So, Masters of the Universe: Revelation debuted on Netflix a few months back and caused quite a stir among the online crowd. Countless bloggers and Youtubers have had quite the time turning it inside and out due to its perceived faults. They say it’s “too woke” by having Teela as the main character; Kevin Smith and Netflix misled the fans by promising it would star He-Man and then largely side-lining him; it emasculates the established male characters to promote girl power; Teela might be a (gasp) Lesbian! And on and on...
I didn’t really care for the story either, to be honest. But not because I hate women, gays, people of color or can’t accept change to the things I loved as a child.
I disliked the story because, once again, it changes the MOTU cannon.
Changing the story on the fly is nothing new with toylines, of course. Everybody does it all the time–Transformers, G.I. JOE, etc. The toy companies care about their bottom line not about strictly adhering to some nerd’s idea of what’s “real”.
As He-Man goes, we have the very first appearances. One was a crossover with Superman to show off this new world. Simultaneously, we had several toy pack-in comics with a different, rougher storyline (where Teela was the Sorceress and both He-Man and Skeletor had one half each of the Power Sword–the key to gaining entry to the mysterious Castle Grayskull).
We then got the classic He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon, which established its own identity, separating the Sorceress and Teela, adding King Randor and Queen Marlena and so on. The cartoon did a lot of world building, much of which has stuck right through to the present day.
We also had a short-lived Marvel Comic in the mid-eighties; a live-action film (which deviated a lot from the familiar story) and, of course, He-Man, a late-eighties/early nineties TV series that leaned more on the sci-fi side (and was also an attempt at a soft reboot).
Then, nothing for about twelve more years... it wasn’t until 2002 that we got a new toyline and a rebooted cartoon series.
Of all the iterations up to that point, the 2002 series was the high point for me. It explained both Adam and Skeletor’s origins (unlike the previous show) as well as adding in interesting new ideas like what Castle Grayskull actually was and introducing the fabled King Grayskull, Adam’s ancestor. It was an interesting story overall and it’s creators deserve their due credit.
By comparison, Revelation purported to be a continuation of the original cartoon but the continuity is debatable (more fairly, one could consider the original series could be seen as a jumping-off point for this story).
In Revelation, Castle Grayskull is just an illusion to disguise the “Hall of Wisdom”. King Grayskull is now black and Eternia is both at the center of the Universe and the font of all magic in it. The Power Sword can apparently be wielded by anyone (in the 2002 series, it was a mystical relic of King Grayskull and intended only for someone of his bloodline–Prince Adam).
I guess there’s technically nothing wrong with these changes. Nobody was beholden to the continuity of what had gone before, after all. And yet, I enjoyed the 2002 series so much I don’t feel like accepting this new story as just how things are now.
I can accept re-imaginings though. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, the 2021 CGI series, deviates a lot from the cannon (while keeping some ideas–like Keldor being Adam’s uncle, for example). In this newest series, Adam shares the power of Grayskull with his comrades while Skeletor embraces its chaotic opposite power (referred to as “Havoc”, like his traditional Havoc staff).
It’s familiar but different enough that it doesn’t try to ride the coattails of the original 80s series, the way Revelation does). I can respect that small yet vital distinction.
In a similar vein, I had no problem with the recent She-Ra re-imagining, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. It took the same basic ideas of the original and reinterpreted them for a newer generation.
I guess my point is, I’m open to new ideas and interpretations of old ideas and stories. If you like it, great. If you don’t, that’s fine too. Just ignore it and embrace the version you do love.
But, at the same time, creators have to have the courage to embrace their take on old ideas. Take it and truly make it your own. Own your take. Don’t try to half-ass it and have it both ways. I would’ve respected Revelation much better if they hadn’t tried to sell it as a sequel to the original eighties series. Similarly, the JJ Abramsverse of Star Trek and even the Rey trilogy from Star Wars would’ve been much better served by trying to stand on their own merits and be their own thing instead of hedging their bets relying on nostalgia.
Nostalgia is no substitute for a good story. If it isn’t good enough, go back and make it right. The fans, old and new, can wait and will appreciate the effort...