Power Of Grayskull: Review
I’m not old enough to remember the Masters of the Universe when they were first a thing, but I have a very strong memory of playing with the toys. I remember playing with He-Man and Skeletor, and the big plastic Castle Grayskull that opened up on hinges that, for some reason, my nan had gotten from a charity to shop or something to keep myself and my brother entertained when we would stay. They weren’t in the best condition, for example He-Man himself only had one arm, but my brother and always found a lot of fun in them.
I’m not even sure, thinking back on it, that we were actually even aware of what they were. At least not at first. I don’t remember He-Man as a cartoon being a particularly big thing in my house, and I definitely seem to remember calling Skeletor Doctor Skull in our games, which seems to suggest I didn’t know his name.
In fact, my knowledge of He-Man so non-existent that when I first discovered the film, Masters of the Universe, made by the infamous half-measures production company Canon Films, I was unaware of its connection. Canon Films’ Masters of the Universe was one of those movies we had recorded off the TV that my brother and I watched on lazy Sunday mornings, but we were hardly mega-fans of it, and we always sort of gleefully enjoyed its rubbishness.
I guess all of this is a very long winded and round about way of explaining that my knowledge of the Masters of the Universe extends about as a far as that Canon Film, and I’ve never been overly all that interested in trying to find out more. So, Randall Lobb and Robert McCallum’s 2017 feature length documentary, Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, is hardly what I would call necessary viewing… at least, not for me.
It was something of a surprise, then, when I found myself engrossed in the story the documentary had to offer.
As it turns out, the history of this particular franchise is long, complicated and unusual. It makes for a unique story among this kind of franchise creation, with several different elements and creatives involved. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the He-Man creation “myth” is the way in which, instead of being born from a singular voice and refined later, it was instead grown out of a series of decisions made my different people in different parts of the process.
The film itself does a fine, if not somewhat generic, job of getting its points across. It’s a well made and efficient documentary, made up predominantly of talking heads with the various important people in He-Man’s evolution, and it spans the entire breadth of the franchise’s history, from its initial beginnings as a simple toy line, through to the aforementioned Canon Films detour and on into the modern era and the recent reboot. It delivers the story in a purely chronological fashion, which is a wise, if not somewhat uninspired, move.
When it comes to films like this it’s always a little difficult to fairly judge some of the creative films. As a documentary it follows documentary tropes closely, never doing anything too interesting or eye-catching… but then, that’s sort of just what the film needs. It’s formal look and approach means that the focus is more on the unfolding story and experiences of those involved in the history that is the focus of the film.
As far as presentation goes, it delivers on its titular promise. This is most definitely a definitive history, covering all aspects, and the story itself is engaging enough to keep you gripped and curious about how it will all unfold, so unusual as it is.
Ultimately it’s not really breaking any new ground, and no one is going to be stepping away from this with a feeling that they’ve discovered the next great documentary, but I would be lying to say that I didn’t find it incredibly interesting, and that I wasn’t hooked. In fact, I was kind of disappointed when it drew to a close and didn’t really cover any aspect of the recently proposed Masters of the Universe big screen reboot.
I came away from Power of Grayskull with a newfound appreciation for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, despite having never been all that interested in the franchise before. Not only did it trigger a warm sense of nostalgia in me, reminding me of those battered and rubbished toys at my Nan’s house, but it also made me appreciate just how unique the franchise is among modern franchises and, for that at least, it’s worth your time.
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