The Masters of the Universe live-action film being developed by Netflix and Mattel has reportedly been cancelled. But the project is being shopped to other potential film production companies.
A Masters of the Universe live-action film was produced by Cannon Films starring Dolph Lundgren as He-Man and Frank Langella as Skeletor back in 1987. However, that movie bombed in the box office and soured any potential sequel plans. While the new production has suffered delays and issues, including Netflix itself dealing with the loss of subscriber numbers, the abrupt cancellation of the long-developing project still comes as a surprise.
Variety reported that multiple sources within Netflix and the production developing the Masters of the Universe live-action project had been quietly cancelled.
“Masters of the Universe,” a live-action movie based on He-Man and a slew of other popular Mattel toys, is officially dead at Netflix, according to multiple Variety sources. https://t.co/4NPS1VBlh3 pic.twitter.com/au81gde3ns
— Variety (@Variety) July 18, 2023
Netflix has previously collaborated with Mattel with two separate projects based on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation was intended as a sequel to the iconic Filmation animated series. Co-created and headed by Kevin Smith, the 10-episode Netflix series explored the mythos established in the 1980s, but with a more mature theme and centered more on Teela than on He-Man/Prince Adam. While the animation was praised for its updated look and action-packed scenes, the series received mixed reactions with some critics pointing out the allegedly "woke" take on the male power-fantasy that was a hallmark of the Masters of the Universe toyline and cartoon.
The other Netflix and Mattel Films collaboration was He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Unlike Masters of the Universe: Revelation, this was a completely new take on the mythology and not directly connected to any of the lore from the previous Masters of the Universe properties. Here, Prince Adam and his main cast are kids and teens, as the series aimed for a more youthful audience. Plus, the animation used CGI instead of the traditional cel shading, with the hyper-stylized look having a similar vibe to popular video games like Fortnite and Overwatch.
As expected, both Masters of the Universe: Revelation and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had their own toylines produced and distributed by Mattel. Regardless of the mixed success of both projects, Netflix and Mattel moved forward with developing a new live-action project based on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
The new adaptation of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe toyline was rumored to have a $200 million budget. This puts it in line with other tentpole superhero movies in the current era of Hollywood. And He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is certainly a strong IP with a global reach and nostalgia factor to build a modern cinematic universe on.
At one point, the production cast Kyle Allen (West Side Story) as the lead. However, given Allen’s physical attributes, it was unclear if he was only playing Prince Adam or that he would be He-Man as well. Mattel Films producer Robbie Brenner even expressed his positive outlook on the future of the live-action Masters of the Universe project on 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.
According to the sources mentioned in the reports of the Masters of the Universe cancellation, the production already spent $30 million to as high as $60 million. Included in that price tag are retaining roles already cast (such as the aforementioned Kyle Allen) and the commitment of 2022’s The Lost City directors Adam and Aaron Nee, as well as the initial investment to purchase the movie rights previously licensed by Sony.
But while the Netflix Masters of the Universe project may have been shelved, the property itself is being lobbied with other potential film production companies. And with the strong showing of Mattel’s other global toy brand Barbie, it may only be a matter of time before news breaks out of which film production takes over the reins of Masters of the Universe.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe are currently available on the Netflix streaming platform.