Masters of the Universe: Revelation (Part 2) Review – Nihilism And Action-packed Imagery Collide In Kevin Smith’s Animated Show
When it was announced that Kevin Smith and Powerhouse Animation Studio are coming together to make a two-part He-Man show called Masters of the Universe: Revelation, there was excitement in the air. Things got all the more thrilling when the voice-cast was revealed, with Chris Wood playing He-Man, Mark Hamill as Skeletor, Liam Cunningham as Man-at-Arms, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela, Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn, Stephen Root as Cringer, and Tony Todd as Scare-Glow! But Part 1 of the show was received quite negatively as it shifted the focus from He-Man and Skeletor to the people and the universe that’s impacted by their rivalry. Which was weird because it fleshed out these one-note characters in interesting ways. Part 2 has done much of the same, albeit on a larger canvas, thereby making it one of the best-animated properties of the year, to be honest.
Part 1 was largely about resurrecting He-Man after he was apparently killed trying to contain the explosion of the mystical orb of Eternia which was cracked by Skeletor and restoring the magic that powers all of reality. It concluded with Skeletor returning to power after biding his time in Evil-Lyn’s staff, mortally wounding Adam/He-Man, and using the iconic sword to become God Skeletor.
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Part 2 starts off with God Skeletor relishing his newfound powers and talking about how he’s finally going to kill He-Man for good. But all that is sidelined thanks to a heroic rescue by Cringer and a heart-breaking sacrifice by the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull (Susan Eisenberg), allowing He-Man, Teela, Andra (Tiffany Smith), and Cringer to escape. Unfortunately, they aren’t able to hide from God Skeletor for too long. He unleashes hell by turning the citizens of Eternos into skull-faced ghouls, thereby forcing Adam to become a beast-like version of He-Man to stop God Skeletor.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 1 undoubtedly had some of the most amazing action sequences which seemed to be heavily inspired by anime, prioritizing stylish and abstract artwork over one that’s physiologically accurate. With the Beast He-Man versus God Skeletor fight in the second episode, Kevin Smith and his team of immensely talented animators, editors, and VFX artists make it clear that they’re going to do more of that in Part 2.
It’s a He-Man versus Skeletor fight that you have never seen before. The characters, the landscape, and the virtual camera move like they are high on Dragon Ball Z (1989-1996), the Dumbledore versus Voldemort fight from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), and Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal (2019). Every single punch and kick, magical or otherwise, hit hard not just because of the animation, but also since you get to see the fear and disbelief on Skeletor’s face upon seeing an untempered He-Man. And that is beautifully balanced by the fact that you’re seeing a champion like He-Man lose everything he stands for due to one act of desperation.
That’s exactly what makes Masters of the Universe: Revelation (both parts) so enjoyable. The writing always prioritizes character-work over traditional crowd-pleasing moments. Who doesn’t want to see every single character on-screen go absolutely wild with their powers or gadgets and fight it out until the end of time, while Bear McCreary’s pulse-pounding score plays in the background? But Smith and his team understand that all that effort will go to waste if they don’t sit with these characters and delve into why they are fighting.
Without going into specifics, the entirety of Part 2 hinges on the notion that all of existence is pain and suffering. Hence, everything should come to an end. The counter-argument is that if you have the power to prevent that pain and suffering, you should, instead of lamenting about it. And that’s such a brilliant moral conflict to battle over because it helps us understand why the heroes and villains are who they are. Instead of just duking it out to dominate Grayskull, the villains and the heroes get to dissect the repercussions of their actions, subvert a lot of archetypes that come with the genre, and change for the better.
All this brilliant writing and eye-popping animation is substantially complemented by the voice cast. As usual, Mark Hamill is clearly having a lot of fun with Skeletor. By this time we should be used to his acting prowess. But it still comes as a surprise when he plays a villainous character in the most lovable way possible. You know that you should absolutely loathe Skeletor. Yet you cannot help but adore his theatrics. That said, Lena Headey gets to have more fun than Hamill with Evil-Lyn. The reason is spoiler-y in nature. So, just keep in mind that Evil-Lyn takes a very fascinating turn that allows her to go into cerebral monologues about life, death, and more.
It’s delivered so deliciously by her that it made me crave for a live-action Evil-Lyn spin-off. Because wouldn’t it be awesome to see her top her animated counterpart in terms of wicked expressions? And although it’s an uphill task, Gellar manages to match up to Headey and give an equally nuanced performance from the other side of the morality spectrum. Wood’s take on He-Man/Adam is an instant classic. It might seem a little goody-two-shoes-esque. However, that’s exactly what the character is and it’s great to see Wood embrace it unabashedly. The rest of the voice cast is perfect and they manage to ace it whenever the spotlight is on them.
So, contrary to popular opinion, Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 2 is pulpier, heavier, and more entertaining than Part 1. The vibrant animation is clearly the biggest draw here. But it’s the journeys that Kevin Smith and his team go on along with iconic characters like He-Man, Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, and more is that will stay with you. And you can say that Bear McCreary’s energetic score is the icing on the cake. Do give it a watch if you are a fan of the original animated series. It doesn’t matter if you are not because you haven’t watched the original animated series, or you have watched it and didn’t like it. Smith and Powerhouse Animation Studio’s take is completely fresh and packed with enough informative lore to keep you engaged while the animators and voice cast take you on a rollercoaster ride through Eternia.