|Left: a still from Excalibur (1981) with Nigel Terry as King Arthur on his wedding day. Right: from Man of Steel (2013) with Henry Cavill as Superman/Kal-El, sitting in a church. Neither are particularly subtle about Christological references.|
|The villain Steppenwolf, completely redone in postproduction for a much more fearsome look in the Snyder Cut (right). Steppenwolf is played by Ciaran Hinds, the only actor to appear (in some form) in both Excalibur and Justice League.|
|"In time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."|
A (mostly) spoiler-free review
|Ray Fisher's performance as Cyborg, almost completely gutted in the 2017 release, is now restored to the point of being almost the main character.|
Comic book characters as mythic heroes: a legitimate take?
The most definitive of all Arthurian works was a compilation by Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte d'Arthur, one of the first books ever printed by Caxton's press in England. It was the first major work of fictional prose in the English language. I introduced this book at the beginning of this article as a darker take--at least in some ways--on familiar stories. In Malory's world, even the noblest knights are not spared from ambition, treachery, and doom. After all, Arthur's fate is spoiled in the very title... and why I thought, from a medieval point of view, mentioning the fact that Superman dies at the end of Batman v Superman isn't much of a spoiler. (Indeed, that plot point was based the comic book arc "The Death of Superman" from 1993. The ending was given in the title specifically to stir up comics sales.) This bleaker outlook isn't too surprising when considering the author. Sir Thomas Malory was a warrior and parliamentarian who fought on both sides of the tumultuous Wars of the Roses. He played the game of thrones, switching his allegiance from York to a pact with Warwick the Kingmaker to oust Edward IV. Aside from conspiracy to treason, Malory's extensive rap sheet included highway robbery, breaking and entering, and even "rape" (which at the time may have been consensual adultery). It was during his time in prison that he wrote Le Morte d'Arthur. It was not printed until 1485, about 14 years after Malory's death. The book enjoyed several reprints until Cromwell and the Puritans held England hostage to a decade of dourness. From there, Le Morte d'Arthur languished in obscurity until the Romantic and Medievalist revivals of the 19th century. We have Malory to thank as the primary inspiration for Tennyson's Idylls of the King and, into the 20th century, T.H. White's The Once and Future King.
|Nicol Williamson and Helen Mirren as Merlin and Morgana. They disliked each other in real life, which director John Boorman felt made their performances more convincing.|
The Round Table, reborn
|The movie Excalibur is referenced even in the 2019 film Joker, which isn't actually set in the same continuity as the Snyder films. Nevertheless, the movie poster is seen on the right of the above frame on the night of the Waynes' murder.|