Masters of the Universe (film)
|Masters of the Universe|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gary Goddard|
|Produced by||Yoram Globus
|Written by||David Odell|
|Music by||Bill Conti|
|Edited by||Anne V. Coates|
|Distributed by||Cannon Films|
|Running time||106 minutes|
|Box office||$17.3 million|
Masters of the Universe is a 1987 American science fantasy film, based on the toy line of the same name. The film stars Dolph Lundgren as He-Man and Frank Langella as Skeletor, alongside Jon Cypher as Man-At-Arms, Chelsea Field as Teela, Billy Barty as Gwildor, and Courteney Cox as Julie.
The film was released in the United States on August 7, 1987.
On the Planet Eternia, at the center of the Universe, Skeletor's (Frank Langella) army seizes Castle Grayskull, scatters the remaining Eternian defenders, and captures the Sorceress of Grayskull (Christina Pickles); he plans to add her power to his own by the next moonrise.
Skeletor's archenemy, the warrior He-Man, (Dolph Lundgren), veteran soldier Man-At-Arms (Jon Cypher), and his daughter Teela (Chelsea Field) rescue Gwildor (Billy Barty) from Skeletor's forces. Gwildor, a Thenorian locksmith, reveals that Skeletor has stolen his invention: a "Cosmic Key" that can open a portal to any point in time and space. The device allowed Skeletor to breach Castle Grayskull; the group uses Gwildor's remaining prototype to travel to the Castle.
They attempt to free the Sorceress but are overwhelmed by Skeltor's army and forced to flee through Gwildor's hastily opened portal, transporting them to Whittier, California on Earth. The Key is misplaced on their arrival and discovered by two teenagers, Julie Winston (Courteney Cox) and Kevin Corrigan (Robert Duncan McNeill), who attempt to use it. The resulting signal allows Skeletor's second-in-command, Evil-Lyn (Meg Foster), to track the key; she sends her henchmen, Saurod, Blade, Beastman and Karg to recover it.
Kevin, an aspiring musician, mistakes the Key for a synthesizer and takes it to a music store. Karg's team arrives and chases Julie until He-Man rescues her. Karg's team returns to Grayskull where, incensed by their failure, Skeletor kills Saurod and sends the others back to Earth, with a larger force under Evil-Lyn's command. Unable to find Julie, Kevin is taken to Julie's house by Lubic (James Tolkan), a detective investigating the disturbance created by Karg's team. Suspecting the Key is stolen, Lubic confiscates it from Kevin and leaves. Immediately afterward, Evil-Lyn captures and interrogates Kevin for the Key's location with a mind control collar, before pursuing Lubic.
Julie and the Eternians rescue Kevin and also go after Lubic. Evil-Lyn recovers the key and summons Skeletor to Earth. Skeletor's forces overwhelm the Eternians and Julie is mortally wounded by Skeletor's lightning blast, simultaneously destroying Gwildor's Key. He-Man surrenders to save his friends, and is returned to Eternia as Skeletor's slave. While He-Man is tortured in Skeletor's throne room, Skeletor demands that He-Man kneel before him for all of Eternia to witness, before he is killed. He-Man watches helplessly as the moon rises and Skeletor absorbs the powers of the universe. Declaring himself the Master of the Universe, Skeletor asserts his victory and continues to torture He-Man in an attempt to force his submission.
Back on Earth, Gwildor builds a makeshift Cosmic Key and Kevin recreates the tones necessary to create a gateway to Eternia. The group, including Lubic who attempts to arrest them, are transported to Castle Grayskull, where they begin battling Skeletor's forces. Skeletor accidentally frees He-Man who then reclaims the Sword of Grayskull. The pair battle until He-Man shatters Skeletor's staff, removing his new powers and restoring him to his normal state. He-Man offers mercy but Skeletor draws a concealed sword and attempts to kill He-Man; He-Man manages to knock Skeletor from the throne room into a towering pit below. The freed Sorceress heals Julie, and a portal is opened to send the Earthlings home. Treated as a hero for his exploits, Lubic decides to stay on Eternia.
Julie awakens on the morning of her parents' death in a plane crash. She prevents them from taking the ill-fated flight and runs outside of her home to find Kevin, who confirms that their experiences were real, producing a souvenir from Eternia: a small blue sphere containing a hologram of He-Man in front of Castle Grayskull.
After the credits, Skeletor rises from a red liquid beneath the castle and proclaims, "I'll be back!"
- Dolph Lundgren - He-Man
- Frank Langella - Skeletor
- Meg Foster - Evil-Lyn
- Chelsea Field - Teela
- Jon Cypher - Man-At-Arms
- Billy Barty - Gwildor
- Courteney Cox - Julie Winston
- Robert Duncan McNeill - Kevin Corrigan
- James Tolkan - Detective Lubic
- Christina Pickles - Sorceress
- Anthony De Longis - Blade
- Tony Carroll - Beast Man
- Pons Maar - Saurod
- Robert Towers - Karg
- Peter Brooks - Narrator
One of the original drafts from the script by David Odell (whose previous writing credits include Supergirl and The Dark Crystal) was reviewed in episode 3 of the He-Man and She-Ra podcast, Masters Cast. The original draft included more time spent on Eternia, Snake Mountain, Beastman had a speaking role, and even revealed that He-Man's mother was originally from Earth, as per the Queen Marlena character from the Filmation animated series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, thus linking the two planets. Describing her character, Foster said that Evil-Lyn is not villainous, "she is just doing her job and she knows how to get results, even if it means being harsh." Langella agreed, calling Evil-Lyn a female more dedicated to Skeletor's cause than any man; she is obsessive around Skeletor because she is slightly lovelorn. The filmmakers considered having Foster wear eye-lenses to mask her naturally pale-blue eyes, but decided that her natural eyes fit the character better. They did however augment Foster's chest, fitting a cleavage into the character's costume. Foster wanted the character to have a large hairstyle, rather than the short style featured in the film.
Langella said that he "didn’t even blink [when I was offered the role],... I couldn’t wait to play him." Langella cited his then-four-year-old son's love of Skeletor while running around his house yelling He-Man's battle cry "I have the power!", as the reason he chose to play He-Man's archenemy.
The musical score of Masters Of The Universe was composed by Bill Conti and conducted by Harry Rabinowitz and Performed by The Graunke Orchestra Of Munich.
Track Listing for the First Release on LP
- Main Title/Eternia Besieged (07:25)
- Gwildor's Quadrille (01:54)
- Earthly Encounter (04:26)
- Procession Of The Mercenaries (02:46)
- Evilyn's Deception (02:38)
- Skeletor The Destroyer (03:10)
- He-Man Enslaved (04:42)
- Transformation Of Skeletor (02:30)
- The Power Of Greyskull (03:32)
- Good Journey (04:39)
- He-Man Victorious/End Title (05:10)
Track Listing for the First Release on CD
- Main Title / Eternia Besieged (07:25)
- Gwildor's Quadrille (01:51)
- Quiet Escape (02:39)
- Earthly Encounter (04:23)
- Battle At The Gym (06:29)
- Procession Of The Mercenaries (02:50)
- Evilyn's Deception (02:43)
- Centurion Attack (05:52)
- Skeletor The Destroyer (03:11)
- He-Man Enslaved (04:42)
- Transformation Of Skeletor (02:30)
- Kevin's Plight / After Them (09:13)
- Julie's Muzak (01:47)
- The Power Of Greyskull (03:33)
- Good Journey (04:40)
- He-Man Victorious / End Titles (05:13)
Prior to its release, Cannon Films touted Masters of the Universe as the Star Wars of the 1980s. Despite releasing alongside the height of the success of the toy line, animated series, and related merchanidse, Masters of the Universe debuted as the third highest grossing film of the weekend in North America on August 7, 1987, earning $4.8 million, behind Stakeout ($5.1 million) and The Living Daylights ($7.7 million). The film quickly left the charts altogether with a North American gross of $17.3 million.
Masters of the Universe received negative reviews from critics and holds a 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 23 reviews. Billy Barty earned a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actor for his performance in the film, where he lost to David Mendenhall for Over the Top.
Comparison with Jack Kirby's Fourth World
|“||"The best New Gods movie, IMHO, is 'Masters of the Universe'. I even corresponded with the director, who told me this was his intent, and that he had tried to get [Jack] Kirby to do the production designs, but the studio nixed it." "Check it out. It requires some bending and an occasional sex change (Metron becomes an ugly dwarf, The Highfather becomes the Sorceress), but it's an amazingly close analog, otherwise. And Frank Langella's Skeletor is a dandy Darkseid!"||”|
Director Gary Goddard clarified this in a letter appearing in John Byrne's Next Men #26, in which he stated:
|“||"As the director of Masters of the Universe, it was a pleasure to see that someone got it. Your comparison of the film to Kirby’s New Gods was not far off. In fact, the storyline was greatly inspired by the classic Fantastic Four/Doctor Doom epics, The New Gods and a bit of Thor thrown in here and there. I intended the film to be a "motion picture comic book," though it was a tough proposition to sell to the studio at the time. 'Comics are just for kids,' they thought. They would not allow me to hire Jack Kirby who I desperately wanted to be the conceptual artist for the picture…
I grew up with Kirby's comics (I’ve still got all my Marvels from the first issue of Fantastic Four and Spider-Man through the time Kirby left) and I had great pleasure meeting him when he first moved to California. Since that time I enjoyed the friendship of Jack and Roz and was lucky enough to spend many hours with Jack, hearing how he created this character and that one, why a villain has to be even more powerful than a hero, and on and on. Jack was a great communicator, and listening to him was always an education. You might be interested to know that I tried to dedicate Masters of Universe to Jack Kirby in the closing credits, but the studio took the credit out."
Brian Cronin, author of the "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed" column, concludes that "the film itself was not intended to be literally a reworked Fourth World, although the intent WAS to make the film a tribute to Jack Kirby - just a tribute to ALL of his work, not just the Fourth World."
The failure of Masters of the Universe, among others such as Superman IV and Lifeforce, helped contribute to the eventual closure of Cannon Films. Cannon Films had intended to create a Masters of the Universe sequel, indicated by the end credits when it is revealed that Skeletor in fact survives his fall. The low-budget ($4.5 million) project that was to be directed (back to back with their aborted "Spider-Man" movie) by Albert Pyun was abandoned when Cannon wouldn't pay for Mattel's fees and the production used the already-made costumes and sets for the low budget sci-fi movie Cyborg. Masters of the Universe was Lundgren's first leading role in a feature film following his success in Rocky IV, and he went on to label his work as his least favorite film role. Conversely, Langella considers playing Skeletor to be one of his favorite roles.
|This section is outdated. (September 2011)|
A new He-Man movie directed by John Woo was reportedly being developed in 2007, but despite many rumors circulating around the Internet regarding the film's production status and casting, the project was never officially green-lit. The film rights to He-Man have reportedly since reverted to Mattel.
In September 2009, Sony took over the rights from Warner Bros to produce the Masters of the Universe live action film after Mattel and producer Joel Silver, who was previously involved with a potential film, couldn't agree on creative direction for the film. Sony and Escape Artists' Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch will now start developing the project from scratch for Columbia Pictures. In April 2010, Sony hired screenwriters Mike Finch and Alex Litvak to draft a new script. Warner announced that John Stevenson, director of Kung Fu Panda will direct the upcoming feature. On 12 May 2009, it was announced that the scripting duties had been handed to newcomer Evan Daugherty, with John Stevenson still attached to direct. In September 2009, Sony took over the rights from Warner Bros to produce the Masters of the Universe live action film after Mattel and Silver couldn't agree on creative direction for the film. Sony and Escape Artists' Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch will now start developing the project from scratch for Columbia Pictures. In April 2010, Sony hired screenwriters Mike Finch and Alex Litvak to draft a new script. Deadline reports that Jon M. Chu is in talks to direct the film. Original He-Man actor Dolph Lundgren did an interview with IGN about a possible role in the film as King Randor. October 12, 2012, Richard Wenk is hired to rewrite the script for the film. On March 28, 2013, Chu spoken that the film is still early is in the experimentation and also it won't be campy but an origin story. On October 7, 2013, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Terry Rossio will write the film & Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch are producing the film and it will set on Eternia, the site also report that Chu will not direct the film. On January 10, 2014, Schmoes Know reports that Joe Cornish, Rian Johnson, Andy Muschietti, Kirk DeMicco & Chris Sanders and Phil Lord and Chris Miller were name as frontrunners to direct the film. On February 26, 2014, it was report that directors Mike Cahill, Jeff Wadlow, Harald Zwart and Chris McKay are on the short list to direct the film. On April 9, 2014, Schmoes Know reported that Wadlow will direct the film, but The Hollywood Reporter announced that he's rewriting the script of the film.
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- Clint Morris, Fox2000 no longer has the Power of Grayskull, Moviehole, November 30, 2006.
- By (2009-09-23). "Barbie's a living doll at Universal - Entertainment News, Film News, Media". Variety. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- drees, Rich. "MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE Gets Screenwriters". filmbuffonline.com. Retrieved 2010-04-12.
- Kit, Borys. "'Grayskull' lands new writer". Hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 2009-05-14.[dead link]
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- Fleming, Mike. "Jon M. Chu In ‘Masters Of The Universe’ Talks". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2012-07-30.
- Fleming, Mike. "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe – Lundgren on He-Man Reboot". IGN. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
- Sneider, Jeff (2012-10-12). "Wenk to pen 'Masters of the Universe'". Variety. Retrieved 2012-10-12.
- G.I. Joe: Retaliation Director Talks He-Man Movie
- TR Interview: Jon M. Chu Talks G.I. Joe: Retaliation...And Masters Of The Universe!
- 'Lone Ranger' Co-Writer Tapped to Write 'Masters of the Universe' (Exclusive)
- The Phantom (2014-01-10). "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Close to Happening; Looking at New Directors!". Schmoes Know. Retrieved 2014-01-10.
- "He-Man Film ‘Masters of the Universe’ Director Short-List Includes ‘Lego Movie’ Editor (Exclusive)". The Wrap. 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2014-02-26.
- "A PHANTOM EXCLUSIVE: Jeff Wadlow Will Direct MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE!". Schmoes Know. April 9, 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
- "Jeff Wadlow to Rewrite 'Masters of the Universe'". The Hollywood Reporter. April 10, 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-10.
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