Thoughts on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)

So, I just finished watching the 2002 reboot of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Like with “The New Adventures of He-Man”, it’s interesting to look at this in the context of the new She-Ra series to see if any lessons from it can be applied there. However, it’s also a far superior show than “The New Adventures of He-Man”, so it’s nice to look at what it managed to do right.

First, let’s start with the comparison to She-Ra. One of the things that the show is trying to do — and is driving the change in character models — is start She-Ra and her companions as being younger in order to appeal to a younger audience. Except, when He-Man and She-Ra were on TV I was that younger audience, and had absolutely no issues relating to the older characters in the shows. It doesn’t seem like we really need to have characters our age to be able to relate to them or to the show, and often shows that try that — Wesley Crusher from TNG, the Wonder Twins from Superfriends, WilyKit and WilyKat from ThunderCats, etc — end up with really annoying characters that we’re supposed to relate to but instead take up time that could go to the cooler characters. Add in that they are supposedly keeping the revolution angle and this starts to get a bit incredible.

The 2002 He-Man series, however, did actually do that, by reducing Adam and Teela in age to teenagers. And this actually worked pretty well, because it let them do things that wouldn’t have made sense in the original series with the original ages. Adam, for example, can now be portrayed not as the wastrel he had to be in the original series, but merely as someone who is immature and irresponsible because of that. As he is becoming a man, it also allows them to introduce a deeper conflict between Adam wanting to be the hero and having to become He-Man and have He-Man take the credit. And this only gets deepened by the fact that, as a teenager, Teela is often far more competitive with Adam and far more harsh on him than it would make sense for the original series Teela to be. As they are teens, she teases him, competes with him, and is harshly exasperated with his perceived uselessness and cowardice … to the point of being annoying. And, in fact, teenage Teela is, in general, pretty annoying. She’s harshly commanding at times and often oversteps her bounds and experience. And yet, that’s okay, because as a teenager she’s supposed to be annoying. Moreover, she gets called out for making those mistakes more than the original Teela could have. Man-At-Arms takes a more direct leadership role given the age issue, but Teela still gets to be in charge sometimes, mostly because she’s the daughter of the leader and has his training, which puts her above most of the troops, but she rarely is that strongly in charge if Man-At-Arms is available, which makes it more credible. De-aging her and Adam also sets them apart from the others, allowing them to talk about things in a way that the others wouldn’t necessarily understand and to play and compete against each other in a way that makes more sense. However, since most of the Masters are adults the conflict with Skeletor’s warriors seems more credible in general.

Thus, the message for the new She-Ra show is this: if you are going to de-age them, use it for something. And don’t put them into situations where they are in over their heads just because they are that young.

In general, though, the reboot respects the original while attempting to be its own show. We can see this from the beginning, where the title sequence starts with the classic introduction to the original series, only to be interrupted by Skeletor attacking, which both, to me, shows that they respect the original material and yet are going for a much more action-focused reinterpretation, and thus pretty much reflects what the show was really going to be like. They integrate storylines and items into the show quite often, and also name drop a lot of other things as well, such as the Diamond of Disappearance. They bring some classic villains into the show, upgraded. They restore Evil-Lyn as a mostly self-interested minion of Skeletor and return her snark and disdain for the other Evil Warriors. Skeletor gets his old voice back. But they do all this wrapped around far more detailed fight and action scenes, which the original series couldn’t have done.

It’s not all good, though. Orko is reduced to a complete incompetent who is insanely overconfident and full of himself, whereas he was far more of a helpful sort in the original series, which allowed him to be a sounding board and companion for Adam and He-Man when necessary. Here, only Man-At-Arms can fill that role. Cringer and Battlecat are not voiced, which loses some of the humour they could bring to the show. And the Sorceress is changed from a generally wise and individually powerful being to someone who is more harsh and commanding but does less on her own. Both of the new series did that to the Sorceress for some reason.

The new show also focuses more on multi-part episodes and arcs, which would be good except the focus on action doesn’t really leave room for any kind of development. Thus, the characters generally don’t evolve and the plots end up being simply moving from one place and/or one plot to another. Ultimately, it’s entertaining, but a bit shallow.

At the end of the day, I liked it and will probably watch it again.

Next up, the original She-Ra, Princess of Power series.

One Response to “Thoughts on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)”

  1. Thoughts on “She-Ra: Princess of Power” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] as a follow-up to watching the three He-Man series, I sat down to watch “She-Ra: Princess of Power”, to remind myself that the push for […]

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