Did you know that it’s been 35 years since the Masters of the Universe movie arrived in theatres? Since then, there have been notable attempts at a He-Man movie reboot, but nothing ever came to fruition. Now, as recently as April 2021, actor Noah Centineo exited the Masters of the Universe rebooted animated series, leaving its status up in the air.
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It’s a precarious situation for the franchise right now. Undoubtedly, He-Man and Skeletor’s popularity peaked in the ’80s—which is likely the main reason for studios being reluctant to front a substantial budget to get it off the ground. Though, with the upcoming release of Masters of the Universe: Revelation on Netflix, it’s possible that there could be a resurgence in interest for the sword and sorcery epic.
But will that be enough to convince Hollywood to shell out a healthy kitty to make Eternia come to life? Maybe not.
We haven’t had a live-action Masters of the Universe movie since Dolph Lundgren was cast as Prince Adam in the 1987 Masters of the Universe: The Motion Picture film. But was the He-Man movie really that bad?
Netflix’s Masters of the Universe Movie Casts Kyle Allen as He-Man
After Noah Centineo’s exit, many fans were wondering who would be cast as He-Man in the planned live-action Masters of the Universe reboot. Sony has been attempting to get a film off the ground for years now. And it looks like they’ve finally given up. The reboot has now officially moved to Netflix, after being delayed in January of 2020 thanks to the pandemic, and Sony not making any moves to complete the project. With the announcement also comes a new He-Man actor and a new director.
Producer Mattel Studios and Netflix revealed that Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story actor Kyle Allen has secured the role of Prince Adam in the upcoming live-action film. He will be directed by The Nee Brothers, who worked on Band of Robbers and, well, not much else.
“Masters of the Universe is an iconic property that shaped the imaginations of an entire generation of kids with the message of becoming the best version of yourself. With our partners at Netflix, we look forward to showing audiences that anything can happen in Eternia. We are continuing to unlock this global franchise in new ways, and we can’t wait to see Kyle battle it out with Skeletor in this epic live-action saga,” said Robbie Brenner, head of Mattel Films.
According to the movie’s IMDb page, David Callaham is the brilliant mind writing the screenplay whom you might have heard of from films like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Wonder Woman. He will have several people helping him bring the live action to life, with Jason Blumenthal, Robbie Brenner, Steve Tisch, and Todd Black and bringing in the cavalry as producers, Haley Sweet as a co-producer, and the role of executive producer being shared by Bill Bannerman, DeVon Franklin and Greg Baxter.
The internet was quick to point out the fact that the 27-year-old Kyle Allen doesn’t have the physic of He-Man. Prince Adam, sure. But, at the moment, he isn’t a very convincing He-Man. At 5′ 8, he perhaps isn’t tall enough. Also, he would need to hit the gym really hard to pull off the look. He-Man is a rather muscular character.
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Everything Right And Wrong With 1987’s Masters of the Universe
Back in the 80s, there was not a single kid who didn’t know who He-Man was. The cartoon show made its debut in 1983 and ran until 1985, providing kids with hours upon hours of fantastic adventures, and giving parents lists of hundreds of toys they needed to buy.
The story of Masters of the Universe tends to follow the same story, where a young orphan named Adam discovers that he is really a prince who is destined to become the savior of a faraway land. Knowing this he must learn how to use his power so that he can protect his true home from the evil force that is putting it in danger.
Two years after the end of the original show, and with the franchise still going strong due to re-runs and the success of She-Ra: Princess of Power, the obvious marketing choice would be to make a Masters of the Universe live-action film. The result is one of the most terribly mesmerizing cinematic disasters of all time.
Let’s take a look at some of the things the live-action adaptation got right – and what it got so awfully wrong.
Right: Costume designs
The original cartoon show was always meant as a long toy commercial. The designs of He-Man and his Eternian friends were always as marketable as possible: bright colours and big weapons were all over the place in this fantasy realm (weapons sold separately.)
However, 1987’s Master of the Universe took a much different approach to set and character designs. Though clearly inspired by Star Wars, some characters like Skeletor received a complete overhaul, making them look more menacing and less cartoony than before.
Wrong: The setting
When kids heard that there was going to be a Masters of the Universe movie, everyone thought about He-Man and his adventures in Eternia. What they got instead was something similar to what many fantasy movies did in the 80s and 90s: taking a fantasy character and placing them into suburban California.
Most of the movie takes place on Earth, which was so far detached from the concept of Masters of the Universe, that it’s baffling to think that the idea was approved by any serious movie studio.
Right: The villains
Among the film’s many controversial changes, Skeletor’s character remains one of the only things that most fans can agree actually improved the movie. The actor who plays him, Frank Langella, was clearly having a blast portraying the character, which only added to the overall great quality of the film’s villain.
Despite some dubious makeover and an obvious latex mask, live-action Skeletor is the most iconic part of the flick by far. Some other characters weren’t as lucky, like Gwildor, a comic relief created solely for the live-action movie that served as the film’s dollar store version of Orko.
Alongside Skeletor, there’s also her trusty counsellor, Evil-Lyn, played by Meg Foster. The actress’ steely gaze and commanding voice made her character feel all the more threatening, especially considering the role she was given.
Not only is Prince Adam’s backstory botched in this adaptation: the iconic hero is played by Dolph Lundgren who, at the time, was only known for small roles and never as a big name Hollywood lead. Despite his stellar role in Rocky IV, there’s no denying that the actor’s stiff line delivery and stoic composure might not be the best fit to play Prince Adam, let alone the charismatic lead in a fantasy movie for kids.
There’s also the issue regarding the name of the film. Everyone expected the movie to be called “He-Man and The Masters of the Universe.” Removing the “He-Man” part of the title turned out to be a marketing mess, as it was the most emblematic part of the series by far.
Masters of the Universe is still enjoyable in a cheesy 80s movie kind of way: it’s just disappointing to see that there was a much better film hidden under a pile of terrible decisions.
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Failed He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Reboots
In 2019, rumours started circulating that 22-year-old actor Noah Centineo had been cast to play ’80s icon He-Man (the alter ego of Prince Adam of Eternia) in an upcoming live-action reboot of Masters Of The Universe. During an interview with Jimmy Fallon, The Perfect Date actor and Calvin Klein underwear model confirmed the casting news:
“Is this a true rumour? I heard that you might be. Are you playing He-Man?” Fallon asks in the interview.
“Yes,” Noah Centineo replied with a big smile. “Masters of the Universe!”
“I have an affinity for being in my underwear. I don’t know what it is,” he jokingly adds.
The new live-action He-man movie would be directed by Aaron and Adam Nee, with a script penned by Matt Holloway and Art Marcum (Iron Man).
Unfortunately, Noah Centineo exited the role before anything else was announced. While the reasons for the actor stepping away from the project is unknown, it was reported by Collider that he was no longer attached to the project.
Is the project cancelled? Nobody knows. There haven’t been any updates since the announcement. Maybe the backlash from Netflix’s animated reboot from Kevin Smith has pushed the studio to reconsider the direction. Who knows?
That said, beloved ’80s animated franchises getting live-action reboots are all the rage for streaming services, so we could say that it’s high time that the Masters of the Universe get the live-action treatment they deserve. That said, starring in a movie about one of the most beloved animated franchises of the ’80s would certainly warrant a vicious casting war.
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Who We Would Cast In A Live-Action He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Movie
1. Teela – Jessica Chastain
The Captain of the Royal Guard of Eternos, and the protector of Prince Adam, Teela is one of the most skilled warriors in the world of the Masters of the Universe. Despite being one of the closest allies to Prince Adam, she’s unaware of the Prince’s He-Man alter ego.
As a strong woman, Teela must be played by someone who’s able to adequately portray the character’s strong personality and combat skills. We chose Jessica Chastain for the role because of her talent as a dramatic actress, even if we haven’t seen her in an action role yet. Her age would also make her a great mentor figure for whoever plays Prince Adam.
2. Duncan (Man-At-Arms) – Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Adopted father of Teela, Duncan, who’s better known by his Man-At-Arms alias, is the main advisor of military and political affairs of Eternia. One of the OG characters from the Masters of the Universe mythos, Duncan is a father figure of sorts who has played a big role in some of the pivotal moments of Eternian history.
For Duncan, we chose Jeffrey Dean Morgan, an actor who has played more than one super father in his acting career. We’ve seen him as Thomas Wayne in Batman v Superman, and more prominently as Negan in AMC’s The Walking Dead. These two characters prove that Morgan can pull off both: wise father figures, and ultimate badasses.
3. Evil-Lyn – Eva Green
Let’s talk villains, shall we? The bad guys of He-Man are just as popular as the heroes, and Evil-Lyn bears the distinction of being the only female member of the Evil Warriors. She’s also way ahead of the rest of Skeletor’s lackeys in terms of smarts and raw power, being very close to the power levels of his skeletal master.
A cunning master of the occult arts, Evil-lyn would need to be portrayed by an actress with an undeniable charm and a certain air of mysticism about her. For this, we’ve chosen Eva Green. The French actress and model jumped to mainstream popularity thanks to 2006’s Casino Royale, where she plays Vesper Lynd, and her role as the seductive Ava Lord in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
Besides, we just can’t ignore the similarities between Evil-Lyn and Eva Green’s names.
4. The Sorceress of Castle Grayskull – Charlize Theron
The Sorceress is the one who gave Prince Adam the Sword of Power, effectively bestowing upon him the powers of He-Man. This pivotal character has been known by many names within the Masters of the Universe mythos, but her most well-known incarnation is that of Teel Na, Teela’s mother.
Being the keeper of the secrets of Castle Grayskull, the Sorceress would have to be played by a woman who can convincingly play a knowledgeable and wise character. Enter Charlize Theron, a South African actress that is as skilled as she’s beautiful. Theron’s stunning good looks and unparalleled charisma would make her a terrific Sorceress. Bonus points for uncannily resembling the original Sorceress from the 1983 cartoon.
5. King Randor – Viggo Mortensen
Father of Adam and Adora, and sovereign of the Kingdom of Eternia, King Randor is a noble monarch who is somewhat annoyed by his son’s lacking sense of responsibility. Although he’s unusually far away from the action, his teachings and wisdom have shaped Adam’s sense of justice and desire to fight the evil forces of Skeletor.
For our live-action He-Man and the Masters of the Universe film, we’d need an older actor to be cast as the wise King Randor, preferably one that has some experience with fantasy-themed movies. That’s why we’ve chosen Aragorn himself, Viggo Mortensen.
Someone as achieved as Viggo Mortensen would give the character of King Randor an extra layer of complexity. There’s also no denying the serious star power that a Lord of the Rings actor would bring to the table.
6. Queen Marlena – Sigourney Weaver
For Queen Marlena, we’d need an actress who can impart a dignified air to the character. At the same time, whoever plays Marlena must be able to channel the Queen’s bravery, as Marlena has a very interesting backstory – one that expands the He-Man mythos beyond the confines of Eternia.
Unlike most of the characters in the series, Marlena wasn’t born in Eternia. Born Marlena Glenn, she’s actually an accomplished NASA pilot from the planet Earth who became stranded in Eternia, where she fell in love with Randor and gave birth to Adam and Adora.
Sigourney Weaver would be a perfect fit for her character: the actress is well-known for her portrayal of Ripley, the no-nonsense hero of the Alien franchise. We also think she’d make a great on-screen couple with Viggo Mortensen, as their two personalities would play well on each other.
7. Princess Adora (She-Ra) – Emily Blunt
The twin sister of Prince Adam and the alter ego of She-Ra, Princess Adora was raised by the Evil Horde, until she found the secrets of her bloodline and became the heroine she was always destined to be.
She-Ra has a fanbase of her own and can be considered the deuteragonist in most He-Man stories. Considering that she’s Adam’s twin sister, we’d need to cast someone that shares some resemblance to He-Man’s actor, complete with matching ages. Considering this, we’ve gone with Emily Blunt, who fans might recognize from A Quiet Place and Sicario.
8. Skeletor – Willem Dafoe
Finally, we’re down to the series’ big bad, none other than Skeletor himself. If you ask anybody who’s the most emblematic villain from the 80s, there’s a high chance they’ll say ‘Skeletor’. Everything from his skeletal visage to his trademark cackling makes him into the quintessential cartoon villain.
For such an emblematic villain, we’d need an actor who has proved himself to be more than capable at playing over-the-top baddies more than once. That’s why we’ve chosen Willem Defoe for the role. Even though Defoe is one of the most respected dramatic actors in the business, most fans will surely remember him from his great performance as Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, in 2002’s Spider-Man.
9. Prince Adam (He-Man) – Chris Hemsworth
Tasked with defending Eternia and the secrets of Castle Grayskull from the evil forces of Skeletor, He-Man is the star of the show for any Masters of the Universe movie. His imposing stature, impressive musculature, and unbridled charisma make him a tough character to cast. At least that’s what we’d say if there wasn’t an actor that fits that criteria to a T.
Chris Hemsworth is essentially perfect for both roles, Prince Adam and He-Man. The Australian actor has proved he can play a spoiled hero Prince in the Thor franchise more than once, and his physique and stature are a perfect match for the hero of Eternia. As a bonus, he’s close in age and looks to Emily Blunt, so the twins could be more believable in our He-Man and the Masters of the Universe live-action movie.
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He-Man & The Masters of the Universe Reboot Movie: Only The Rock Can Save It Now
What any potential Masters of the Universe reboot needs is serious star power attached to it—and right now, you don’t get a bigger (in both senses of the word) superstar than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Let’s be real here: He-Man is a pretty goofy character. Sure, he has a bad hairstyle and terrible one-liners, but he’s a lovable meathead who wants to do what’s right for his people. The role requires an actor who possesses both the physicality and comedic timing to make Prince Adam’s stronger form come to life. And who better to do that than the Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment?
With The Rock attached to a project like this, it’ll be far easier to convince a studio to invest more into the production. He’s a bankable actor who always brings in the box office receipts and he’s able to attract even more talent to the film. More importantly, he’s just that damn likable and pretty much critic-proof.
Make no mistake about it, a Masters of the Universe reboot is unlikely to be Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes or tickle Film Twitter’s nipples. Like Fast & Furious, it toes the line between insanity and ridiculousness, but that’s what’s magical about it. No one will be going into this movie expecting the next Best Picture winner—it’s supposed to be over the top and overindulgent.
Throwing The Rock into the mix is like creating a forcefield around Castle Grayskull. It’s protected from every threat and hugged in Herculean glory. He’s capable of taking the riskiest property and making it a viable business decision, or has everyone already forgotten about Rampage already? Plus, who wouldn’t want to see The Rock wearing a silly blonde wig to look exactly like the He-Man action figure?!
For too long, the power of a Masters of the Universe reboot has sat in the hands of the suits in ivory towers. Perhaps it’s time to give it back to the people and the People’s Champ.
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Twilight’s Kellan Lutz As He-Man In The Reboot Movie?
It seems Twilight star Kellan Lutz met with the studios to discuss He-Man. Back in 2016, the actor, best known for his role as Emmett Cullen in The Twilight Saga, took to Twitter and announced that the film is “in great hands”. In addition to his work on Twilight, Lutz starred as Hercules in 2014’s The Legend of Hercules and played Smilee in The Expendables 3. So he seemed like a really good choice for the role. But something went wrong again.
In 2016, the film’s director, McG, responsible for films like Terminator Salvation and Charlie’s Angels, chatted to IGN about his excitement for the film and working with Kellan Lutz as He-Man. “It’s a very exciting moment for Masters of the Universe. We have a big meeting with Sony regarding prep of the movie on Wednesday. And we’re in the middle of a bit of a script polish, and it’s my absolute passion. I’m laser-focused on that being my next film. But I mean, you know how it works in contemporary filmmaking. You really, really have to earn the goodwill of the parent studio, and Tom Rothman runs a tight ship at Sony, and we’re going to get there. I’m so happy to report that to the fans.”
Sadly. That He-Man film never happened. By 2017, David S. Goyer was rumoured to take over, writing and directing. By 2018, however, he too stepped away from the project. In an interview with THR, he described his work on the He-Man movie:
“What I liked the most about it was that it was mostly about a friendship between He-Man and Battle Cat. The idea was there had always been He-Men and different recipients of the Sword of Power, and that Battle Cat had always served at their side. And this was a new He-Man that Battle Cat and many people didn’t think was worthy of the sword. So it was a story of the character earning the sword but, more importantly, earning the friendship of Battle Cat, who just thought this guy was a lightweight. I really liked it. I thought it was a fun story. There was a lot of humour in it, and it creeps up on you because Battle Cat sort of grudgingly accepts him, and it’s Battle Cat’s acceptance of He-Man that gave this version of the story heart.”
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A Live-Action He-Man TV Show Could Be The Next Game of Thrones
There have been numerous false starts and broken promises of a live-action He-Man movie, as various filmmakers and studios try to bring Eternia to the big screen again. But maybe a film isn’t the right idea in the first place. With all the lore, colourful characters and enchanting world, can a live-action film truly capture the magic of He-Man in two hours?
After the success of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, author George R. R. Martin received significant interest from producers and film-makers trying to scoop up the rights for A Song of Ice and Fire to adapt into the next big-budget fantasy film series. Fortunately, none of these deals materialised before HBO optioned the rights to create Game of Thrones.
While there are still many fans touchy about the final season of the show, there’s no doubt that the serialised format suited the story. From all the characters to important subplots and developments, there’s no way a film—or trilogy—would be able to capture the essence of Martin’s world quite like the show did.
Similarly, Masters of the Universe is in the same boat, as there’s almost too much content to encapsulate in one film. There are plans to create animated shows for Netflix, but a live-action He-Man TV show wouldn’t be a bad move either. The audience has seen how Netflix managed to adapt The Witcher, successfully, so what’s stopping the streaming service from tackling He-Man as well?
Imagine a talented showrunner like Damon Lindelof, Lisa Joy or Steven S. DeKnight poking into the dynamic between Skeletor and He-Man, while peeling back the layers of why Eternia is always in the mess it’s in. There’s even the potential for an Excalibur-inspired arc that could follow Prince Adam discovering the Power Sword, which is then split in two with Skeletor holding the other half. The whole conflict would be around them trying to get both parts to unlock Castle Grayskull—an angle touched upon in the original comics.
Right now, it doesn’t seem like Hollywood has much faith in a He-Man and the Masters of the Universe movie. Instead of letting the franchise sit in a cupboard and gather cobwebs, it should receive the opportunity to be turned into a live-action TV show where there’s potential for multiple seasons of sword-and-sorcery fantasy. The world’s been asking for the next Game of Thrones; maybe it’s been right in front of us the whole time?
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Tell us, do you want a He-Man and the Masters of the Universe live-action reboot movie?
Credit to Ken Coleman for his Masters of the Universe art. Check out more of his He-Man artwork on Facebook.