Sacha Baron Cohen Can’t Live Up To The Original Live-Action Skeletor

By Zack Zagranis | Updated

If you had Borat playing Skeletor from He-Man on your 2024 bingo card, then congratulations. You’ve won…er…something? Look I’m going to be honest I don’t know exactly how the whole “Bingo Card” meme is supposed to work.

What I do know, however, is that GFR recently broke the story that Sacha Baron Cohen has been cast as Skeletor in a new live-action Masters of the Universe movie. All I can say is that I hope he’s going for the campy “Nyah, He-Man!” portrayal of Skeletor that Alan Oppenheimer did in the original He-Man cartoon. Otherwise, he shouldn’t even bother. Frank Langella already gave us the perfect dramatic Skeletor.

Frank Langella Was The Best Part Of A Bad Movie

Yeah, I know the 1987 live-action Masters of the Universe movie is widely considered hot garbage, but that doesn’t change the fact that Frank Langella’s performance as Skeletor was legendary.

Langella, an Oscar-nominated, would have been excused for treating the role of an action-figure villain as beneath him, but instead, he did the opposite. Rather than sleepwalk through an easy paycheck, Langella played Skeletor like some great Shakespearean villain.

Played Perfectly Over The Top

Gone was the mustache-twirling, bumbling oaf of the popular He-Man cartoon. Instead, Langella played the role like he was taking acting lessons from Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor Palpatine on the set of the Star Wars prequels.

The veteran actor chews the scenery and gives Skeletor an over-the-top bombast missing from the animated version of the villain.

One Of The Best Corny Villains Of All Time

When Man-at-arms asks the evil conqueror if he dares threaten the life of Greyskull’s Sorceress, Langella bellows one of Masters of the Universe‘s best lines: “I dare anything! I am Skeletor!” It still gives me chills when I watch the scene. Ditto for when He-Man’s greatest foe asks him, “Tell me about the loneliness of good, He-Man. Is it equal to the loneliness of evil?”

Langella’s performance is too good for the otherwise craptastic butt-fest that is Masters of the Universe. The closest comparison would be Raoul Julia as M. Bison in Street Fighter (1994). Both actors give performances so out of place in their respective movies you would almost think the directors of those films plucked them from better movies and spliced them into their own turds.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Uphill Battle

I love Sacha Baron Cohen, and again, if this new He-Man movie takes after the ’80s cartoon, he’ll be perfect for Skeletor. However, if the new film is closer in tone to the Master of the Universe comic book or the ’80s movie, I can’t see his performance being anywhere near as good as Langella’s original performance.

Inspiration From A Different Source

Of course, it helped that Frank Langella’s character in Masters of the Universe was closer in tone to DC villain Darkseid than Skeletor. It’s been well documented—including here at GFR—that the creators of the live-action Masters of the Universe took a lot of inspiration from Jack Kirby’s New Gods comic book. As a result, his Skeletor has a lot more pathos than his animated counterpart.

Skeletor Is Cooler Than He-Man

Given how unpopular the ’80s He-Man movie was and the fact that even today, most people who know the character know him from the 44-year-old cartoon, there’s a good chance that Hasbro will go with a sillier Skeletor, more in line with the original.

And trust me, that’s a comparison they don’t want us to make.

This is the best option for Cohen’s portrayal as it would allow him to throw some of that Borat absurdity into the character. Anything else and the movie is just asking fans to compare the new Skeletor to the old one.