Aug 18, 2010


12:56 AM

Somewhere along the line, while HE-MAN, the animated series/half-hour toy commercial was at its peak, some enterprising, self-proclaimed studio genius must have said, "Dolph Lundgren! He'd be a perfect He-Man!" The error lay, of course, in not realizing the differences between the two: one is a lifeless, two-dimensional caricature of masculinity; the other is a cartoon character.

So instead of a faithful adaption of the cartoon series, the producers offered this stripped-down rendition (scaled back, one would suppose, to accommodate the thespian abilities of its star). Lundgren -- blond, brawny and with a set of pecs that would give Dolly Parton pause -- plays the superhero locked in an eternal, epic battle with Skeletor, a power-crazed super villain played by scenery-shredding "superham" Frank Langella. They move through the story, such as it is, as statically as their counterparts in the afternoon kiddie cartoon.

Langella, (made up to look like Jack Palance with leprosy), aims to take over the planet Eternia, a war-torn paradise ruled by the Sorceress of Greyskull Castle ("St. Elsewhere's" Christina Pickles, wearing what appears to be a chandelier on her head), but her champion He-Man opposes him with his mighty sword. The titanic battle is brought to Earth when a brilliantly grating little troll (Billy Barty) magically transports them to Colby, Calif., via his Cosmic Key.

Actually they were headed for another planet, but a stray power bolt (or perhaps a chintzy producer) altered their orbit. Why build an out-of-this-world set when you can just go down to the mall and shoot off sparklers? So Earth waitress Courtney Cox and her boyfriend Robert Duncan Mitchell are drawn into the otherworldly warfare when they happen to find the key, mistaking it for some sort of Japanese stereo speaker.

Director Gary Goddard had previously created mythical kingdoms for Universal Studios -- "Kong on the Loose" and "Conan." And let's just say he hadn't quite made the leap from tourist traps to feature films. The actors are basically on their own -- either hamming it up behind a mask ( Langella), or nearly numb (Lundgren). It sounds as if the Scandinavian-born muscleman had been studying under Stallone's diction coach, but he has a sort-of-sweet, shining charisma, grinning and glistening, wearing thongs and things and accentuating his funkiness with plenty of grease. (It takes a lot of Wesson Oil to make a movie like Masters of the Universe.) Goddard later went on to direct the live action segments for the Terminator 3-D ride.

Over the years, Hollywood keeps threatening to remake He-Man or collect royalties from Showtime Beyond. Please do us a favor, stop! I rather see Mowgli and the Jungle Book come back to life.

Currently airing this month: Showtime Beyond

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