Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

3 out of 5

Directed by: Randall Lobb, Robert McCallum

Ah, you also watched The Toys That Made Us and, retro toy itch twinged, see this He-Man documentary and wonder: is there more to learn?  Can this toy’s history support its own film?

Well, to the latter question: yes, and for He-Man fans, this is a very positive tribute, not wallowing in the dark years (of low sales and several attempts at rejuvenating the line) for too long but acknowledging their existence, while also giving plenty of credit to the various faces that forced this thing into existence at a time when a non-licensed toy was not a thing.

To the former question: not… really.  The Toys That Made Us actually nails a more concise vision of the history of the line (both its rise and fall and reemergence in the collectors’ market), but that doesn’t prevent Grayskull from still being a valid use of runtime, as we can dive slightly deeper into the toy production process, the politics at Mattell at the time, the voice actors, and the movie.  So while there weren’t any specifically shiny new nuggets of info, the film does satisfy a nostalgia factor – kids who lived it, parents who had to buy it – as well as enriching the sense of importance of the line, or its originality in the market at the time.

And it absolutely thrives on that sense of the familiar, because structurally, it’s kind of a mess.  There’s no thesis: no outline of the toy’s path.  It just assumes you love it, or loved it.  Little separating title cards purport to summarize an upcoming section, but they’re too generic to register, and we just sort of wallow in general timelines, not following an exact chronology.  Because of this, the film can’t really ground us at any given point: as a literal decade will pass without clarity; the Masters of the Universe movie is suddenly being talked about without much introduction.  So if you had no idea about He-Man, the movie feels like a mess of glowingly told stories.

But, y’know, most of watching this… probably do have some ideas about He-Man, so Power of Grayskull functions as a fun 90 minute journey down ye ole memory lane.