Netflix’s new He-Man and The Masters of The Universe series marks the third Netflix show inspired by the He-Man and it’s associated properties. Though each series is unrelated, there has been a boom for the brand since the premier of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power in 2018. The recent Masters of The Universe: Revelations looks to serve as a spiritual epilogue to the original series. He-Man and The Masters of The Universe acts as a reimagining of the characters and lore. This is similar to other cartoons such as Thundercats 2011 and Rise of the TMNT.
The CG animated series consists of 10 episodes and boasts an all-star voice cast. You’ll find the likes of Yuri Lowenthal, Kimberly Brooks and David Kaye, just to name a few. It’s a bit of a slow start, with the first four episodes blending together almost like a TV movie. Many of the characters, who in earlier incarnations lived in the royal city of Eternos, now have more humble beginnings. Such as Teela (Kimberly Brooks) being a thief and magician. Duncan (Antony Del Rio) starting out as the apprentice to the villain Kronis (Roger Craige Smith). Adam (Yuri Lowenthal) doesn’t know he is a prince. He grew up with the talking tiger Cringer (David Kaye) as his parental figure.
It’s evident how much planning and consideration went into crafting the story for each episode. How the heroes’ and villains’ powers will work. But it still feels like the show takes a while to really get going. It seems to take just a bit too long for Adam to get his powers and use them regularly. And even longer than that for the others to receive their powers as well. The show spends a lot of unnecessary time on explaining the origins of characters and their various powers. While the story and dialogue end up being coherent enough, with a show like He-Man I feel that some will expect more immediate action.
I do believe that the gamble of taking their time with introducing their takes on the more familiar elements associated with He-Man does work in this adaptation’s favor. What the first few episodes lack in overall action, they make up for in establishing the dynamics between the five main characters. This allows the remaining 6 episodes to utilize every character to their fullest. It gives them each a moment to shine, in one way or another. The series goes in some interesting directions with its characters. It even manages to pull off a decent finale that raises the stakes for seasons to come.
I do think the series could improve on making the environment outside of Eternos feel a bit more lived in. Despite the numerous distinct environments within the show, there are very few characters to fill them out. Other than a few recurring characters, the world of Eternia feels very vacant this time around. With only ten episodes, it’s reasonable to expect they can only do so much with the characters. My earlier suggestion of spending less time on explanation and exposition might have helped with that. With less character exposition there may have been more time for world-building. I do like what they’ve done with this world. But I think about the fact that they have a village of talking tigers living with humans and somehow this isn’t something we see that much of past episode one.
I also think the show’s animation takes a little getting used to. However, it works with the designs of the series. Especially the more exaggerated anatomical transformations like He-Man. My two favourite designs were Krass and Teela’s transformed states largely because their powers were the most entertaining.
In addition to the designs and story, one of my personal highlights of the series was Ben Diskin’s performance as Skeletor. He brings the exact over-the-top performance needed for a magical green skeleton man obsessed with wreaking “HAVOC!” It helps that Skeletor is both comical and competent as a villain. For every laugh he gets out of you, there is eventually a moment reminding you why he’s an actual threat, not only to our heroes but often his own allies.
Overall, He-Man and The Masters of the Universe ended up being a fun, if bumpy watch. The heroes are charming and believable as a found family and the finale left me interested in seeing where season 2 might go now that they have everything established. I definitely think it hits the mark in terms of the younger demographic it wants to reach. It also manages to be an appealing new take on a franchise that’s been reimagined quite a few times over the years. He-Man and The Masters of The Universe makes for a smooth binge watch to check out with your kids. Or even for yourself if you’re already a fan.
For more from Bobby, check out her review of Lupin Season 2!