[Editor’s note: The following post contains spoilers for “Masters of the Universe: Revelation.”]
Kevin Smith’s animated Netflix series “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” is the latest bit of franchise IP to become the victim of toxic fandom. Similar to Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Smith’s direct sequel series to “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” (1983-85) is being review bombed on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb and trolled on social media for taking the franchise in directions fans don’t agree (via Variety). A lot of the toxic backlash stems from Smith’s decision to seemingly kill off main characters He-Man and Skeletor in the pilot episode. The twist allows supporting characters like the female warrior Teela to assume lead roles as they search for magic that can bring He-Man back.
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“I know there’s some people that are like, ‘Hey, man, this show’s woke,’” Smith told Variety about the backlash. “I’m like, all right, great, then so was the original cartoon we’re fucking sequel-izing. Go watch it again. There are girls in every episode. Deal with it.”
“It’s been interesting, seeing who truly is a hardcore fan,” Smith added. “Because anybody that’s like, ‘Oh, man, there’s not enough He-Man’ or something like that, doesn’t understand the show that we based it on. There were episodes where he lost the sword and he never became He-Man. It wasn’t like He-Man always saved the day. His friends helped him. That was the fucking point of the show.”
Smith told Variety he took on “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” in part because he wanted to “be true to the franchise” and not reinvent it for the modern age. The showrunner said of his approach to the series, “All we have to do is not disavow anything. Nobody’s saying, ‘Hey, man, everything you knew about He-Man was wrong.’ It’s like, no, everything you knew was absolutely right. And now, this is what happened when they finally had their epic battle — and what happened after that.”
He-Man still appears in “Revelation” via flashbacks, and later rejoins the show in a more present capacity. For He-Man voice actor Chris Wood, the decision to shake up the character roster in the series was refreshing and brought instant real-world stakes to the animated series.
“It was jarring, but in a really amazing way, you know, because Skeletor and He-Man, there was no real urgency or life or death stakes to their battles [in the original],” Wood added.
Rob David, vice president of content creative at Mattel Television, also defended the storytelling decision. “My favorite movies are ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ ‘The Wrath of Khan,’” he said. “The hero gets really hit hard, and then the story becomes about how the hero gets back up again and better and stronger than ever. In basically stripping away all the comforts the hero took for granted, the hero reveals to him or herself what truly makes them strong inside and then have to rebuild.”
“We thought by having an unexpected character [Teela] go on that journey in real time with the audience,” David continued, “we would be able to really hit just how important He-Man is, and just how important those themes are.”
“Masters of the Universe: Revelation” is now streaming on Netflix.
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