Masters of the Universe [Blu-Ray]
Directed by Gary Goddard
A decade late Star Wars rip-off attempt, Gary Goddard's live action adaptation of the popular '80s fantasy cartoon is so delightfully atrocious it could just as easily be seen as enjoyable as it is horrible. It's difficult to quantify the enjoyment one can derive from watching a major studio film so incompetently made that it's astounding the finished product was even released, however. Fans of grand scale unintentional comedy should be delighted it was though. Masters of the Universe is a special achievement in off-kilter blunders. The story is convoluted and vague while being ridiculously high-concept. A barbarian prince with a magic sword and his wacky pals escape to Earth with the aid of a magic key — basically a bunch of rotating tuning forks — after being chased out of castle Grayskull on their home planet of Eternia by villainous despot Skeletor, who's presumably cranky all the time because he has no skin, blood or muscle tissue. In her big-screen debut, Courtney Cox plays the girlfriend of a musician who finds the magic key and mistakes it for a fancy new Japanese synthesiser. The innocent earthlings get sucked into the conflict when Skeletor sends his henchmen to retrieve the key. Some of the creature design is actually pretty menacing and grotesque, but little things like the inability of Beastman to move his mouth or change facial expressions make the minions better instruments of comedy than evil. The same issue plagues the bizarre, hobbit-like thing played by Billy Barty. Gwildor's mouth doesn't consistently move when he's speaking and in some shots, he has a lazy left eye that's never addressed. He doesn't mention it in the commentary track — the lone special feature on this 25th anniversary re-release — but first-time (and only) director Gary Goddard must have realized the kind of non-actor he was saddled with in Dolph Lundgren — for the main character, he doesn't have a whole lot of screen time. When he is on screen, it's quite possibly the worst performance ever given by a lead in a major motion picture. From remarkably stiff line readings to reacting to blows before they connect and sword movements so clumsy Goddard resorts to cutting to close-ups of Dolph's nipples during fight scenes, the living meat prop is clueless on a level that could never be achieved by intent. To contrast, future Oscar nominee Frank Langella is acting in a completely different movie than any of his co-stars. As Skeletor, Langella strikes a stunning pitch of zealous pomposity and vitriolic menace, even under a horrendous facial prosthetic that look like foam caked in white grease paint. The professionalism of his work just highlights the utter shoddiness of the rest of the performances and every other element of production, adding to the bizarre appeal of witnessing the film industry at its most incomprehensible.
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