With the constant wave of reboots, delayed sequels, exploitative nostalgia, and the over-reliance on franchises and familiar intellectual property in Hollywood, it’s an absolute mystery how we haven’t had a new Masters of the Universe movie yet. It’s a concept that would translate well to the screen, would combine superheroics with high fantasy and science fiction, and offer plenty of franchise potential. There’s an easy pitch to be made about it being Game of Thrones with superheroes or some such nonsense.
And in any case, there is zero chance a new Masters of the Universe movie could ever be any worse than any given Transformers movie, right?
Anyway, it hasn’t happened yet, and it’s currently in development with David Goyer writing. But one of the many iterations this project has gone through was with Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2, Truth or Dare), and he was enthusiastic about bringing Masters of the Universe to life, but it apparently wasn’t the vision the studio was looking for.
“I had a really irreverent take on Masters of the Universe, and the studio, at the time, was very focused on a Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings take,” Wadlow told Collider. “I love He-Man. I still have all my original figures from the ‘80s. That’s how I got the job. I brought them in and put them on the table and was like, ‘This is why I’m a director!’ I wrote a scene where Prince Adam meets Ram Man and says to him, ‘So, they call you Ram Man, huh?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah.’ And he goes, ‘Do you like that name?’ And Ram Man goes, ‘I’m owning it.’ So, there was an irreverence to it, but at the time, that just didn’t gel with what they wanted to do.”
Of course, the names are one of the issues with Masters of the Universe…the main character is named He-Man after all. The broad strokes of Eternia’s mythology should easily translate to the big screen, but they’d have to do something about those names, otherwise there’s too much of an opportunity for an “irreverent” take to devolve into parody. But Wadlow seemed aware of that and how to balance it.
“It’s interesting now, with Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy. I think that’s sort of what I was trying to do, but either I was too early or they just never saw it that way,” he said. “That’s the weird thing about making movies in the studio system. You can have a take and a real point of view, but if it doesn’t line up with the point of view of the people who are writing the checks, it doesn’t matter.”
Marvel’s Thor movies are a prime example of what you might expect from a new Masters of the Universe film. Thor: The Dark World may not be a particularly good Marvel movie, but much of it had a distinctly Eternia vibe. The only time Masters of the Universe has made it to the big screen was the ill-fated 1987 movie, which I do have a soft spot for, and that film’s biggest crime was its insistence on setting too much of the action on Earth.
While personally, I wouldn’t argue for an “adult” Game of Thrones-oriented take on the material, in order for Masters of the Universe to work with modern audiences, there needs to be a certain mythic quality to it. Forget the toy line and the nostalgia, and tell its bizarre mix of space opera and fantasy. Interestingly enough, Justin Marks, now the showrunner of Starz’s well-regarded sci-fi series Counterpart, wrote a Masters of the Universe screenplay that struck that balance fairly well.