the case!! 😀

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