Western Animation / He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)

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He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is a 2002 Continuity Reboot to the Masters of the Universe franchise, and particularly the 1980's cartoon; it's the first animated adaptation since 1990's ill-fated The New Adventures of He-Man. However, this series was similarly short-lived, and only lasted one and a half seasons before getting cancelled owing to a lack of promotion and poor toy distribution.

For what it's worth, this version was better received by fans than 1990's New Adventures of He-Man was.


Tropes:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Evil-Lyn and Keldor seemed to have a relationship going before Keldor became Skeletor.
  • All the Other Reindeer: Ancient Snakemen think lowly of their modern descendants, except for King Hiss, he loves all his children.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Fisto to Man-At-Arms.
  • Arm Cannon: Man-At-Arms wields a cannon on his forearm sometimes.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Odiphus is shown to desperately want to be fighting for the bad guys, which he ultimately does as Stinkor.
  • Autocannibalism: In the last episode, Zodak mystically hypnotizes four of King Hiss' heads into eating the fifth, and main, one (had the show gone on for another season he would have regenerated it).
  • Bad Boss: Skeletor is a terrible boss who constantly punishes and berates his minions while undermining any legitimate accomplishments they may make. The only reason they put up with this treatment is because they know he'd do much, much worse if they talked back.
    • Slightly averted with Stinkor, whom he often praises, even when missions go south. (It didn't keep him from sacrificing him along with the rest of his minions, though. Hence the "slightly".)
    • Later with his Council of Evil, he makes this striking threat to the giants over asking a simple question:
      "You are aware that I sacrificed my evil warriors without a second thought? And them I liked."
    • Hordak vaporizes one of his warriors - not for questioning him, but. for delivering bad news beyond his control that he didn't want to hear.
    • Subverted with King Hiss, who actually cares for his servants, and is the only one never seen abusing them.
      "He is as gracious to his allies, as he is ruthless to his enemies."
  • Badass Boast: The Pilot Movie has back-to-back examples.
    Skeletor: Surrender? Have you the faintest inkling to whom you speak? I am Skeletor, overlord of evil!
    He-Man: [deflects his blast] And I am He-Man, defender of Eternia!
  • Batman Gambit: Skeletor has one in spades in "The Council of Evil" two-parter. He sends all of his Evil Warriors to a region he knows the Masters regularly patrol, leading to them being captured. Once the Masters let down their guard, he sends his new team to capture them one-by-one. He also counts on He-Man rushing to Snake Mountain to try to rescue them.
  • Bifurcated Weapon: Skeletor's sword.
  • Big Bad: Skeletor.
  • Bigger Bad: Hordak was set up as this, but we never got far enough to find out if Horde Prime would exist there or not.
  • Bishounen: Poor Keldor
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • The Sorceress has the same limitations as in the original cartoon series, where she has extraordinary powers but could only use them in Castle Grayskull.
    • The Faceless One is implied to be a powerful practitioner of magic, but can't leave the Temple of the Ram Stone.
  • Body Horror:
    • In "Second Skin," King Hiss uses an ancient artifact to turn people into Snakemen - including Man-At-Arms, Teela and Mekaneck.
    • We don't see much, but what we do see of Keldor's skin melting and his transformation into Skeletor is quite horrifying.
    • Tri-Klops gets his cybernetic eye array busted open in one episode to give us a lovely view of cables going into his natural eyesockets.
  • Bolivian Army Cliffhanger: Season 1 ends with Skeletor capturing all of the heroic Masters, leaving only Prince Adam (sans Power Sword) to defend Castle Grayskull against Skeletor, all his minions, and nearly every villain from the whole season.
  • Broken Aesop: Pretty much the whole episode "The Courage of Adam". It implies that Adam is useless and really needs his alter ego form to be of any use. It also contradicts many subsequent lessons, about being yourself. Adam is never allowed to develop his own, more realistic character. What we see instead is an instant of little-effort, power-gain transformation.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: This series explains just what that phrase means.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Characters routinely stand near lava or dangle over it without suffering any ill effect.
  • Crushing Handshake: There is an episode where Man-At-Arms shakes hands with his brother Fisto. When they shake, Fisto's mechanical hand can be heard clanking, implying he's applying more pressure than he needs to. Man at Arms doesn't scream, however.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to the original series.
  • Deal with the Devil: "The Price of Deceit" reveals that after his last encounter with Randor, Keldor was taken to Hordak's sanctuary. Keldor begged him to save his life, which led to him being remade as Skeletor. Hordak warned this would come at a price, which he intends to collect in "The Power of Grayskull" by getting Skeletor to free him.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the second season, Skeletor and his minions appeared less frequently and had less impact on plots to make room for King Hiss and the Snake Men (Season 2 being half as long as Season 1 likely didn't help, either). Reportedly, this would've been rectified in a third season.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: This happens to Keldor when he first meets Evil-Lyn.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Nearly all of the villains and a few of the heroes. Most, yet not all of the cases are characters who had clawed feet in the original toyline.
  • Dumb Muscle: Ram Man, Clawful, Baddrha, and to a lesser degree Beast Man, Trap-Jaw, and Whiplash. Clawful is probably the single most emblematic example — the show's writers mention in DVD commentary that they once drew up a hierarchy of intelligence among the evil Masters, and Clawful was dead last. It's eventually revealed that he's more or less illiterate in his own native language; Evil-Lyn had to translate a message sent by his cousin for him. However, when it comes to physical might, he knows few true equals, and he can outmuscle even He-Man.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Happens a few times, with each example getting more screen-time later:
    • "Snake Pit" actually has three. The main example is Season 2 Big Bad King Hiss, who appears briefly in shadow in the flashback and later the pit. Webstor also makes a brief cameo in a cavern of Snake Mountain—setting up his appearance at the end of the season. A little fellow by the name of Odiphus appears in a cell, and he'll return in "The Sweet Smell of Victory" to become Stinkor.
    • Hordak makes a shadowy cameo in "Separation" when the Sorceress explains the origin of the dark hemisphere.
  • Enemy Mine: Stratos and Trap-Jaw have to work together to survive! It doesn't go well.
  • Even Bad Women Love Their Daddies: Evil-Lyn returns her father's sacred magical artifact the Ramstone to him after Skeletor tries to destroy He-Man with it.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Evil-Lyn is willing to help Skeletor in his attempt for world domination, but she will not betray her father and returns his magical Ramstone back to him when Skeletor loses it.
    • Also, Evil-Lyn wouldn't betray Skeletor to the Snake Men until one of them revealed to her Skeletor had set her (and his other allies) up to be captured so the heroes would be lured into a false sense of security. Even then, she demanded the one telling her to prove it.
  • Evil Uncle: Word of God indicates that in the 2002 reboot Keldor/Skeletor is actually King Randor's half-brother. Um... on which side of the family are Randor and Adam related to King Greyskull again? Funnily enough, Skeletor doesn't even know Adam's name (he thinks it's "Alan"), probably due to being exiled before he was born.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The Evil Warriors and the Snake Men are in much less amicable terms than in the old minicomics.
    • Had the series continued the plot would have eventually involved Hordak returning to Eternia and most of the fighting would be between the Horde and Skeletor's Evil Warriors.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Anwat Gar is/was feudal Japan.
    • Although its name seems inspired by Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
  • Foreshadowing: Teela reads Mekaneck's mind in "The Ties That Bind" and learns he wishes he had better powers. "Mekaneck's Lament" is built around this.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: King Grayskull gave his life to banish Hordak.
  • Huge Holographic Head: Hordak appears as one in "The Price of Deceit".
  • I Surrender, Suckers: In the pilot movie Skeletor pulls this off twice in the same fight.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: Most of Skeletor's Council of Evil is introduced in otherwise one-off episodes: Count Marzo in "Mekaneck's Lament," Evilseed in "Orko's Garden," and the three giants in "Buzz-Off's Pride."
  • It's the Journey That Counts / Magic Feather: King Grayskull seeks the power to defeat Hordak, and is told by a seer to give up his sword and journey to find a new magic sword. When he does, he finds the seer, who returns Grayskull's sword and tells Grayskull he always had the power, he just needed the trip to focus his abilities.
  • Large Ham: Man-E-Faces has his moments due to being an actor.
  • Magic Skirt: Teela fights in a very acrobatic style with flips, spins, and kicks, yet manages to maintain her modesty. However, "Awaken The Serpent" averts this; When she is lifted up by her ankle by Tongue-Lashor, her skirt drops down, resulting in a brief Panty Shot.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: Zortek in "Of Machines And Men".
  • Mommy Had a Good Reason For Abandoning You: As in the original series, the Sorceress is Teela's mother and cannot raise her due to her responsibilities. "The Ties That Bind" deconstructs it by showing the Sorceress anguishing over the choice she had to make and Teela struggling with being left in the dark.
  • Monster Shaped Mountain: Snake Mountain, it was eventually revealed to actually be a giant snake frozen in place when King Hiss and the Snake Men take over.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Pretty much everything the Snake Men do in Season 2 is the result of Zodak allowing Evil-Lyn and Kobra Khan to steal his staff.
  • Pet the Dog: Skeletor somehow manages to do this at the same time as he has a Kick the Dog moment. He admits that he actually does like his Evil Warriors (possibly as friends) but says this in the same breath as he admits to betraying them without a second thought. And he only says it as a threat to someone else.
    • "The Sweet Smell of Victory" has a similar example. Skeletor punishes the other warriors for failing, but he praises Stinkor for proving himself useful.
  • Pilot Movie: "The Beginning" three-parter originally premiered as this.
  • Power Incontinence: Poor Stinkor. He's not immune to his own power, either.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: In the last few episodes, King Kiss seeks to revive Serpos in order to conquer Eternia. However, when he learns Evil-Lyn is plotting to free Hordak, he puts all of his plans on hold to deal with that.
    Rattlor: It is vital that—
    King Hiss: That Hordak never return!
  • Race Lift: Zodak is black and Sy-Clone is more or less Asian. In response to the former, the Classics toyline split the difference and released "Zodac" (based on the original) and "Zodak" (based on the '02 interpretation) as separate figures/characters.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Skeletor.
  • Save the Villain: The climax of "Turnabout" sees Skeletor dangling from a cliff, begging to be saved. Much as he might want to let him fall, He-Man saves Skeletor and gets blasted for his trouble.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: King Hiss, the Snake-Men and Hordak. Skeletor and his Evil Warriors were like this but break free in the pilot.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: The Faceless One within his temple.
  • Spanner in the Works: Skeletor would've succeeded in "The Last Stand" if not for Zodak contacting Moss Man and aiding the Sorceress, as well as Orko finding Adam's Power Sword.
  • The Starscream: Evil-Lyn primarily. Tri-Klops has a brush with this in "Roboto's Gambit" when his new army proves quite unstoppable.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Shadow Beasts are quite powerful, but they can't stand light. Even moon light gives them trouble.
  • Wham Line: At the very end of "Lessons" when the Faceless One finds Evil-Lyn returned the Ram Stone.
    "Perhaps there's hope for you yet, my daughter."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Zodak deliberately allows the key to the Snake Men's prison to be stolen so that King Hiss can be released and Zodak can settle his personal vendetta against him.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer: He-Man is sometimes pretty clever in how he defeats his enemies in the 2002 series but most of his solutions usually involve crushing something since he's not quite as versatile as most of the bad guys. Supposedly, this version would always have enough strength necessary to complete any given task, he just needed to apply it correctly.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "The Power of Grayskull." Much of the episode is the Sorceress showing Adam King Grayskull's climactic battle with Hordak.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: In one episode, Skeletor spends the episode being mocked by his minions, because he is wearing a belt that shocks him whenever he thinks an evil thought, and seemingly can't be removed. When he finally gets the belt off, he gets his revenge by suspending his minions over a tub of lava.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Ram-Man is afraid of the dark. Orko is afraid of dragons, but as anyone who hears him say it replies, "Who isn't?"
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: He-Man assumes in "The Power of Grayskull" that Skeletor wants to free Hordak when the viewers know he's being blackmailed into it.


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