Superheroes!

Supe's dont look too happy that he got to wake up, put his red boots on and get to work (save the world from an alien invasion).
Also having to cancel dinner plans with Lois etc..

His suit needs a clean too.
 
I'm currently reading Malory's Morte d'Arthur and I'm about halfway through. I may pause at this point as I'm not sure I can take another volume about Sir Tristram that's longer than the previous two volumes about Sir Tristram put together. This is because Sir Tristram is a horrible person who is deeply tedious to boot. But I've realised something: chivalric romances, and the Morte particularly, are basically the MCU, and that's why I'm going to write about it here.

Imagine if somebody said: I will write a single narrative that includes all Marvel characters and tells all their stories in an interlocking way, in a single book, and I do mean all of them. And maybe I'll throw in a few DC characters just for fun. That's basically what Malory did. It's an immense mess, basically a compilation of originally independent stories that have been shoehorned together to try to create a single narrative. And just like today's extended universes, what you get when you mash together distinct stories that are all basically the same is a huge story where it's increasingly hard to remember who is who and how they all relate to each other, because the characters just aren't distinct enough.

The heroes of chivalric romance are basically superheroes. They are nominally normal people who, either through magic or just unexplained innate ability, are epically tough. They go on adventures which, after a while, are all pretty much the same, because they basically all involve fighting implausibly tough and evil enemy knights in order to rescue people (or, quite often, for no reason other than to fight). Most interestingly, they are often anonymous. A constant theme in Malory is the knight who refuses to divulge his identity and the disconnect between the characters, who don't know who he is, and the reader, who does. Sometimes it makes sense, and is used to comic effect, as when Sir Launcelot takes Sir Kay's armour and horse and rides off, and other knights fight him thinking he's Sir Kay and are surprised when they get whupped. At other times the irony is laid on pretty heavily:

Sir Thomas Malory said:
Then Sir Palomides wailed and wrang his hands. And at the last for pure sorrow he ran into that fountain, over his belly, and sought after his sword. Then Sir Tristram saw that, and ran upon Sir Palomides, and held him in his arms fast. What art thou, said Palomides, that holdeth me so? I am a man of this forest that would thee none harm. Alas, said Sir Palomides, I may never win worship where Sir Tristram is; for ever where he is an I be there, then get I no worship; and if he be away for the most part I have the gree, unless that Sir Launcelot be there or Sir Lamorak. Then Sir Palomides said: Once in Ireland Sir Tristram put me to the worse, and another time in Cornwall, and in other places in this land. What would ye do, said Sir Tristram, an ye had Sir Tristram? I would fight with him, said Sir Palomides, and ease my heart upon him; and yet, to say thee sooth, Sir Tristram is the gentlest knight in this world living.

This doesn't really make any sense, as these two have encountered each other frequently, and after this encounter they go and spend a couple of days together, and Sir Palomides still doesn't recognise Sir Tristram. I initially thought that perhaps the knights always have their visors down, hiding their faces, but as in this case it seems possible for them to go incognito even while recuperating in monasteries, and even in the company of people who know them quite well, over a course of several days. I suppose it's like when Superman puts on a pair of glasses. Often it's not really clear why they're so obsessed with hiding who they are. In Sir Gareth's case it makes sense, because he wants to win "worship" (i.e. renown - they're all obsessed with this) without relying on the fact that he is a prince - though even there he pushes it way too far, refusing to tell anyone who he is even after he's completed the quest and won the damosel, and they have to kidnap his dwarf and get him to tell him who his master is. (They all have dwarves as servants. This is not explained.) At other times there is no attempt to make it make sense at all, e.g.:

Sir Thomas Malory said:
Truly, said King Arthur, ye ought not to bear none arms but if ye wist what ye bear: but I pray you tell me your name. To what intent? said Sir Tristram. For I would wit, said Arthur. Sir, ye shall not wit as at this time. Then shall ye and I do battle together, said King Arthur. Why, said Sir Tristram, will ye do battle with me but if I tell you my name? and that little needeth you an ye were a man of worship, for ye have seen me this day have had great travail, and therefore ye are a villainous knight to ask battle of me, considering my great travail; howbeit I will not fail you, and have ye no doubt that I fear not you; though you think you have me at a great advantage yet shall I right well endure you.

It's not credible that by this stage King Arthur can't recognise Sir Tristram, even in armour, especially since everyone goes on about how Sir Launcelot, Sir Tristram, Sir Palomides, and Sir Lamorak are the four best knights, so anyone who can defeat everyone else in the tournament is probably one of them. And it makes no sense that Sir Tristram (who has met Arthur before under his own name) insists on remaining incognito this time, for which no motivation is given. If he's so bothered about how much travail he's just had, why doesn't he just say who he is? Because he's an arrogant idiot who just wants an excuse to smite down the king and ride off without suffering any consequences, I suppose. The same thing with Sir Gareth, who goes so far as to put on a magic ring that makes his armour keep changing colour, so he can joust in a tournament without being recognised (until his dwarf, obviously tired of his nonsense, hides the ring). But similarly, does it really matter if (say) everyone knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne? It's not like he doesn't put his close associates in danger all the time anyway. But it seems that the idea of the anonymous hero runs very deep in our collective unconscious. It makes the story better if he has to protect his identity, whether or not it makes sense, and we find the same thing in Malory.

Originally most of these knights were characters in their own stories, and they got added to the Arthurian cycle (or the Charlemagne cycle, or whatever) over time. Sir Tristram and perhaps Sir Launcelot were originally independent stories, for example. Again, that parallels the Marvel or DC universes, where you have different stories that gradually converge and become part of a larger one. The first few volumes of Malory are like the first few films of the MCU. Each one focuses on a different knight (Sir Gawain, Sir Gareth, Sir Launcelot, etc) and follows them on their adventures. Each one is invincible, at least while he's the focus. They're all pretty similar (although Sir Gawain is an absolute arsehole). Some stories seem to get re-used: Sir Kay calls Sir Gareth "Beaumains" to make fun of the fact that he works in the kitchen, and later he calls Sir Breunor le Noire "La Cote Male Taile" to make fun of the fact that his coat doesn't fit him. In each case the mocked knight goes on to win renown. I can't help feeling reminded of the classic Superman comics where they would just recycle the same stories every few years on the assumption that their readership had a pretty high turnover.

After a while, we move into the Avengers equivalent, as the different characters start showing up more and more in each other's stories. By the time we're at volume 9 or 10 it's hard to keep track of what's going on, as the same few key characters (Sir Tristram, Sir Launcelot, Sir Palomides) engage in an apparently endless reshuffling as they alternately joust with each other, search for each other, fail to recognise each other, vow friendship with each other, and repeat. These are clearly the primary Avengers of the story, with supporting characters such as Sir Dinadan or Sir Gaheris flitting in and out when needed. Like the MCU, by this point we've got so much bloat it's almost impossible to remember who is who, and the same character can play different roles at different times (is King Mark meant to be a bad guy? I honestly can't tell any more). The difference, though, is that there isn't really any big villain for these guys to all team up and fight. Morgan le Fay keeps cropping up with unnecessarily complicated plots to lure Arthur or Launcelot to their deaths, and sometimes the good guys help each other in defeating her, but it all feels very improvised and episodic. Even the celebrated "Table Round" seems to function only as a badge to show how famous a knight is - they don't actually work together to do anything. Even when they go off hunting for the Grail (though I haven't got that far yet) they do so mostly as individuals.

At the same time, there's an attempt to tell an overarching story of love and betrayal on the back of what is at heart a fundamentally stupid genre that's basically about men in armour whacking each other off horses. Just as, no matter how deep or intelligent or moving a superhero film is, it's still at heart a story about somebody in a silly outfit hitting other people in silly outfits. In both cases, if you're prepared to embrace the fundamental daftness of the basic premise, you can appreciate the more universal themes - but that can be a big "if".

So that's my theory. Superheroes are just knights errant for our generation. And as my wife said, that means that Don Quixote is basically Kick-Ass.
 
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I think you're entirely right. If you read about Arthur's companions in the Mabinogion, they even have supernatural powers - one can go without breath for nine days and nights, another can perch on a mountain where a flea could not, one can turn invisible, someone else can converse with animals and so on.
 
I made it about half-way through Malory one time. And gave up for pretty much the reasons you lay out. I couldn't find an overall narrative thread that held the whole thing together.

The thing to do, imho, is read Boiardo and Ariosto. It's all the same basic motifs, and all the same overall pointlessness . . . but there . . . that's the point, and the authors, especially Ariosto, know it.
 

Well this one's easy: She's probably playing Alicia (Ben Grimm's girlfriend). I still don't know who I think John Malkovich could be playing, but I saw one great idea on a site somewhere, and I'm mad at myself for not thinking of it: He could be doing the voice of Annihilus.
 
I started Madame Web with wife and daughter but I lost interest and went to sleep pretty early into it. The dialogue was pretty bad and awkward right from the beginning, and I had pretty much figured out the gist of the plot within the first three minutes or so. I'm going to finish it for continuity sake, but i can already tell that I'm probably not going to rate it very highly.
 
I started Madame Web with wife and daughter but I lost interest and went to sleep pretty early into it. The dialogue was pretty bad and awkward right from the beginning, and I had pretty much figured out the gist of the plot within the first three minutes or so. I'm going to finish it for continuity sake, but i can already tell that I'm probably not going to rate it very highly.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, it got significantly worse reviews than Blade: Trinity (2004), Ghost Rider (2007), and Fantastic Four (2005).

 
According to Rotten Tomatoes, it got significantly worse reviews than Blade: Trinity (2004), Ghost Rider (2007), and Fantastic Four (2005).

Piling on here with an update in my epic struggle to finish Madame Web on NETFLIX...

*sigh*

Since trying to watch this last weekend, I've tried on four different evenings to watch it and managed to fall asleep (without even drinking mind you) every time without making it past the first 30 mins or so. The farthest I've been able to make it so far is the subway scene where the "team" all meets each other for the first time.

I'm not giving up, but its just sunken cost fallacy at this point... :(... even moreso, because on every re-watch, my wife insists on re-starting it from the beginning because she can't remember where she fell asleep on it the last time.
 
Sounds as though the movie is designed to make the viewer the superhero and Determined Wakefulness his or her superpower.

Maybe Sandman is subliminally a villain.

Buwahahahahahahaha.
 
Never have seen it. Do mean to some day.
 
I haven't even nearly finished it yet and I already want to watch the "CinemaSins/Everything Wrong With" for it.

I was already annoyed with it from literally the very first shot which was nothing but a caption "1973 - Peruvian Amazon"

I immediately rolled my eyes and thought "Why 'Peruvian' Amazon, specifically?... why not just say "the Amazon" or "South American jungle" or something more general /vague? I am 100% sure that nothing in this movie is going to make it matter one bit whether the scene took place in Peru rather than Brazil, for instance.."

Then I felt bad and thought that maybe there would be Spanish being spoken with subtitles rather than Portuguese and that would show me... but no... it didn't matter... I was already annoyed... counting the CinemaSins...
 
Or even just "1973 - Peru". Presumably you don't need to be told that you're in a rainforest if it's on screen.
 
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