Long before Masters of the Universe: Revelation debuted last week, tons of longtime He-Man fans needed no extra prodding to get excited about the much-buzzed Netflix revival of one of the 1980s’ most nostalgia-laced ‘toon superheroes.
Led by Kevin Smith — one of the most famous self-confessed superhero fans there is — the series was billed as an adult-oriented continuation of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, complete with the built-in assurance that it’d likely be a big crowd-pleaser for anyone who couldn’t get enough, back in the day, of the Filmation original.
**Spoiler Warning — Big spoilers lie ahead for the first five episodes of Masters of the Universe: Revelation. If you haven’t seen the series yet, here’s your chance to make like Cringer and run away!**
Fast-forward to this week, and it’s an entirely different story — at least for a vocal contingent of fans who’ve shared their nonplussed reactions across social media, while tanking Revelation’s fan consensus review score at Rotten Tomatoes. Now that the series’ first half is in viewers’ hands, s significant portion of the fan reaction has been more brutal than a Skeletor sucker punch.
A major story twist unfolds during the series’ very first episode; one that takes its namesake He-Man (aka Prince Adam) out of commission and away from seeing much Season 1 screen time, other than through flashbacks. While He-Man does re-emerge in the main story of the fifth episode, many fans have interpreted its ending, in which Skeletor stabs Prince Adam and seemingly kills him off, as a total retcon betrayal from Smith — a creator who’d pledged to handle the franchise like a die-hard fan himself.
Now Smith is filling in the missing story piece that all those outraged viewers evidently missed: He-Man’s not dead, and there’s no way in Eternia that Smith would helm a beloved series with the intention of finishing out its debut season after killing off the main character. Speaking with Variety in the wake of the show's July 23 debut, Smith said with characteristic bluntness that fans angered by the apparent kill-off have the whole thing way, way wrong, and that the upcoming second half of Season 1 will demonstrate that all those negative vibes will feel seriously misplaced.
“I see people online go, ‘Hey man, they’re getting rid of He-Man!'” said Smith. “Like, you really f***ing think Mattel Television, who hired me and paid me money, wants to do a f***ing Masters of the Universe show without He-Man? Grow the f*** up, man. Like, that blew my mind, bunch of people being like, ‘Oh, I smell it. This is a bait and switch.’”
Actor Chris Wood, who voices both Prince Adam and He-Man on the show, also teased to Variety that the upcoming new episodes will address the giant cliffhanger ending that left Prince Adam’s fate in doubt. “I would say keep keep watching, with the biggest wink that an audio-only interview can give,” he hinted. “In a world that’s filled with magic and supernatural powers, anything is possible.”
Taking the reins of a franchise with as much built-in fan passion as Masters of the Universe is always a delicate task, Smith said; one he knew from the start he’d approach with a fan’s reverence for the 1980s source material. Taken as a whole, the complete first season — half of which viewers haven’t seen — aims to do just that, he added.
“…I know what a fan base reacts like when they don’t get the thing they grew up watching,” said Smith. “You think I’m gonna be the fall guy for that? If I’m involved in a thing, it’s going to be true to what it is. It’s gonna be true to the franchise.”
Despite all the uproar, critics have warmly received Smith’s revival, which comes with a star-studded voice cast that includes Wood in the title role, alongside Mark Hamill (Skeletor), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Teela), Liam Cunningham (Man-at-Arms), Lena Headey (Evil-Lyn), Stephen Root (Cringer aka Battle Cat), Alicia Silverstone (Queen Marlena), Jason Mewes (Stinkor), and more. And all the fan furor, however misplaced, will likely serve to bring a huge does of fresh anticipation right to the doorstep of Castle Grayskull when Season 1 returns to check in on our not-quite-fallen hero.
We don’t yet know when the season’s second half will be ready to binge. But if you haven’t caught up on all the fuss, you can float like Orko over to Netflix and check out Masters of the Universe: Revelation, where the first five episodes of Season 1 are streaming now.