Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Drink Until It's AWESOME Vol. 1: Masters of the Universe

The basic premise of this blog series is that some movies/TV series suck. So I am trying to apply the beer goggles theory to them until they seem good.
First up is the live-action He-man movie Masters of the Universe. To try and make this one tolerable,  I have chosen a 4 pack of Hoponious Union from Jack's Abby and a pint of Heady Topper from the Alchemist. The former is a masterfully hopped lager that manages to be hoppy as all get out yet smooth and drinkable. Latter... well picture drinking hops. Glorious, tasty hops. So juicy. Mmmmm.
Of course, I started with an almost impossible task. This was the movie that taught me the phrase "cynical cash grab." I was seven when it came out. Even then, it was very clear that a bunch of people with no grasp or respect for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had sat down said "kids like He-man and Star Wars. Let's combine the two!" Problem was they learned nothing from either source and produced a seething mass of laser blasts and forcibly sodomized scenery.
I'm not saying the He-man cartoon was any good. The thing was a toy commercial. However, it was delightfully clumsy in pretty much every way. The live action version, however, replaced charming Filmation art direction with very tightly budgeted makeup, shiny objects, laser blasts, and EXPLOSIONS. It's entirely possible that the next Masters of the Universe movie will tell a well-written story in a coherent manner with a very stylish look to it. Many folks who grew up with the show built its wafer thin plot into this epic thing in their heads then grew up to become talented folks in their own right. This mess was an attempt to revive a dying product line made by a studio on its last legs by a first time director facing very tight budget constraints.
What amazes me the most in this film has to be Frank Langella as Skeletor. The man has given Earth-shaking performances on stage and screen for several decades. Yet here he is making Alan Oppenheimer's downright campy original performance look like a masterwork of subtlety and understatement. Langella is half a step away from Graham Crowden as Soldeed in Doctor Who at the absolute most. Maybe it's the makeup. They did something really weird. Skeletor got his name because he had the face of a skeleton atop the body of a twink. For this movie, he's Emperor Palpatine with white rubber skin and fangs borrowed from Langella's days in Gorey's version of Dracula. It's like Langella felt he was drowning underneath that confusing monstrosity of a face and needed to overact to be heard/seen through it at all.
Billy Barty managed to do alright as a low-budget substitute for Orko. His makeup restricted facial movement far more than Langella's but he gave the character as much depth as a quirky-cute character in this sort of movie could have. Lundgren had this amusing thing going on where he'd do the action-flick badass gravel voice 99.9% of the time then slip into a very thick Swedish accent for a couple syllables. Maybe it's the beer talking but I found myself kind of curious where the hell he was getting all that oil on his body from. It's interesting seeing how the principal from Back to the Future can manage to be the principal from Back to the Future with a gun and a badge. Then there are the mandatory "young Earthlings to whom our audience shall relate." Their performances are thoroughly unremarkable but it's amusing seeing Courtney Cox in her first big post-Springsteen role. Plus, I keep enjoying Robert Duncan McNeil projects and here he is all... young. The only thing remarkable about either performance is they manage to not be as annoying as the Earthlings in Transformers or The He-man She-ra Christmas Special. 
Good lord. I can't feel my face and this thing still strikes me as utter shit. It's magical shit that helped me form a bond with my brother. Let's look at Heady Topper. The folks at the Alchemist take great ingredients. They use a combination of passion and experience to turn them into that rare insanely hyped beer worth dragging my handicapped ass 5 hours to grab. This is basically the exact opposite of what happened when Masters of the Universe was made. The worst elements of two divergent properties the target audience liked were dropped in the lap of a guy who directs theme park rides who was then told "you will finish on time and on budget using Dolph Lundgren now GO!" I guess the rating system for this series of blogs should be number of livers I'd need to go through to make the movie in question look good. I realize that makes no sense but come the freak on I just compared Heady Topper and Masters of the Universe so it's clear I'm not thinking so well right now. I'd say this is a 2.5 liver movie.Still think it might be a better Star Wars movie than Phantom Menace but then again no Jar-Jar makes anything seem superior.

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