I Have the Power…Kinda


Here come the B’s…

What Gen Xer doesn’t remember the original He-Man cartoon? And the toy line? Everyone I knew at school, including me, were huge fans and would play He-Man at recess all the time. And of course, we all remember the 1987 live action film, Masters of the Universe. The question is, though, do we really want to?


Of course we do. It’s B-movie heaven, it was made by the erstwhile Cannon Films, and it stars, among other luminaries, a very young and then-unknown Courtney Cox.

The movie opens with a big epic battle on Eternia. Skeletor (Frank Langella) has taken over Castle Grayskull and the Sorceress (Christina Pickles) is his prisoner. Little by little Skeletor zaps some of the Sorceress’s power, making her age rapidly. Evil Lyn (Meg Foster) stands by gloating.


Meanwhile, He-Man (Dolph Lundgren) is out fighting Skeletor’s minions alongside Teela (Chelsea Field) and Man-at-Arms (Jon Cypher), and in the process they free Gwildor (Billy Barty), the film’s apparent substitute for Orko. Gwildor is wanted by Skeletor because he invented a portal generator called the Cosmic Key that plays thunderous chords that sound like synth music. He’s no sooner taken our heroes into his house to show off his invention when Skeletor’s troops come blasting in and the good guys have to escape into a secret passage that leads to Grayskull.

He-Man orders Skeletor to release the Sorceress, but it’s a no-go, and when the baddies see Gwildor has the Cosmic Key they inevitably start firing their lasers all over the place, so Gwildor starts hitting random buttons to get the group out of Grayskull. If they don’t get back by the time the moon rises, Skeletor gets all of the Sorceress’s power and all is lost.


Surprise, surprise, they crash-land on Earth, specifically in Colby, California, where high school senior Julie Winston (Courtney Cox) is just finishing up her last shift at Robby’s Ribs ‘N’ Chicken where she’s been working. Her parents died in a plane crash, she feels guilty about it because she thinks she caused it, and she’s going to start over in New Jersey. Everyone, from her co-worker at Robby’s to her boyfriend, Kevin Corrigan (Robert Duncan MacNeill) is trying to talk her out of it because they think she’s running away, but Julie won’t be deterred. However, after a quick meal of ribs with Brian in his van and a farewell visit to her parents’ graves, she has time to stop by the high school for Brian’s band’s soundcheck.

While in the graveyard Julie and Brian find the Cosmic Key, which Brian thinks is some kind of cool new instrument, especially after he plays a few chords. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know that Skeletor has the other Cosmic Key, and when he plays it some more at soundcheck Skeletor is able to trace where the signal came from and the inevitable happens.


Meanwhile, He-Man and the gang have split up to look for the Cosmic Key, and among other places Teela, Man-at-Arms and Gwildor find themselves at Julie’s chicken and rib restaurant, where Gwildor nips a bucket from the backseat of a car where a couple is making out. Man-at-Arms and Gwildor enjoy the repast, but Teela’s never seen meat before and finds eating off of bones disgusting.

In the meantime, He-Man arrives at the high school just in time to rescue Julie, who’s being chased by Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, and Skeletor’s minions. As soon as Brian gets back from the music shop, where he’s trying to find out more about the Cosmic Key, not to mention shake off police detective Lubic (James Tolkan), he’ll find Julie and himself in a place he never expected. And oh yeah, Skeletor and Company are going to pay Colby a visit. It’s pretty safe to say Julie’s going to miss her flight to Jersey.


It only takes a few seconds after the opening credits roll to start questioning one’s life choices. Frank Langella as Skeletor comes striding into Castle Grayskull, and as soon as he starts talking I long for the great Alan Oppenheimer. Not that Frank Langella is a bad actor, not at all, and props to him for taking the part because his son was a Skeletor fan, but his mask looks like it was bought at a Halloween store.

A lot of other elements are laughably kitschy as well. Brian seems to be the only band member at his soundcheck, and we know he’s not a one-man band, so that seems weird. For that matter the streets are also weirdly devoid of anyone else. Sure, it all happens in the dead of night, so there could at least be the odd homeless guy around, or cops, or someone, but all we get is Detective Lubic. As Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times pointed out, “Most of the town seems to have been plunged into some weird hibernation…At the end–with holocausts of Richard Edlund effects erupting, Langella screaming his head off, UFOs floating overhead, laser rays exploding every which way, and a small army of Darth Vaders tromping down Main Street–not one person in this bizarre town even bothers to come out and gape.”


Also, the idea of Teela not knowing what meat is seemed a little odd, seeing as the characters on the Filmation show were constantly pictured eating what looked like meat, particularly turkey legs. And I missed Orko, although logistically he would have been really tough to create. It’s too bad, because he was so cute.

On the positive side, Meg Foster as Evil-Lyn brings a new approach to the character, who could be pretty screechy on the show although menacing. Foster purrs and simpers her way through the role and in a way, she was forced to be a strong presence, because legend has it her costume weighed forty-five pounds. She can’t do much but stride around and thunder and look icy, but she does it really well.


Dolph Lundgren as He-Man puts in a decent performance, but dialogue was clearly dubbed in places and the words don’t always match his lip movements, plus his Swedish accent gets thicker in times of stress. He’s still got the right look for the part, and he even brings a 1980s rockstar mullet into the proceedings, so that’s cool. My major beef, though, is that we never see He-Man’s famous strength at any time throughout the movie. He barely even uses his sword. Even when things start to go in, shall we say, a good direction, He-Man is closer to Conan the Barbarian or Rambo than the He-Man we know so well. He’s not unique anymore. That’s probably a big part of why the movie flopped when it was first released.


As for our B-lister Courtney Cox, it’s really fun seeing her at the beginning of her career, and it might just be hindsight talking, but the camera clearly likes her. What she thought of the film seems to be lost to history because she was a newcomer at the time, but we all know where she ended up.

Masters of the Universe isn’t unwatchable; in fact, it seems to have developed a cult following since 1987, but a lot depends on how much a person was into the original Filmation series and the toy line, which of course, had its own canon. My teenage son loved the movie. I was less than enthusiastic although I enjoyed myself.

Coming up this month (click the images for more info)…

Shades of Shane blogathon 2futurethon_star-trek

I can’t believe we’re in April already. Anyway, for more B movie goodness, please see Brian at Films From Beyond the Time BarrierThanks for hosting this, Brian–it was a great idea. Thanks for reading, all, and I hope to see you Tuesday for another post…

Masters of the Universe is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon, and is free to stream with ads for Prime and FreeVee customers.

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If you’re enjoying what you see on Taking Up Room, please look for additional content on Substack, where you’ll find both free and subscriber-only articles. I publish every Wednesday and Saturday.

14 thoughts on “I Have the Power…Kinda

  1. Oh, Rebecca.. this was a fantastically fun and hilarious review!

    I played with He-Man action figures back in the day in casually watch The animated series, but I skipped the big cinematic live action version. Maybe it’s best I did back then because I suspect I would appreciate the overabundance of cheese now more than then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, John! Yeah, I’m with you on that–the movie was barely on my radar back then. I think it was a lot darker than people anticipated so parents may have given it a hard pass.


  2. This is a great review of the movie! A lot of fun. Anyway, I am at the older end of Gen X, so I never owned the action figures or played “He-Man,” but I watched the cartoons when I wasn’t doing something else of an afternoon. I remember seeing the movie on one of the premium channels and my first thought was that they really didn’t capture the cartoons very well! Of course, now I can appreciate the film for its camp value. I am not sure I’d call it a camp classic, but it is fun to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rebecca, thanks so much for joining the blogathon with this flashback to Masters of the Universe! I have to admit I was a bit too old to appreciate the original cartoon, so some of the references went over my head, but it sounds like it has some stand-alone value as a cult artifact. I love Meg Foster, especially for her villain roles, but I wonder if someone on the production had it in for her – a 40 pound costume? Really? And I always smile at movies where literal wars are breaking out in city streets and there’s no one around for miles.

    Is it my imagination, or is it obvious in that last screenshot that the girl there was bound for bigger things? 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very welcome, Brian! Yeah, Meg Foster was a definite highlight, and I think you’re right–in some parts she sounds out of breath. And yeah, Courtney Cox seemed presented really well for someone who had done pretty much nothing except for a Springsteen video and some bit parts. It’s like they knew. 🙂


  4. Nice review, Rebecca, with some interesting facts! I’m Gen X, as well, but I just missed the whole He-Man craze (I graduated high school in 1986). I saw the movie years later, but I never had the benefit of seeing the cartoon show it was based upon. I still found it to be silly fun. Anyway… I just wanted to say that it was refreshing to read a review from someone who knew the back-story, and your insight into the expectations. Fun read!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very nice review! I’m afraid I’m much too long in the tooth to be familiar with the He-Man phenomenon, but I like Dolph Lundgren and Meg Foster, so this would be fun to watch. Was this film made before or after Courtney Cox was featured in that Bruce Springsteen video?


  6. Gwildor? Gwildor?!? As a kid watching the animated show, Orko was my favourite character. (Who can forget that episode when we finally get to see him, from the back, with his hat off.) How could they replace him? If you don’t have the budget or skill to make him fly, just have him walk around. He is basically a Jawa with a wide-brimmed hat.

    Nice article, Rebecca. The premise of transplanting the characters to Earth never sat well with me, so I skipped this movie when it came out. It doesn’t sound like I missed too much but I appreciate finally learning some of the plot details.

    Liked by 1 person

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