Viking Night: Masters of the Universe
By Bruce Hall
October 27, 2015
Let’s pretend you’re head of Cannon Films, and you want to make a movie for children, but you happen to also hate them with the deranged intensity of a Disney villain. Sure, that sounds like an utterly impossible conflict of interest, but you’ve got $30 million to spend and you had a steaming hot bowl of honey nut hubris for breakfast. Sitting behind a ginormous mahogany boardroom table, you cast your gaze about the room, taking in the mountains of cocaine and steamer trunks full of dead hookers. As your breast swells with pride, you pose a scenario to your loyal minions, tugging absently at the lapels of your grotesquely expensive, Reagan-era three piece suit:
How can you bring the kids into theaters full of hope and excitement, yet ensure the little urchins leave with their hearts shattered and their dreams crushed? Smithers suggests a cynical toy-based cash grab, and for that, you toss him the keys to a brand new Porsche 911 Turbo. But it’s not enough. You need more. Kids love toys, and your goal is to take something they cherish and destroy it before their very eyes, with extreme prejudice. Johnson says his son likes to play with something called a “He-Man,” which is a blonde muscleman with a Prince Valiant haircut who runs around in furry underpants vanquishing evil with his big shiny broadsword.
Because it’s the ‘80s and you’re homophobic, you pose an obvious question - only to be assured that no, it’s not like THAT. But these toys are flying off the shelves, says Johnson, and it’s best to strike while the iron is hot. Before you have time to wonder what someone named “He-Man” was called when he was a baby, he suggests Dolph Lundgren as the lead - an actor every bit as chiseled, blond and emotively vacant as the action figure. For this, you fire Smithers, give Johnson the Porsche, and throw in a condominium in South Beach. By the end of the day, Mattel is on board, the budget has been slashed by a third, and you have a director lined up whose past film credits include...well...nothing, actually.
With your malevolent plan in place, you lean back in your chair and smugly steeple your fingers together as you grant Johnson two minutes with the Coke Pile and have Smithers thrown from the roof. And this, my friends, is how we ended up with Masters of the Universe. Or at least, that’s how I picture it. I haven’t been able to confirm my theory, as the film was such a colossal failure it helped destroy the studio that financed it. More important, it darkened the childhood of anyone in its target demographic, yours truly included. But maybe you’re not old enough to remember He-Man, so allow me to bring you up to speed.
He-Man was a musclebound guy with a Prince Valiant haircut who ran around in furry underpants, vanquishing evil with his big shiny broadsword. He and his allies fought to defend the magical realm of Eternia from Skeletor, who was some kind of bone-faced demon who also ran around in furry underpants and had much cooler friends than He-Man. Now that I think about it, this is all incredibly stupid, but it seemed cool when I was 12, so just deal with it. Anyway, Eternia was a fantastic land of swords and sorcery, lasers and spaceships, mythical beasts and epic battles that spanned the very dimensions of space and time. So naturally, instead of the film taking place THERE, the story is set in a sleepy Los Angeles suburb that looks suspiciously like Culver City, because it totally is.