Masters of the Universe

Year: 1987
Production Co: Golan-Globus Productions
Director: Gary Goddard
Writer: David Odell
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Courtney Cox, Frank Langella, Billy Barty, Jon Cypher, Chelsea Field, James Tolkan

I was such a big Masters of the Universe fan as a kid that for the life of me I have no idea why I didn't get around to seeing this movie in cinemas when it came out.

Maybe by 1987 I was a little bit older and not too bothered if I missed it, but one thing's for sure – if I'd watched it back then when the special effects technology of the day was only really up to the standard depicted here, I would have enjoyed it a lot more.

Because my God, this movie was bad.

Not just late 80s special effects and acting adventure film bad either – grindhouse bad. Nothing prepared me for how cheap and shoddy everything was, from the script to the action.

If it wasn't the irritating goblin thing/umpteenth R2-D2 cute sidekick archetype you just want to get a bullet through the brain of, or the hackneyed kids in love subplot (featuring a post-pubescent Courtney Cox as heroine Julie), it was the cheap superimposed footage (with the colour and shade between the two plates completely off) Dolph Lundgren's shaky accent as He-Man and much, much more. As a native Swedish speaker he was only learning English at the time, a problem that didn't come up in his breakout role in Rocky V because of the mostly non-speaking character of Ivan Drago.

The story concerns Skeletor (how an actor of Frank Langella's stature signed on to this is an enduring mystery of modern cinema) getting his hands on some trinket that will give him ultimate power over all Eternia, imprisoning the priestess who should preside over the land and making himself ruler of the whole planet.

Using a time/space transporter device built by the irritating goblin thing, some other trinket's been accidentally sent to Earth which can restore the priestess to her throne and unseat Skeletor. So He-Man, Duncan the Man at Arms, Teela and the goblin thing come to Earth to retrieve it after it's fallen into the hands of musician Kevin, Julie's boyfriend.

But Skeletor and his troops trace them there, and the battle is soon on in the suspiciously empty streets of downtown Pasadena where there are no residents or civilians around to notice the stonking fucking great spaceship floating down the middle of the main road or He-Man and Skeletor's troops firing lasers at each other from their flying jet-skis.

Every story beat, word of dialogue and action sequence (I now recognise, even if I might not have at the time) is woeful, put together with spit and nail polish, ruthlessly rushed and every moment of it falling in a heap.

Watch for James Tolkan as the tough detective, who'd also come off a big hit as the gruff navy commander who showed up early in Top Gun the year prior.

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