“Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”
A review by Brian C. Baer
The Masters of the Universe franchise has been going through a cultural reappraisal of late. The characters have popped up in commercials, there is an upcoming She-Ra reboot, and Masters of the Universe was even the focus of an episode of Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us series. That reexamination continues with Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, a brand new, Kickstarted documentary also coming to Netflix at the end of the month.
Power of Grayskull is an impressively slick, very professional presentation from co-writers / co-directors Randall Lobb and Robert McCallum. These two found a way to balance a great deal of information and interviewees, spanning decades and various forms of media, and still make their doc feel accessible and easy-going.
Much of the film’s strength comes from its granular approach. He-Man’s history is broken down into digestible segments to be explored piece by piece. This illustrates not only the wide breadth of the franchise and everyone who worked to bring it to life, but also how these different efforts build upon one another. The success of the Masters of the Universe brand comes from the hard work and passion of so many people, not just one mastermind.
Another strength of Power of Grayskull is the positivity and love for the characters shown by every single interviewee. The history explored is not without its share of controversies or interpersonal drama, but this is not dwelled on. Instead, viewers get to bask in the pure enjoyment displayed by creators, historians, and fans.
There is a very impressive list of interviews for the film, including Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella from the 1987 film. However, there is one figure from the franchise’s history whose absence is rather noticeable. That missing person is Roger Sweet, one of the original creators of He-Man. Over the years, Sweet has grown increasingly adversarial towards the other former Mattel employees who worked on Masters of the Universe, and has refused to take part in any new documentaries on the subject. He is discussed at length, but does not contribute any of his own words to the project.
The only real downside of the documentary is a lack momentum in its second half. There is no rise or fall of emotional beats to signal the franchise’s arc, or to give the film shape. While it has a nice conclusion, it seems to appear rather abruptly.
Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is a detailed exploration of the vast, iconic brand that is as rewarding for long-time fans as it is for the casually nerdy. It is highly recommended for anyone who enjoyed the He-Man centric The Toys That Made Us episode but wanted to learn more.
Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is available on Netflix August 24th.