Masters of the Universe (1987)

Director: Gary Goddard

Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, Courtney Cox, James Tolkan, Christina Pickles, Meg Foster

Screenplay: David Odell

106 mins. Rated PG.

 

So there’s going to be a new Masters of the Universe film in a few years. With that, I figured it was time to revisit the infamous 1980s incarnation starring Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV, Aquaman). There are a lot of films that you can revisit years later and find a silver lining to. This will not be one of those reviews.

On the planet of Eternia, the villainous Skeletor (Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon, TV’s Kidding) have kidnapped the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull (Christina Pickles, The Wedding Singer, TV’s Break a Hip). He-Man (Lundgren) and his friends have a plan to save her, but when they fail to rescue the Sorceress, they escape using the Cosmic Key to a mystical place…called Earth. Now, they must recover the Key, return to Eternia, and defeat Skeletor once and for all.

This is not a good movie. It’s not good at all. Let’s start with literally the only thing that I think works in the film: Skeletor and Evil-Lyn. The two villains are pretty solid, even if they don’t get much to do. Langella is terrifically cheesy as Skeletor (his makeup effects are terrible, though) and Meg Foster (They Live, Overlord) is menacing as hell when adorned in her Evil-Lyn costume. I felt something almost Shakespearean in their portrayals, and in fact, they both site Shakespearean influences: Richard III for Langella and Lady Macbeth for Foster. While they both don’t have enough compelling dialogue or really much of anything to do in the film, I believe that they both put forth a solid amount of effort in elevating the material.

Now, onto the bad. First of all, I hate stories like this, where we take fantasy characters and remove the world, throwing them at Earth instead. Earth is boring, that’s why we go to the movies. Outside of Thor, this idea of traveling to Earth never works. It seems, for most of the film, that screenwriter David Odell (The Dark Crystal, Supergirl) knows nothing of the mythology of He-Man, and so removing Eternia from the equation makes us not have to worry about the mythology. Nothing that happens on Earth is interesting, whereas at least the stuff on Eternia has the ability to be engaging.

Then, there are distinct portions of the story that just don’t work. One of those elements is Gwildor, who replaces Orko from the source material. I just don’t understand why Orko is missing and this new incredibly annoying character has entered the mix. Gwildor is flat-out terrible.

The same can be said of this cosmic key device. Why is it necessary to the story to have the cosmic key played like a shitty synth musical instrument by everyone in the film? Why is this part of the story? It’s dumb and boring and serves no purpose.

I’d like to tell you that Dolph Lundgren plays He-Man well, but that’s not the case, and he’s the poster child for the lesson that you can look the part but you can’t always play the part. Lundgren survived most of the 1980s without any acting lessons, and if he’d taken the time to learn to perform, I think it would have served his career so much more than the brooding and the fighting.

Yes, just about everything in this film doesn’t work outside of Langella and Foster, and they’re doing their best. The studio had great faith in this film, and they had already prepped a sequel before this film under-performed. That sequel became the 1989 film Cyborg, but don’t ask me how that film was originally a Masters of the Universe sequel. This is a forgettable 80s film that should stay forgotten. Here’s hoping the new Masters of the Universe looks to this film for a case study of how not to handle the IP. Here’s hoping.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 2 – A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Director: Chuck Russell

Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne, Priscilla Pointer, Craig Wasson, John Saxon, Dick Cavette, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Robert Englund

Screenplay: Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell

96 mins. Rated R.

 

A Nightmare on Elm Street was a huge hit, and while its sequel, Freddy’s Revenge, was financially successful, New Line Cinema realized that the second installment of this popular franchise missed the mark in more ways than one. So, they went back to the creator, Wes Craven , for help. He reluctantly answered. The next installment would have to be one that honored the roots of the series while adding a fresh spin. It’s something more franchises should hope to achieve.

Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette, Boyhood, TV’s CSI: Cyber) is experiencing horrible nightmares at the hands of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, Lake Placid vs. Anaconda, The Funhouse Massacre). When her mother fears for her safety, she is admitted to Westin Hospital, a psychiatric ward run by Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson, Body Double, Akeelah and the Bee). There, she meets several other teens being tormented by Krueger. They soon learn from Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp, Hellraiser: Judgment, TV’s Just the Ten of Us), a survivor of Freddy’s slayings, that Kristen and the others are the last of the Elm Street children, and Krueger has plans to rid them once and for all. But Nancy has a plan using an untested sleep disorder drug and bit of practice, she plans to turn the tables on Krueger using his very dream power against him. But can they stop him?

Dream Warriors takes the high-concept premise of the original Nightmare on Elm Street and stretches it into new directions. There’s a more fantastical element in this sequel that would permeate through the rest of the series, especially seeing the “Dream” version of our core characters. Director Chuck Russell (The Blob, I Am Wrath) expertly flitters between horror and fantasy in a really special way.

It’s great to see Langenkamp return in the role of Nancy. It adds a feeling of returning to this installment that the previous film was lacking, and when you include John Saxon (Enter the Dragon, From Dusk Till Dawn) reprising his role as Nancy’s father, it feels like wrapping up loose ends. I get the sensation that this was intended to be the final film of a trilogy, and it works in that way while continuing on.

Newcomer Patricia Arquette shines as Kristen. I just loved watching her perform (it isn’t hard to believe, everyone on set was in love with her). She has an innocence that she adds to the role and a nice character arc as she struggles with finding the strength to defend herself from the horrific Krueger.

What’s really kind of amazing are the cameos from Dick Cavett (Beetlejuice, River of Fundament) and Zsa Zsa Gabor (Queen of Outer Space, Moulin Rouge). These kinds of cameos don’t ever really seem to work, but perhaps it is the sheer absurdity of it all (Cavett said he wanted Gabor to appear with him as he found her so annoying and would never actually interview her in real life) that seems to work. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of magic.

Dream Warriors was also a product of the 80s with its very own song performed by rock group Dokken. It’s a forgotten piece of marketing that I wish would come back. Lines like “Welcome to Prime Time, Bitch!” (Robert Englund famously improvised the dialogue) and the song “Dream Warriors” firmly plant this film in its time period.

I also have to credit the film for its incredibly unnerving special effects. There’s a sequence involving puppetry that, though it hasn’t aged perfectly, still works just as well. I have to mention the Freddy snake as well, phallic though it may be. This is an effects film done very well on a tight budget.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors forges a new path for its mythology and franchise trajectory, and it is one of the better installments in the series. Rooted in myth, horror, and fantasy, Chuck Russell’s film tortures its youthful cast of characters while developing each of them, even if some fall back to archetype as opposed to dynamism. It boils down to a film that is more fun the more you watch it, and it doesn’t lose its thrills for the sake of its more mystical elements. It’s a hell of a ride over 30 years later.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

For my review of Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, click here.

For my review of Jack Sholder’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, click here.

For my review of Danny Steinmann’s Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, click here.

For my review of Tom McLoughlin’s Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, click here.

 

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