Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Masters of the Universe

During the 80s, He-Man was awed at by millions of children; how their eyes dazzled when that blonde muscle-bound titan took his rightful place in the centre of the plastic box. It may have been created to sell a few dozen toys, but we didn’t care, all we knew was that this altruistic prince was an archetype of the very adults we wanted to evolve into. However it rarely transpired that way – I once knew a guy tried to ride his tabby down the avenue, sword grasped in victorious pose, and shackles of rubber covering his nipples. Well, little Stevie Smith died that day, and the town turned its back on the fables of Eternia for the rest of the summer.

In 1987 the water broke and out lunged the movie version of the He-Man mythos, it went by the epic title of Masters of the Universe. With a set of primary colours at his fingertips, director Gary Goddard assembled one of the highlights of a decade rife with cancerous synth pop and crayoned corporate logos. Chosen for the fateful role was none other than the man who killed Apollo Creed in Rocky Fights Communism, the delectable Dolph Lundgren.

The film has our heroes - He-Man, his buddy Man-At-Arms, and the wide-grinned Teela - finding themselves transported from their abode of Eternia to our burger-filled cesspit of Earth. This time the psychedelic rip in the continuum is caused by a musical contraption worked by the impish Gwildor. Their adversary Skeletor wants that very machine, supposedly to set up his own hair metal band, and so he gets to work gradually sending his cronies through that tie-dye chasm. Unexpectedly our heroes misplace the instrument, and it falls into the youthful hands of Courtney Cox, ya know, her from that show featuring that girl with the hair. Anyway, people and hairy beasts collide, and battles ignite over who has The Power.

Masters of the Universe begins with a loving tribute to Superman, as it utilises musical hand-me-downs from big daddy John Williams. That, plus the globular spattering of blue glow set to a space background, led me to expect at least one son of Krypton to warble out of someone’s spandex. Closest we got was Lundgren floating around town on a flying body-board. And not once did he extend his arms out in spontaneous homage to DC’s yardstick.

While maybe thirty percent of the film is Clark Kent affiliated, the rest acts as some aborted foetus long cast off by George Lucas, the shame hanging off his beard. “It only wants to be loved,” shouts I, but he turns his head in disgust, not daring to look upon that bloody mound of flesh sitting humbly on the hardwood. The film seems to owe it’s existence to Mr Lucasfilm; in a plethora of ways. Skeletor runs around various sets looking like a calcified Darth Vader; with black cape and menacing demeanour he misses few of the Vader tick-boxes. Skeletor’s lair is his own personal star destroyer, manned by inconsequential little peons and the occasional henchperson. I say henchperson because, of course, there is Evil Lyn always on hand. You’ll be pleased to note that Terrible Maggie and Nasty Patricia were contenders for that spot.

But back to debunking Masters of the Universe; if only all those Dan Brown-consumed bores learned to quit wasting their time debunking things that, to me, look quite bunk as it is. Skeletor is not only a second-rate Darth Vader; he also plays a mean Emperor. Like the crinkled Palpatine, Skeletor can fire off wobbly bursts of lightning from his hands, only his are a nice shade of pink. Following a gruelling session of pugilism, He-Man chucks Skeletor down an infinite pit in a frame-by-frame replay of Return of the Jedi, except with more sweaty Dolph-pits.

There may be the eradicable malodour of films past dripping recklessly over each camera angle and diegetic musical interlude, but all is not lost, there is plenty to carve out a hollow in the side your brain that lusts for technicolour festivity. First you have the monosyllabic thespian duties of Lundgren, the rambunctious grins, and floppy blonde locks. True, Lundgren will only really come into a place where he can compete with the Van Dammes and Seagals of this planet when he comes accessorised with black hair, ala The Punisher and I Come In Peace. Still, this gallops around at a decent meteorological level. Then there’s that bit where the Eternians first find themselves on our celestial blob; out in some forest they gather themselves together only to encounter a cow. Now I don’t know how many cows wonder the forests of America these days, perhaps this was an 80s phenomenon that passed me by.

Another highlight for me: Teela and Man-At-Arms sit munching a bucket of barbeque ribs and Teela enquires why the human locals place their meat on these here white sticks. Our seasoned male then informs her that that stick is none other than a bone, to which her revulsion is overt, and she inquisitively ponders over that greasy product in her hands once being a living organism. I guess in Eternia they get their meat from foliage, or maybe it grows on the undersides of rocks.

In the end, it’s Dolph Lundgren who has The Power. Not that guy from every movie in the 80s needing a cynical tough guy. Nor a ripening Cox before she got that big break everyone recognises her from, which made her famous on a transnational scale, her role opposite Jeff Fahey in Sketch Artist 2: Hands That See. This is Dolph’s movie, he doesn’t need a soaping in Sith, hell he barely needs dialogue, just let him roam and hope to capture some of that glory in the 35mm.


Blogger midnitcafe said...

I must print and frame that picture of Dolph er He-man. That is a thing to gaze upon for days and nights.

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