Mill Creek Entertainment // 2002 // 910 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // October 26th, 2009
Adam: "I am Adam. Prince of Eternia, defender of the secrets of Castle Greyskull. This is Cringer...my fearless friend. Fabulous secret powers..." [CRASH! BAM BOOM!]
Back in the early '80s, He-Man was the star of the most homo-erotic, steroided-out fantasy ever to hit afternoon television. Let's face it: Prince Adam had a "fabulous secret" in which he went out at night wearing nothing but a harness that matched his furry g-string. He fought alongside a leather man called Man-At-Arms, and they battled a walking skeleton (subliminal "boner"?). Eternia seemed to give San Francisco a run for its money with a queer community that included a couple of strong lesbian women such as Teela and She-Ra. There was never any girl meets boy action, and there were always plenty of times to hold up swords in a phallic way and shout "I have the power!" while streams of white energy poured out. I always wondered why He-Man and the Masters of the Universe didn't end up having a float in my local gay pride parade.
When it came time to resurrect He-Man for a new round of adventures twenty years later, Mattel and the producers did the right thing. They wrote the stories more intricately, the action became more intense, and the animation looks light-years better borrowing heavily from an anime influence. Oh yeah: they also kept the gay angle running along underneath everything nicely. This new reimagining of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe carries on all the traditions you'd want to see in a new incarnation. The only thing missing is a rainbow flag flying over Castle Greyskull, but I wouldn't be shocked.
In this updated version of He-Man we are provided an origin story in the first three episodes. It seems that Skeletor is actually Prince Adam's uncle, and the hero has to become He-Man to hide that fact. There's a bigger difference between the two identities this time around, with Adam being a brash sixteen year-old, and He-Man being a much larger seemingly older imposing figure. We get back stories to tell how Man-At-Arms and Teela factor in to the battle, and Skeletor is, well...fleshed out quite a bit. The bad guys are all given more motives, and the good guys possess more pathos. Adam carries the weight of the world on his back, and that's tough for a teenager. But never fear: Eternia still has its fair share of comic relief. Yep, Orko is back.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was a reimagining that was done right. The 2002-2003 run of episodes were were tied to a new line of action figures released by Mattel to celebrate the milestone anniversary of their plastic figures. Toy sales projections aside, it was a nice project that gave depth to a series that had been simple and safe two decades prior. Luckily He-Man was going to run on the Cartoon Network in the United States which meant it could cater to a slightly older audience. In fact, the cable channel even removed the "morals" delivered at the end of each episode when they originally aired for two seasons.
All of these episodes have been on DVD before, lovingly presented by a distributor who closed its doors. Most collectors feared as BCI Eclipse closed down as a DVD distributing company that many of its properties would disappear from store shelves including this new version of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Thankfully Mill Creek Entertainment has snagged the rights to this one, and they have collected all the He-Man 2002-2003 episodes into one set here. Eternia lives on, and Prince Adam's legacy is intact.
The four discs mirror exactly what we saw released under the BCI logo including most of the extras. The pictures are clear and well delivered, and the sound is just fine to create the right excitement. "End of Episodes Morals" are intact and featured at the end of each episode. Interviews with Toyline Artists from Mattel and The Four Horsemen are still found on the final disc which features the men behind the plastic. 12 audio commentaries with the series developers and technical staff are scattered throughout the shows, and they are interesting narration of what it is like to work on an animated show. There are DVD-ROM scripts for episodes 1-39 and also one for the never-seen final show. There is also a PDF Comic Book for unproduced episode #40. Missing are the bonus discs that originally came with the sets including animatics and some other goodies.
This is a strong collection, and it makes sense to have the entire run on four DVDs. Collectors probably already own the multidisc original releases from BCI Eclipse. There's nothing new here to make those guys and gals purchase this again with fewer extras and no upgrades in visuals or sound). But if you missed the series the first time around it's nice to get all thirty-nine episodes in one shot.
He-Man is pure adolescent fantasy where the power of good always prevails, girls are kind of icky, and you always have guys to watch your back in times of need. Twenty years on, the nordic gym rat looks buffer and more righteous than ever. Eternia is a world where boys cheer their heroes, jeer the bad guys, and think a guy hulking around in a harness and g-string is cool. He-Man is the ultimate hottie straight out of West Hollywood or the Village of NYC. A guy who's all muscle and carries a big sword is always in demand.
Not guilty of losing the power! He-Man stays just as we recall with a nice tweak here and there two decades later.
Review content copyright © 2009 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 910 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* End-of-Episode Morals
* DVD-ROM Scripts
* PDF Comic Book
* Video: "Is He-Man Gay?"