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‘Masters Of The Universe’: Rian Johnson, Joe Cornish On Rumored Shortlist To Direct

Masters of the Universe

Sony Pictures’ long-in-development live-action reboot of Masters of the Universe recently lost its latest director when Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation), who had signed on to the project in the summer of 2012, departed to make the next G.I. Joe sequel. Back in October Pirates of the Caribbean and The Mask of Zorro co-writer Terry Rossio was hired to pen a new draft after a previous effort by Alex Litvak (Predators) and Mike Finch didn’t pass muster with the studio.

This reboot is apparently of great importance to the franchise-famished Sony because they have put together a list of potential directors to take over for Chu, and if this list is genuine, then Masters of the Universe could turn out to be pretty damn great after all.

Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), Rian Johnson (Looper), Andy Muschietti (Mama), and the directing teams of Kirk DeMicco & Chris Sanders (The Croods), and Phil Lord & Chris Miller (21 Jump Street) are all rumored to be in the running to helm He-Man’s latest cinematic battle against Skeletor and the dark forces that desire to enslave Eternia.

Though I have never seen The Croods, co-director Sanders did call the shots on the 2010 animated blockbuster How to Train Your Dragon. Cornish is currently collaborating with Edgar Wright on Ant-Man for Marvel Studios and Disney and was once reportedly in the running to direct the next Star Trek movie. He also has the Neal Stephenson adaptation Snow Crash in development at Paramount. Lord and Miller have both The Lego Movie out next month and 22 Jump Street following this summer. Meanwhile, Johnson doesn’t have any future film projects in the pipeline but he did recently win some much-deserved acclaim for directing one of the final episodes of the AMC series Breaking Bad. Muschietti has Universal’s untitled reboot of The Mummy next up and that project has a set release date of April 22, 2016.

Any one of these candidates has the potential to make a fantastic movie of Masters of the Universe if the script and casting are perfect. The only thing is it could be seen as a step backwards for directors like Johnson or Cornish with greater career ambitions than a feature property resurrected by fan nostalgia could handle. If Muschietti is already committed to The Mummy, then that might leave him out unless Sony makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Lord and Miller have nothing on their plate once 22 Jump Street hits theaters…not yet anyway. IMDb lists their next project as the fourth Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, but that just may be a steaming of load of something I’m too polite to mention since that news has never been made official and I’m pretty positive that Lord and Miller have better things to than help keep afloat a pathetic franchise that appeals to younger viewers who don’t know any better.

Therefore, I’m putting my money on DeMicco and Sanders nabbing the directing gig. They have a Croods sequel on deck, but it isn’t due in theaters until July 2017. That will leave a lot of free time on their schedule and a live-action job might be their best bet. Lord and Miller both transitioned from CGI animation (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) to working with flesh and blood actors (21 Jump Street) with great success and DeMicco and Sanders could be looking to follow suit. Hopefully they’ll have better luck than Jimmy Hayward, a former Pixar animator who made his solo directorial debut on 2008’s animated adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic Horton Hears a Who!, but ran into constant problems when he went to work filming the DC Comics western flick Jonah Hex, which went on to be a massive critical and commercial disaster.

We should get an announcement soon on who Sony has decreed will have the power…to direct Masters of the Universe. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

[Source: Schmoes Know via Bleeding Cool; header artwork by Boris Vallejo]


  1. By the Power of Grayskull, I hope they focus on the mini-comics and lean a little darker than the original animation series. The 2002 MYP animated series was good, but I’d go for a LOTR tone. Skeletor and his minions need to be scary, not goofy.

    Comment by WonderScott — January 13, 2014 @ 2:52 pm

  2. Be careful! That ,”so called”, steaming pile of Acorns may just Knock the power out of Grayskull. Just look what it did to: Disney’s Scrooge, The Princess and the Frog, and it Knocked out Avatar from the no.1 spot for a week. The Munks have been around longer than the plastic musclehead toyline of the 80’s. Remember the younger kids outnumber the older ones who still play with He-man.

    Comment by Phantanos — January 13, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

  3. This needs a director with a background in high fantasy adventure, science fiction adventure, and children’s programming to do the production justice. Even if they go a darker direction geared more toward older kids and adults, I think a children’s programming mentality is essential to exploring imaginative creative source material like that of MOTU. These picks have some of the ideal characteristics, but really are just mediocre.

    I do agree somewhat with WonderScott, in that they should possibly lean toward a slightly darker portrayal compared to the more campy nature of the original animated series. However, (having just recently indulged in a long nostalgic journey through the MOTU series) the original show was already pretty dark and eerie most of the time. Especially episodes with Evil Lynn. There’s monsters (some that are pretty lovecraftian), kidnappings, possession, mind-control, demons, war, slavery, dark magic… I’d say there’s a 50/50 split between episodes that are mostly simple campy fun, and episodes that try to delve more into the darker realm of ideas seen more often in literary fantasy and science fiction from the 60’s-70’s, surviving through the 80’s in magazines like Heavy Metal. The whole “Space Barbarian” thing that was popular in adult sci-fi/fantasy for a while.

    However, I’d hope they stay far far away from making it anything like LOTR. The last thing this franchise (or any other) needs is to be crammed into the mold of something else. MOTU is too quirky and original for that kind of treatment. Besides, it happens too often with *everything else* these days. “Oh, this was good! Lets make a million freaking other things just like it, because we think good cinema is simply a matter of copying and pasting!” It doesn’t work like that.

    LOTR worked like that because LOTR *IS* dark in tone. They didn’t just make it that way for the film. It simply is. Because they stayed true to the original works, the films are the closest LOTR adaption we could ever imagine.

    Making MOTU like LOTR is a horrible idea, unless if only for the amount of time, attention, and detail put into the set and costume design. But the tone should match the tone of the source material it’s coming from. Give us dark evil dooings, yes, but give us cheese and camp, too. Otherwise they may as well just write a new story with some new characters and do whatever the heck they want with it. Call it “Rulers of the Galaxy”… I dunno. But it wouldn’t be He-Man.

    With a thorough knowledge of the original content (both the show and the comics), a lot of ambition and creativity, and a big budget, this could be a really interesting and unique film. I’m not holding my breath, but it could be.

    Comment by SubPopGeek — January 13, 2014 @ 4:15 pm

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