Movies & TV / Reviews

Masters of the Universe: Revolution Review

January 22, 2024 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Masters of the Universe: Revolution. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2024 Image Credit: Netflix
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Masters of the Universe: Revolution Review  

Author’s Note: This is a non-spoiler review for Masters of the Universe: Revolution based on screeners provided by Netflix.

The saga of He-Man and Eternia continues with its latest animated chapter in Masters of the Universe: Revolution. Although essentially released as its own standalone miniseries, Revolution is a continuation of 2021’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation. Even at only 15 episodes, Revelation and Revolution are collectively the greatest pieces of media the Masters of the Universe franchise has produced in its 40-plus-year history.

Picking up after the events of Revelation, order and magic have been restored to Eternia with the return of Prince Adam (Chris Wood), who no longer has to hide his secret identity as the most powerful hero in the universe, He-Man. His friend and comrade Teela (Melissa Benoist) has succeeded her mother, The Sorceress, as the new protector of Castle Grayskull’s secrets. Teela has taken to her role as the new Sorceress with amazing grace, and it looks like she and Adam are finally on the cusp of making some progress in their relationship. However, a new threat is making its way to Eternia in the form of the Evil Horde, led by the interstellar oppressor, Hordak (Keith David).

In the epilogue for Revelation, it was revealed that Motherboard (Meg Foster), the false god Skeletor’s evil minions began worshipping in his absence, was in fact a sentient technological terror in service to Hordak. Motherboard’s virus infected Skeletor (Mark Hamill), bringing him to heel and transforming him into a cybernetic upgrade dubbed “Skeletek.” Amid a deeply personal loss, Prince Adam faces a significant crossroads in his life, and the fate of Eternia hangs in the balance.

Masters of the Universe: Revolution. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2024

Image Credit: Netflix

Viewing both shows as one complete epic saga, it’s clear that Revelation and Revolution are love letters to Masters of the Universe, a franchise that originated as a toy line in the early 1980s. While not based on any pre-existing IP, Masters of the Universe inspired its legions of fans and billions of dollars in toy sales through its unique characters, a fun blend of sci-fi mixed with classic sword & sorcery fantasy, and a deeply woven lore. While subsequent updates and reboots always seem to fail to recapture the franchise’s heights and glory days in the ’80s, to this day the franchise still carries a loyal fanbase whose imaginations were inspired by the likes of He-Man, Skeletor, and the saga of Eternia.

As the Masters of the Universe fanbase grows older, in 2024, He-Man and Masters of the Universe are now starting to closely resemble products of a bygone era. That’s all the more reason why Revolution is so important. At the very least, fans get to see an animated product that was also made by fans and embraces all parts of the franchise and mythos.

Powerhouse Animation has generally done very consistent, fantastic work over the last several years, and Revolution encompasses some of the studio’s best work to date. The World of Eternia, its heroes, and villains are on full display and brought to vivid life. The characters, He-Man, Skeletor, Hordak, Teela, Orko, Battle Cat, Evil-Lyn, etc. have never looked or sounded better.

What’s also impressive is that executive producers Kevin Smith, Ted Biaselli, Rob David, Christopher Keenan, and Frederic Soulie do an excellent job navigating the comprehensive and often segmented lore of the franchise to create a far more overarching definitive body of knowledge for the animated saga. Masters of the Universe has multiple different continuities regarding the mini-comics, the 1980s Filmation animated series, subsequent animated reboots, other comic spinoffs, the 1987 live-action movie starring Dolph Lundgren, and more. These previous adaptations tend to follow their own individual, unique backstories for various characters.

Much like Revelation, Revolution continues to acknowledge all the existing pieces of MOTU mythology from disparate media adaptations, streamlining elements from various sources into a more cohesive, singular continuity. The various mythology and world-building elements are where the writing of Revolution shines brightest, which makes sense because that was one of the driving selling points for the franchise at its inception. This series acts as a culmination of decades worth of storytelling over multiple pieces of source material.

Masters of the Universe: Revolution. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2024

Image Credit: Netflix

Yes, Revelation did have a Teela-centric storyline, but not without purpose. Teela’s journey toward succeeding her mother, the Sorceress, and inheriting the title as the new Sorceress have been deeply woven into the lore since the earliest mini-comics that were packed with the original action figures. Teela has always been a crucial character for the franchise, the mythos, and especially to Adam. Not to mention, Revelation also explored a world without He-Man and an Eternia that had lost its magic, which was a refreshing storyline. Additionally, the season explored Adam’s dynamic with his father King Randor (Diedrich Bader), and his desire for his father’s love and respect, not only as He-Man, but as Adam.

Revolution continues as the natural conclusions and outcomes of the characters from multiple adaptations of the mythology. Now that Teela has accepted her role and destiny, inheriting her mother’s title, it falls on Adam to determine his future. The creators accomplish this by weaving in elements from all parts of the mythology, from mini-comics to action figure blister-card bios, to even the 1987 live-action movie, packaging it in an epic, action-adventure, sci-fantasy matchup. Revolution showcases a sandbox session of MOTU play come to life but with a slightly edgier, more mature tone. Of course, the fans who grew up with MOTU in their youth are now old codgers, so it makes sense that the property has aged slightly along with them.

In Revolution, Adam/He-Man takes more of a central role at the outset. After a personal tragedy, he’s come to a significant crossroads, having to come to grips with his responsibilities as Prince of Eternia and its champion for justice. Chris Wood, once again, breathes a regal earnestness into his performance as Adam. What makes his vocal performance so impressive is the subtle changes he makes after Adam transforms into He-Man.

There have been some shifts in the cast for Revolution. Supergirl star Melissa Benoist, who is married to Wood in real life, takes over the role of Teela, replacing Sarah Michelle-Gellar from Revelation. This is not meant to be a knock on Michelle Gellar’s performance. In Revelation, Teela was in a dark place. She was angry, angsty, bitter, and guilt-ridden. From that perspective, Michelle Gellar’s vocal performance for the series made sense and reflected Teela’s emotional conflict. Benoist brings a vibrant warmth to Teela, who has matured and reached a higher level, tapping into new powers as her mother’s successor. Revolution finally brings much-needed development to the He-Man/Adam and Teela relationship.

Masters of the Universe: Revolution. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2024

Image Credit: Netflix

New to the cast of Revolution is Gates McFadden, the new voice of Queen Marlena. Alicia Silverstone did okay with the role beforehand, but McFadden plays a much more natural fit for the Queen of Eternia. Overall, the cast changes in the season bring marked improvement to the characters and their vocal performances. Liam Cunningham continues to bring the heat as the show’s vocal standout as the former Man-at-Arms, Duncan, who gets promoted to “Man-of-War” in Revolution.

Of course, Keith David brings his unforgettable booming tones to the galactic despot Hordak. There is no way to describe David’s casting as Hordak as anything other than pure perfection.

Sadly, the main drawback of Revolution is a lack of time. Revelation had ten episodes to develop its storyline. For whatever reason, Revolution only gets five chapters, and the lack of those additional episodes works to the show’s detriment. Frankly, with a few edits, Revolution could have been rolled out as a feature-length movie rather than a five-episode miniseries.

Considering Revelation had ten episodes, Castlevania: Nocturne had eight episodes, the recent CG-animated Masters of the Universe series received 26 episodes, and even each of the three Transformers: War for Cybertron mini-seasons had six episodes each, it’s difficult not to be disappointed about getting shortchanged with only five episodes.

Masters of the Universe: Revolution. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2024

Image Credit: Netflix

It’s disappointing because Revolution promises Hordak and the Horde Invasion. Revolution delivers on that, but this “season” has to rush through events very quickly to set up the climactic battle. No offense to fans of Skeletor, and Mark Hamill brings even more theatrical aplomb to the iconic villain this season, but when Keith David shows up voicing Hordak, he far outshines Skeletor. Some more time with Hordak and witnessing his conquest across Eternia, its various races, and colonies, plus an extended struggle with the Masters, would have been epic.

In defense of Revolution‘s creatives, the buildup and backstory to the invasion are impressive. The climactic third act is stunning, but the narrative needed that extra five episodes to breathe. Had the Revolution team been given that much leeway this season, it would have been even more exceptional.

While Revolution delivers in terms of eye candy and fan service that MOTU aficionados well-versed in the lore will appreciate, quite a few characters get shortchanged. Revolution does nicely delve into some more fascinating and interesting characters this season, such as Granamyr (John de Lancie). Plus, Gwildor (series executive producer Ted Biaselli, performing double duty) finally meets Orko (Griffin Newman) and has a fun subplot involving the Sword of Power. That said, Powerhouse Animation did such a fantastic job animating the Evil Horde, it’s a shame that Gizzlor, Mantenna, and Leech don’t get more screentime to show what they can do. Hordak’s minions are established as a legit threat early on, so to not have the Evil Horde lay waste to more of Eternia and wreak more havoc plays like a lost opportunity.

Masters of the Universe: Revolution. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2024

Image Credit: Netflix

Considering the CG-animated Masters of the Universe series ended on the cliffhanger reveal of Hordak (voiced in that series by none other than the late Kevin Conroy), and Netflix opting not to move forward with the long-gestating live-action movie that’s been in development for nearly two decades, what is happening with the franchise at the streamer raises cause for concern. Revolution was only granted five episodes to Revelation‘s 10. The CG-animated series is dead. The live-action movie was rejected and sadly remains in development hell. Not to mention, there’s a rumored 2026 deadline looming over the franchise, where media rights might go to NBCUniversal in that timeframe.

With all the dominoes falling, Revolution might be the last major piece of motion picture media to come out of Masters of the Universe for a while. Hopefully, that’s not the case. Revolution is merely the second chapter of a larger three-part storyline. One can hope the team behind this series and Revelation will have the opportunity to bring this animated saga to its epic conclusion. However, halving this season to only five episodes is not a good sign. Be that as it may, at least where Revolution is concerned, fans of Masters of the Universe, just this once, have the power.

Masters of the Universe: Revolution. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2023

Image Credit: Netflix

Masters of the Universe: Revolution drops all five episodes on January 25 at midnight PST. Until next time, good journey.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
While there is currently some uncertainty surrounding the franchise, at least Masters of the Universe got this extraordinary set of high-quality animation between Revelation and Revolution, even if it does remain incomplete. Hopefully, the powers that be at Netflix will allow the crew to finish this much-deserved story. Revolution is a celebration and love letter to the franchise, complete with fantastic animated visuals by Powerhouse Animation, a sublime score by Bear McCreary, and the type of world-building that makes Masters of the Universe such an iconic property. It would be a shame if this is the end of the line as the loyal fanbase that grew up with this franchise continues to get older and puts away their toys. But if this is the end for the foreseeable future, at the very least, fans can experience this exceptional animated saga to reward them for their brand loyalty. Until next time..."Let the Power return."