Masters Of The Universe (1987) – Dolph Lundgren

6/10 — Following the very popular cartoon series of the 80s, this action-packed movie sees Dolph Lundgren impersonate the legendary cartoon hero He-Man as he battles Skeletor and his minions, with the help of a few friends from his own world (Eternia) and from Earth after he opens a portal to Earth and has some funny interactions with the local police.

Masters Of The Universe is a light-hearted slightly childish action movie that still manages to mildly entertain a grown up action movie junkie four decades after its release. Especially watchable for those who grew up on He-Man cartoons, although it is somewhat underwhelming. Dolph puts in a bland but credible performance as He-Man. Frank Langella (with a mask) does a decent job as Skeletor. Courtney Cox is among the supporting cast members (she turned 23 just before this movie was released – this was 7 years before the Friends series began in 1994).

It doesn’t seem like a very high budget movie by today’s standards, but it’s not bad either. It had a budget of $22 million dollars at the time. Compare this to other movies of the same year: The Living Daylights (Timothy Dalton) had $40m; Beverly Hills Cop II (Eddie Murphy) had $27m; The Running Man (Arnie) had $27m; Over the Top (Stallone) $25m… But then Superman IV (Christopher Reeve) had only $17m; Police Academy 4 (Steve Guttenberg) had $17m; Predator (Arnie) had $15m; Lethal Weapon (Mel Gibson) had $15m; RoboCop (Peter Weller) had $14m… So by the standards of 1987 production budgets, Masters Of The Universe had a budget that was not massive but was still quite strong – the movie doesn’t quite do justice to the budget (some of the special effects, uniforms and man power were probably more costly than worthwhile – they have a cheap & cheesy feel by today’s standards but were probably very costly at the time), and it ran a deficit at the box office.

Cannon had a background in low to medium budget action movies starring the likes of Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson. They were new to making high budget movies and were struggling after Over The Top was a box office flop, so cuts were made everywhere on both Superman IV and Masters Of The Universe, and the sequel Masters Of The Universe 2 was abandoned along with a Spider Man movie, and sets & costumes of both were re-hashed into a new post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie called Cyborg (1989) starring Van Damme.

Masters Of The Universe director Gary Goddard revealed that staff were also threatening to stop working because they were not being paid on time, and while they were filming the final fight scene between He-Man and Skeletor the producers were literally pulling the plug while the cameras were still rolling. Goddard was forced to rewrite the ending to something much simpler than originally planned. Unsurprisingly, Dolph refused to come back for the sequel – surely a wise decision since the sequel was abandoned half way through.