Masters of the Universe is a 1987 science fiction film based on the toy line of the same name. The movie stars Dolph Lundgren as He-Man and Frank Langella as Skeletor. Other actors include Jon Cypher as Man-At-Arms, Chelsea Field as Teela and Billy Barty as Gwildor, the short Thenorian inventor/locksmith.
The film was released in the United States on August 7, 1987 after the popularity of the toy line and cartoon had peaked.
On the Planet Eternia, at the center of the universe, the forces of Skeletor have managed to seize control over Castle Grayskull, and capture the Sorceress of Grayskull. Skeletor is planning to exploit Grayskull's hidden powers when the "Great Eye of the Galaxy", a portal in the castle's throne room, opens and Eternia's moon is correctly aligned with it.
Eternian forces are scattered and outnumbered. One of Skeletor's patrols is attacked by Eternia's greatest warrior and Skeletor's archenemy, He-Man, veteran soldier Man-At-Arms and his daughter Teela. During the battle, He-Man rescues a Thenorian inventor and locksmith named Gwildor, who reveals to his rescuers his newest invention: a "Cosmic Key", which can open a portal to any location in time and space. Skeletor stole the key from him and used it to get into Castle Grayskull, but Gwildor kept the prototype. Gwildor leads the others into a secret passageway straight to the Castle.
At Grayskull, the group is surrounded by Skeletor and his troops. Gwildor uses his key to open a random gateway through which the group escapes to Earth, but on arriving there, the key is lost and the Eternians split up to find it. Nearby, a pair of teenagers named Julie (Courteney Cox) and Kevin (Robert Duncan McNeill) discover the key in a crater and start pressing its buttons. At Grayskull, Skeletor's second-in-command, Evil-Lyn, tracks the key to Earth and prepares a small team of mercenaries to recover it. They consist of Saurod, Blade, Beast Man and their leader, Karg.
Kevin and Julie are spending the evening at their high school, because Julie is moving away that night following the deaths of her mother and father in a plane crash, and wants to say goodbye to Kevin and the rest of her friends. However, Kevin is curious about the key, and thinking it to be a Japanese synthesizer, takes it away to a music store to get a second opinion, leaving Julie alone. A portal then opens, with the mercenaries storming into the gym where Julie is, before she narrowly escapes. He-Man is searching nearby and hears Julie in distress. He-Man attacks the accompanying troops and saves Julie, and Man-At-Arms and Teela chase the mercenaries away. On their return to Grayskull, Skeletor is infuriated by the mercenaries' failure and kills Saurod. He then sends them back to Earth with a larger force under the command of Evil-Lyn.
Kevin returns to the school, which has nearly been burnt down from the melee. The detective on scene, Lubic, takes Kevin to Julie's house to look for her. Over the phone, Julie reveals to Kevin the importance of the Cosmic Key, but Lubic confiscates it from Kevin, suspecting it to be stolen. Immediately afterwards, Evil-Lyn capture and interrogate Kevin, then leave to acquire the Key from Lubic. Julie, along with He-Man and his comrades, meet up with Kevin and then proceed to the aforementioned music store, where Lubic has taken the key for expert advice. Lubic suspects the Eternians to be responsible for the attack at the school and attempts to arrest them, but is interrupted by the arrival of Evil-Lyn and her troops. A battle ensues, during which Evil-Lyn, masquerading as Julie's dead mother, persuades her to steal the key. Julie acquires the key, which Evil-Lyn uses to open another doorway through which Skeletor arrives on Earth.
He-Man manages to retrieve the Key back from Evil-Lyn, but Skeletor captures his friends and threatens to kill them all unless He-Man surrenders unconditionally. He-Man surrenders and returns to Eternia with Skeletor, but during the course of these events, Julie is mortally injured by Skeletor's magic and the second Key is damaged. Gwildor tries to repair it, but says that the tones needed to return to Eternia were erased. Kevin, an amateur musician, however, remembers them, and uses a keyboard to recreate the tones and open a portal. He is pursued by Lubic, who continues to seek the arrest of him and the Eternians.
On Eternia, Skeletor declares victory as his forces chain He-Man to the floor of the Great Hall. After a witty exchange with the Scorceress, Skeletor informs He-Man that upon receiving the powers of the universe, He-Man must kneel before him, for the people of Eternia to witness. In a move of defiance, He-Man refuses. Not accepting his response, Skeletor orders Blade to torture him.
When the Great Eye opens, Skeletor absorbs an enormous amount of power from the universe and is transformed into an armored warrior god. He continues to try to force He-Man to swear allegiance to him, but is interrupted by the arrival of He-Man's friends, Kevin and Lubic, who arrive through a portal that they managed to open. He-Man is freed, and along with his friends engages Skeletor's forces in combat, during which he breaks Skeletor's staff, causing him to lose his newfound powers. Skeletor continues to engage He-Man with his sword, but as a result, is vanquished by falling into a deep pit.
After He-Man's victory, Julie is healed by the Sorceress, and along with Kevin, says good-bye before leaving through a doorway back to Earth. When Julie awakens in her bed, she finds her parents downstairs, alive and well, about to take their fateful flight. Julie stops them from leaving and finds Kevin, who confirms their shared experiences was not a dream, and holds out a souvenir from Eternia: a blue, marble-sized sphere showing the image of He-Man in front of Castle Grayskull holding up his sword above his head pointing up yelling "I HAVE THE POWER!"
After the credits roll, Skeletor's head pops out of the pink liquid at the bottom of the pit that he was thrown into and says "I'll be back!"
Although no details or specifications are available yet, a 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray disc was released on October 2, 2012.
Differences from other media
The film is known among fans for how often it diverges from the source material. The visual differences are obvious, though there are differences in characters and backstory as well. Among the differences;
- There is no mention of King Randor, Queen Marlena, Adam, or the royal family.
- Castle Grayskull looks quite different, as well as being situated in the center of a city.
- Prominent characters such as Orko and Battle Cat are absent.
- In this film, the Eternians are unfamiliar with Earth. This contrasts with the Filmation origin of Queen Marlena, in which she was an Earth astronaut and this fact was well known among most everyone.
- Beastman is depicted as a mindless brute who is unable to speak and is slavishly loyal to, and fearful of, Skeletor. This is in stark contrast to the scheming, disloyal underling of the Filmation continuity.
- Evil-Lyn seems to harbor romantic feelings for Skeletor, as opposed to the general contempt she shows for him in the Filmation background.
- Skeletor commands loyalty and fear from his soldiers. The animated counterpart to the film, however, depicted nearly every one of them as contemptuous, openly insulting, and constantly attempting to overthrow him.
- Skeletor is less excitable and more reserved.
- The concept of the "eye of the universe" inside the castle throne room is not present in the animated series.
- Skeletor is depicted as commanding a huge army of armored soldiers. In the animated series, his only assistants were the evil warriors, who were not entirely under his command. He commanded smaller robot soldiers, but they were non-humanoid and displayed no capability for speech or intelligence. In some ways, the film depiction is more akin to the Evil Horde.
- Skeletors obsession with destiny, and his justification of his actions due to past humiliation and scorn, indicates more depth and nuance to the character than is seen in the animated series, where he was simply hungry for power and never cared to justify this as anything other than simple self-interest.
The original draft of the script by David Odell was reviewed in episode 3 of the He-Man and She-Ra podcast, Masters Cast. The script revealed that the movie intended to be more faithful to the original source material. 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, thus linking the two planets.
Cannon Films intended to create a sequel, which is indicated after the end credits when it is revealed that Skeletor in fact survives his fall. The idea was abandoned when Cannon wouldn't pay for Mattel's fees and the production used the already-made costumes and sets for the improvised action movie Cyborg.
A new He-Man movie directed by John Woo was reportedly being developed, 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.
As recently as fall of 2008, there was a new feature film in development entitled Grayskull: Masters of the Universe, produced by Joel Silver and written by Justin Marks. The film would reportedly employ visual effects to a large degree, as was done with 300. An alleged script has been leaked. Recently, the studio announced that director John Stevenson will take on directing duties, probably with a new screenplay. 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.