Netflix Masters of the Universe He-Man casting r, aises questions

After two animated Masters of the Universe projects that garnered mixed reactions, Netflix casting of He-Man raises concerns with fans.

The casting of Kyle Allen (West Side Story) as the live action He-Man raised eyebrows with fans of the franchise.

Kyle Allen cast as Netflix's live action He-Man, raising mixed fan response. (Images: Filmation, Cannon Films, Level33 Entertainment, Mattel, and Netflix)

Mattel and Netflix seem to be continuing a trend of questionable decisions with their Masters of the Universe projects. This comes after two Netflix animated shows that generated mixed responses, especially from longtime fans of the Masters of the Universe brand.

Is Allen a good fit for the most powerful man in the universe and defender of Castle Grayskull? Check out the details below.

Good fit for He-Man?

The first live action Masters of the Universe movie was produced in 1987 by the now-defunct Cannon Films. The film was notorious for its problems, not the least of which being relatively low budget, incoherent script, setting the adventure mostly on Earth, and having little resemblance to the characters from the mega-popular toyline and Filmation animated series.

1987’s Masters of the Universe live action film was by no stretch a work of art (or even a financially successful effort), but it has gained cult film status. And despite the movie’s flaws, many fans found Dolph Lundgren (Aquaman and the Lost Continent) to be as perfect as casting can be in the role of the muscle-bound hero for the time the film was made. Frank Langella as Skeletor is also fondly remembered for his scene-chewing and deliberately hammy acting in his portrayal of the skull-faced villain.

Although a critical and box office failure, the 1987 Masters of the Universe film has become a cult classic.

A new live action Masters of the Universe film that would be more loyal to the source material has long been rumored and planned in Hollywood. As early as the mid-1990s, speculations of either a sequel or a complete reboot circulated in the industry, with big names such as Brad Pitt taking on the dual role of Prince Adam and He-Man, especially after his portrayal of Achilles in Troy (2004). Sony Pictures was the most recent production outfit to be attached to the movie before Netflix picked up the reins.

With the news of Kyle Allen being cast as the lead for a renewed Masters of the Universe live action film, some fans have aired everything from disapproval of casting Kyle Allen to outright comparison to Lundgren.

Much of the negative reactions have been in reference to Kyle Allen’s physical attributes. Allen is only 5'8" (1.73m) tall and has a lean build. This is a far cry from Dolph Lundgren’s 6'5" (1.96m) and muscular frame that towers over mere mortals. There are also comments about how young Allen looks, though the actor is actually in his late 20s.

Could Allen be playing only Prince Adam and the He-Man role is yet to actually be cast? Or could he be playing the dual roles? If it is the latter, the actor will have to undergo massive physical bulking up. A muscle suit might be a possibility, but there is only so much this can convincingly add.

Another option would be a mostly or completely CGI He-Man, as in the case of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and The Hulk in the MCU films, or Ryan Reynolds having his face digitized over a body double (bodybuilder Aaron Reed) in Free Guy.

Repeating the same mistakes?

Allen’s casting seems to be an echo of how Prince Adam was portrayed in the two Netflix animated series, particularly Masters of the Universe: Revelation which was directed by Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob).

In Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Prince Adam was not a mirror image of He-Man (as in the case of the original toys and the Filmation cartoon) with a different hair, tanned skin, and a more imposing set of clothes. Instead, the Prince of Eternia was portrayed as younger and with a slim physique. A far contrast when transformed into the muscular bulk of He-Man after summoning the power of Grayskull.

In the interview with Deadline, Mattel Films executive producer Robbie Brenner, had this to say about the live action Masters of the Universe film for Netflix:

Masters of the Universe is an iconic property that shaped the imaginations of an entire generation of kids with the message of becoming the best version of yourself. With our partners at Netflix, we look forward to showing audiences that anything can happen in Eternia. We are continuing to unlock this global franchise in new ways, and we can’t wait to see Kyle battle it out with Skeletor in this epic live-action saga.

In addition, the film’s producers Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, and Steve Tisch shared their thoughts about how the new Masters of the Universe will be a fulfillment of plans years in the making:

We’ve always been inspired by the fantastical world of Eternia. This movie has been 14 years in the making for us and our partners and we are so excited to tell an entirely new story for Masters of the Universe with the Nee Brothers and Dave Callaham for Mattel and Netflix and share it with a global audience.

While the specifics of the film so far are sparse, there is a brief description that surfaced, and again fans are raising their eyebrows for the apparent treatment the Masters of the Universe film is heading:

In Masters of the Universe, an orphan named Adam discovers he is a prince destined to be the savior of a faraway land and must quickly learn of his power and the importance of saving his true home from an evil force.

Making Adam an orphan and apparently amnesiac is another instance of departing from the status quo that fans are familiar with. This also generated speculation that the new film will be committing the same mistake of the 1987 movie: that of setting the story on Earth. While this would make it more cost-effective, it is one of the sour points that led to the failure of the original live action movie.

Kyle Allen has played mostly youthful roles, such as 1 Night (2016, pictured) and the Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story (2021).

This is not an unfounded speculation. And while it can work sometimes (proven as recently as the Sonic The Hedgehog film), setting the new Masters of the Universe live action movie in a contemporary Earth setting left a bad taste in fandom’s mouths. Why do it again?

Fans have been looking forward to seeing Eternia and its iconic locations such as Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain to be fully realized. If it will really be set on Earth again for most of the movie, they might be disappointed once again.

Netflix’s Masters of the Universe live action film begins production this summer 2022, with an official release date to be announced later on.  Masters of the Universe Animated and Masters of the Universe: Revelation are both currently available for streaming.

Geoff Borgonia
Geoffrey "Borgy" Borgonia is a veteran writer, artist, journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur based in the Philippines. When not contributing to some of the top pop culture sites on the planet, he spends the rest of his time running his business, practicing martial arts, working on and developing books, comics, and games. In his man-cave, his only luxury is sleep. Borgy on Linkedin.
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