Netflix's Kid-Friendly 'He-Man' Suggests We Can All Be a Master of the Universe
It's all about finding your inner strength and the friends you make along the way.
He-Man is back on Netflix. Again.
It's been just a handful of months since Kevin Smith's Masters of the Universe: Revelation hit the streaming platform. Acting as a bookend of sorts is the new kid-friendly iteration of the series—aptly titled He-Man and the Masters of the Universe—which re-introduces audiences to the character of Prince Adam and the journey he embarks on after finding the Sword of Power and embracing the Power of Greyskull, while the evil Skeletor and his dastardly minions lurk around every corner.
This time around, though, Adam is joined by a ragtag crew of childhood buddies-turned-heroes (Teela, Krass, Duncan, and Cringer) who not only adds a diverse teamwork component to the mix, but also updates the story dynamic of the 1983 original series without fracturing its iconic foundation.
With the CGI stylings—which was done by House of Cool and CGCG, the studios behind Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Trollhunters—along with its anime-inspired panache and kinetic pacing, the "restart," as executive producer Rob David puts it, never loses sight of its good versus evil premise and brings a fair share of humor and morality along the way.
To commemorate the arrival of Mattel TV's He-Man reboot to Netflix, Thrillist sat down with David to discuss the timing of the show's release, the updates made to the story and characters, and that a Masters of the Universe multiverse may be on the horizon.
Thrillist: Was it always the plan to do multiple Masters of the Universe shows?
Rob David: We were thinking, how do we bring back Masters of the Universe as big and spectacularly as possible on television? It's a myth that we all enjoyed and shared. When you have something as awesome as a Masters of the Universe, that's something where you have the potential to tell the story for as large a group as possible and in different ways. So, why don't we really celebrate what we love about the He-Man story for the kids who grew up on it, while still progressing that story and paying off things that we've waited for decades to see?
It feels like there is still so much to be covered, considering the multiple iterations that have popped up over the years, whether animated, in comic book form, or live-action. Is there a possibility this new series could solidify a Masters of the Universe cinematic universe?
We just wanted to take what we love and tell it to kids today. Let them meet He-Man and his friends on their terms and reflect their world while still, at its core, be very Masters of the Universe. Why not explore those same themes in exciting new ways and create a multiverse? [Producer] Jeff Matsuda and I are both huge comic book fans. We grew up knowing what a multiverse is, and we're so thankful that DC and Marvel have successfully communicated what a multiverse is to a general audience. It’s a really great way of being able to experience something like this where you have different versions of the same world that complement each other and allow us all to enjoy different aspects of it.
So would this be considered a reboot?
The 2021 CG show is a restart. It’s a reimagining. But at the same time, you want to basically honor all the things that made the original great. We do that in two ways. One is that there should always be a history behind them. One of the great things is that when that sort of power has a history to it—meaning to it, significance to it—and that's something that I want it to retain in the storyline.
Not to get deep into spoiler territory, but there's a version of Orko here that may confuse diehard fans of the show. His storyline references the original character, but if this is a restart, how does that make sense?
This was a chance of taking a character like Orko, having this robot magician truly embody the great science fiction and magical mashup of Masters of the Universe in an exciting way, but then also pay homage to the original by saying this poor robot is under the allusion that he's a great non-robot trawling Wizard of Old. He pulls at your heartstrings because he wants to do magic, but he has no business doing magic. He's a robot. And yet he's going to go on a journey to do it and maybe he actually could be able to do it. Maybe this is a hint of a spoiler, but not, at least, in these 10 episodes… but maybe one day he'll meet the actual Orko the Great. It’s all kind of like jazz. You play the song that you love, but you find ways to do new riffs on it.
The original He-Man was a secret identity for Prince Adam. In the new Mattel series, it’s not much of a secret at all. Instead, you highlight the diversity of the friends group and the teamwork component between the heroes, who all actually look like kids this time around. What was the reasoning behind making this change?
The team concept was really trying to get at the theme of the original, but kind of diving into that and making it more relevant for today's age, which is that all of us have something inside us that is really resonant and unique and has the potential to be a great power. Some of us might even have the potential to master that ability. He-Man is the symbol of that. He's the vanguard of that. He's a leader of that. But it's true for all of us. Everyone could be the master of something, or the potential the master of It. So, it was important to kind of have that baked in.
Related to that is they're all on this journey of self-discovery, and they’re learning who they are inside and out. The secret of Adam’s identity, in of itself, didn't seem as relevant as the other things that the Adam character represents. Something really important for him is that he's not He-Man all the time. What makes Adam special is that he calls upon the power of He-Man, the power of Greyskull, to help others. When the battle is done, he puts the power back. He puts it away, as a contrast to Skeletor who will never give it up. I wanted Skeletor’s arm to be withered to bone where he holds the staff as a symbol of the fact that he will never let power go, even if it rots him to his core.
The transformation sequences make it feel like the power could be too much for Adam. There’s a David versus Goliath component between him, and his friends—who are all children—against the foreboding villain that is Skeletor.
Right. You want to look at Adam and not be able to recognize right away that he could be He-Man. It’s important that he actually looks more like a kid, a 16-year-old kid. It’s inside where his true strength comes from. If you combine that aspect of Adam, which is so important, with how his friends are able to be more authentic, while not having to cover any aspect of themselves to blend in, then he’s not put in a position to have to protect his identity, because they're there to support him.
He doesn't have to always be on guard of that, and the team, his friends, all of that together, made for an opportunity to kind of take what was really the great themes of the original—self-empowerment and self-discovery—and play it in a way that I think is especially relevant and resonant for kids and families today in 2021.