Let's get this Spoiler warning for Netflix's Masters of the Universe: Revelation out of the way early. This piece discusses what happens in the show, and what's made fans so angry with show-runner Kevin Smith. Go watch it now if you're curious, or just scroll down if you want to understand the uproar without watching.
OK, first things first: Kevin Smith (Clerks, Dogma) is no stranger to controversy or fandom. He knowingly made Masters of the Universe with the fans in mind, telling Variety (opens in new tab) that "if they were like, ‘We want you to reinvent this for the modern age’ — that would have scared me off creatively, because I’m not that inventive ... And also, because I know what a fan base reacts like when they don’t get the thing they grew up watching."
While Smith made a series that "feels both lovingly consistent with the source and fresh at the same time," according to Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com (opens in new tab), he did change some things. There's less He-Man in this Masters of the Universe.
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And it's not just that. This He-Man dies, and dies early. And so does Skeletor. Or at least that's what the first episode makes you think. By episode 5 we learn that Skeletor and He-Man (aka Prince Adam) aren't really dead. But that's apparently too long of a wait to get the characters back. Especially when you expand the role of another character in He-Man's absence.
Which is how you get a very wide split of critics and audience review scores on Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab), where Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 1 has a 94% from critics and an abysmal 32% from the audience. That low score from the audience is the result of something known as "review-bombing," when fans try and take revenge on a show or movie by throwing one-star scores or lower at it.
In that same Variety interview, Smith reacted to the backlash, stating “I see people online go, ‘Hey man, they’re getting rid of He-Man!' ... Like, you really f*****g think Mattel Television, who hired me and paid me money, wants to do a f*****g ‘Masters of the Universe’ show without He-Man? Grow the f**k up, man. Like, that blew my mind, bunch of people being like, ‘Oh, I smell it. This is a bait and switch.'"
He-Man fans are letting it rip
And the fans are truly upset, Laura L gave it a 1/2 star review, writing "They destroyed the comic. It seems a spin-off. They should have called the Teela's show. He-Man without He-Man and Skeletor is another comic."
An even-more animated angry review came from Yelisey K, who admits that they were "so let down by this series that [they] made an account" to leave a 1/2 star review that goes onto say "I don't understand what professional critics see that I don't. It's a He-Man series without He-Man. Like, why do you hate your fans? You guys did to your audience what I did to my parents- you let them down."
Unsurprisingly, gender-based changes to the show may play a role in the anger, as has happened in many a pop culture reboot as of late (remember the Ghostbusters movie?). Mark S wrote in to praise the animation before saying "This should have be called 'He-Maam the masters of bait and switch,' Not only did He man not have hardly anything to do with the story, they kill off or hide EVERY male character in the story.... Its an insult and a slap in the face for anyone, who as a kid, liked the show. Then to add insult and injury they make the new star Shela a straight up B. Rude, and unlikeable." This one-star review criticizing an "unlikeable female" lead isn't exactly surprising to anyone.
Not all fans are angry
Some fans approve of Smith's handling of the series. RT commenter Nina M, who apparently finished the show, gave it a 5-star review and wrote "I really enjoyed the path they're taking with Teela, it's always nice to see females in the lead role as badass warriors. Can't wait for part 2, hopefully, we'll see more of Adam: He-Man, but regardless the show, the characters, the animation, and the music is great."
Dante H called out his fellow commenters in his five-star review, noting "Great and fun watch. Not the greatest, but the 80s cartoon wasn't either, but really really damn good. Totally a fun watch and worth the time to see all 5 episodes before judging it."
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