Thursday, November 29, 2007

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe; Animated fantasy series, USA, 1983; D: Ed Friedman, Lou Kachivas, Bill Reed, Marsh Lamore, S: John Erwin, Alan Oppenheimer, Linda Gary, George DiCenzo, Erika Scheimer

Prince Adam has the ability to transform into He-Man, the strongest man in the Universe, and battle the evil forces of Skeletor together with his friends Orko, Man-At-Arms and Teela.

The animated 80s hit show "He-Man" about the strongest man in the universe, the title hero, protecting his country against the evil forces of Skeletor was one of my very personal and favorite series when I was a child. But today, as a movie buff familiar with Fellini, Pasolini, Kubrick, Capra, Wilder and others, I just have to face the music: "He-Man" wasn't such a good product. One of its main flaws is the one dimensional worldview of the authors: for them, every man in that world was strong and had muscles like a wrestler, while every woman was thin, attractive and always wearing make up. Not only that, but He-Man/Adam is a pretty stiff character. That's why the cynical Skeletor is often much more realistic and amusing (many of his lines, like "Bring them to the dungeon and make sure they are made...uncomfortable!" when he says to his henchmen when they capture a few men, are priceless). Plus the story doesn't have a straight beginning nor an end. Season 1 is simply very weak. Even the best episodes, the ones on the "10 Episode Collector's Edition" DVD, like "Teela's quest" and "Prince Adam no more", seem like campy travesties.

Luckily, the second season is a lot better, featuring some great stuff, like "Into the Abyss" where Teela gets stuck in Greyskull's pit: when Adam transforms into He-Man, thousand light beams fall down into the abyss, and then back up again, creating a magic scene. So there is something about "He-Man". The animation, although over-recycled, is fantastic and realistic, reminiscent of Japan's animation. The idealism, emotions, honesty and the sheer innocence of its good characters is somehow beautiful, almost as if the makers still believe in human kind. It makes you want to be a better person. And, in some traces, there are brilliant situations present. Just take 2 great episodes, both written by J. Michael Straczynski, "Double trouble" and "Mistaken identity". In "Trouble" Skeletor accidentally discovers a mirror which creates opposite clones of one person. Evidently, it creates his clone, a good Skeletor, who tries to help He-Man. In "Identity" Tharan, a teenage boy, goes on a date with his girlfriend Kareel, but she always keeps going on and on about how great and perfect He-Man is. The jealous Tharan then lures He-Man into a cave with a help of false dragon sounds, and exits afterwords, making Kareel think that he is actually He-Man. Of course, she gets all excited, but then he is kidnapped by Modulok. Kareel calls for Adam's help, boldly stating how "Tharan, her boyfriend, is He-Man and in trouble". One can only wish there were more such sweet episodes, and less those formulaic about how the hero always just simply defeats Skeletor, the end. But compared to some today's "kids" shows, you really can't complain that much about "He-Man".


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