BCI Eclipse // 1990 // 688 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 25th, 2007
Skeletor still has eyeballs.
The second, and final, dose of "new" He-Man, arrives from the talented folks at Ink and Paint, and like the release before it, the presentation is top-notch, but the content housed within leaves much yearning for yesteryear.
He-Man came back after the departure of the original Filmation series, under new creative leadership. The new plot has a sleeker, younger He-Man transported to the world of Primus to fend off attacks from a gang of ill-tempered mutants. Gone are mainstays like Man-at-Arms, Beast Man, Evil Lyn, Orko (be grateful for the little things), and Battlecat. Skeletor is still around as he followed He-Man to Primus to take over head-jackass duties, but he's not the same eye-less, whiny prick we had come to know and love from the previous series.
Volume 2 features the final 32 episodes of the series, spread over five discs:
"Zone of Darkness"
"Once Upon a Time"
"A Plague on Primus"
"The Test of Time"
"Four Ways to Sundown"
"The Sheriff of Gorn City"
"The New Wizard in Town"
"The Nemesis Within"
"The Dream Zone"
"You're in the Army Now"
"No Easy Way"
"The Guns of Nordor"
"The Bride of Slushhead"
"Mutiny on the Mothership"
"Rock to the Future"
"The Running of the Herd"
"Balance of Power"
"The Call to the Games"
"The Blacksmith of Crelus"
"A Time to Leave"
"The Final Invasion"
If you read my review of the The New Adventures of He-Man: Volume 1, you'll know I wasn't impressed. That feeling of disappointment has carried over, with little surprise, to this second set. I'm just not into this re-imagining of the He-Man mythos, and while I will certainly agree the original wasn't a masterwork, at least it had charm, innovation, and nostalgia in its corner. The New Adventures retains none of those things, and if it weren't for the character names, it could pass as just another sub-par Saturday morning, action, kids show.
The trouble starts with the premise: a far-out narrative that propels He-Man and his pals more into space and science fiction than the barbarian fantasy from whence it came. He-Man is now less Conan and more Flash Gordon, and while that change in tone isn't necessarily an indictment against the series, the writers have stocked the universe with uninteresting stories and characters, while stripping away the goofy charm of locales like Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain. Seriously, how could there be no Castle Grayskull in a He-Man cartoon?! In fact, Prince Adam lofts the Power Sword (which has also received the scifi treatment) and calls on the "power of Eternia" for his He-Man transformation. If I were the Sorceress, I would be molting with rage.
The characters are pretty lame too. Prince Adam has traded his pink outfit for a costume belonging to an extra from The Passion of the Christ. When he turns into He-Man, he jumps into a pair of blue spandex tights and some sweet Han Solo boots. The guy is still a Boy Scout, but more self-aware than the hopelessly oblivious original He-Man. Similarly, this incarnation of Skeletor has more a sense of humor about himself; small concession considering that, as a character, he's totally different from his predecessor. Gone are the insane high-pitched rants of destruction, surrounding by fools, and a look that has shifted from the purple loincloth ensemble to a more futuristic get-up. And then there are his eyeballs, which make him looks less terrifying and skeletal and more Muppety. The supporting characters aren't much better, featuring such icons of animation as Flogg, Flipshot, President Pell, Spinwit, Slushhead, and a freak named Sagitar with two torsos. Teela makes a brief appearance in "Once Upon a Time," but jets shortly after.
Like the original, the stories are packed with plot conventions and one-time characters; understandable considering the prime reason this show and others like it were on the air was to hock toys. Still, it doesn't make the episodes any less corny. You've got Skeletor using an aging rock star from Earth to brainwash the people of Primus with his rock music (featuring a legendary sequence where Skeletor and the mutants beat the crap out of roadies); He-Man's struggle with a committed fan; a major confrontation with a bunch of malicious plants; and a very special wedding episode where Skeletor wears a tuxedo. As the season winds down, a four-part story arc involves He-Man and the Galactic Guardians facing Skeletor and his Mutants in a set of interstellar games. The final episode pits He-Man against Skeletor in a one-on-one confrontation (Skeletor: "Welcome to your final resting place...She-man!"), which culminates in a total letdown.
The full frame animation quality is uneven, with some shots looking like third-rate deleted scenes. It's not a great transfer, but it's adequate. The shallow 2.0 stereo sound does nothing special. But everything else about this releaser is grade-A Ink and Paint. The packaging is dynamic and colorful, featuring detailed plot synopses, artwork from the show, and two collectible art cards. Disc Six is devoted the extras, including two documentaries: "The Fans of He-Man and the Universe," featuring interviews with fans and collectors of He-Man memorabilia; and "The Power and Legacy of He-Man and the Master of the Universe," which acts as a nice wrap-up to the documentaries that preceded it, bringing the artists, filmmakers, and fans of the series together to reminisce. Also on the disc: profiles of characters, creatures, and artifacts, trivia, and trailers.
The extras on this set are terrific, but the show itself is a whiff. The newfangled characters and mythology is a far cry from the original He-Man, though the sense of humor is bit more refined. That's really the only accolade I can send. The series is a bombastic, cheesy mess.
This one still doesn't have the power.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BCI Eclipse
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 688 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "The Fans of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe"
* "The Power and Legacy of He-Man and the Master of the Universe"
* Character Profiles
* Art Cards
* He-Man Fansite