Masters of the Universe: Revelation received critical acclaim ahead of its launch on Netflix late last week, but the animated continuation of Eternia’s finest has been faced with review-bombing and anger on social media thanks to a bad-faith interpretation of what the show’s doing that showrunner Kevin Smith has little time for.
Much of the backlash to Revelation has been how Smith and the team behind the Powerhouse Animation Studios series purportedly “lied” to He-Man fans by having He-Man and his alter-ego, Prince Adam (both voiced by Chris Wood in Revelation), not play a major role in the five episodes released by Netflix on July 23. In the first half of a debut season, the episodes focus on Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar) as she travels Eternia’s equivalents of heaven and hell in an attempt to revive Adam, after He-Man sacrifices himself to defeat Skeletor at the climax of the premiere. Despite being dead, He-Man and Adam appear in some flashbacks in the vast majority of the episodes, and the wider thrust of the series is still about him, despite characters like Teela, Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey), and Andra (Tiffany Smith) being at the forefront of the narrative.
“I know there’s some people that are like, ‘Hey, man, this show’s woke,’” Smith said of the backlash in a wide-ranging interview with Variety. “I’m like, ‘All right, great, then so was the original cartoon we’re fucking sequel-izing. Go watch it again. There are girls in every episode. Deal with it.’ It’s been interesting, seeing who truly is a hardcore fan, because anybody that’s like, ‘Oh, man, there’s not enough He-Man’ or something like that, doesn’t understand the show that we based it on. There were episodes where he lost the sword and he never became He-Man. It wasn’t like He-Man always saved the day. His friends helped him. That was the fucking point of the show.”
That was even before the real backlash began in the wake of the show’s release. Irate viewers nosedived the public ratings for the series on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, and a whole cottage industry of reactionary YouTubers have declared that Smith has turned He-Man too “Woke,” too “SJW,” too… “She-Man?” But no matter what they say, Smith has plenty of candor for what he thinks of fans who believe he’s ruined He-Man by, in large part, still telling a story about He-Man through the eyes of Revelation’s wider cast. “I see people online go, ‘Hey man, they’re getting rid of He-Man!’’ Smith continued. “Like, you really fucking think Mattel Television, who hired me and paid me money, wants to do a fucking Masters of the Universe show without He-Man? Grow the fuck up, man. Like, that blew my mind, bunch of people being like, ‘Oh, I smell it. This is a bait and switch.’” That is indeed what some believed — before watching the show, mind you — as “Kevin Smith lied” trended on Twitter for a bit.
Revelation’s first batch of episodes ends with a cliffhanger: after Teela and her allies have resurrected Adam, Skeletor is likewise revived but mortally wounds Adam just as he attempts to transform into He-Man again. But Wood himself hopes fans can read the cliffhanger for what it is, rather than decrying that Revelations has ruined the character he voices forever. “Adam’s not dead; he’s very wounded. If you want to light the whole world on fire, in terms of destroying a fandom, you’d take He-Man out and be like, ‘That’s it, he’s gone, bye!’” Wood said of what fans have seen so far. “Now what they’ve done is they’ve found really interesting ways to turn the dynamics of the show on its head and raise the stakes to a point that the original never saw.”
It would seem that the world got lit on fire anyway. The first five episodes of Masters of the Universe: Revelation are now streaming on Netflix.