Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Masters of the Universe

Conceived in the epic tradition of Santa Claus: The Movie, Cannon Films' Masters of the Universe is a kid's eye view of an eternal conflict. Rather than revolve around the final battle between the forces of good and evil, the established players of the toy line are jettisoned to concentrate on the human story of Courtney Cox's mopey orphan Julie. Stranded on Earth after a coup, He-Man is an unknowable bit player in his own story. I suppose the filmmakers think they're patterning their narrative after Luke Skywalker's arc in Star Wars - the naive teenager as a means to discover, and engage with a larger story. Unfortunately, no real reason is found why this Earth kid should be involved at all. The sick synthesiser skills of Julie's boyfriend Kevin do enable the marooned Eternians to make their way home, but once back in Castle Grayskull the teenagers cower in a corner whilst He-Man battles a cosmically powered Skeletor.

Although limiting the vast majority of the action to a Californian suburb is obviously a budgetary call, it does give Masters a bit of Kirby crackle. Seeing mutoid scumbags appear out of nowhere to terrorise the hapless inhabitants of Earth lends the film a Fourth World feel. This effect is heightened by the teenager's utter distress at being caught in the crossfire. Although introduced to Mattel's monsters separately, both Julie and Kevin are rendered near catatonic by the sheer impossibility of what they are experiencing. When Skeletor's mercenaries explode into his girlfriend's home, Kevin has a complete break with reality, tossing paper plates and hysterically pleading with his attackers to "get out of here". Although the alien and the everyday never knit together to become a greater whole in Masters of the Universe, the clash between them is so awkward and traumatic for the Earth characters that I didn't actually mind that a Moebius designed Beast Man had been reduced to beating up a high school janitor.

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