Note: This is a review of episodes 1-4 of the series.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has now reached a peak in terms of what it can get away with adapting. We’re far gone from the age of being worried about the accessibility and commercialism found in niche comic book characters; one would argue that it died the day Guardians of the Galaxy became one of the biggest box office successes of 2014, one could even say that it died the day Eternals was made in the first place, but the fact that we’re getting a genuinely faithful Moon Knight adaptation on Disney+ that doesn’t pull its punches when adapting its wackier elements speaks so much to how far the genre and brand of Marvel has evolved.
Moon Knight begins with Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) who spends his days working a thankless job at a gift shop in a museum and coming home to his crummy apartment to take care of his pet goldfish. But it becomes evidently clear from the get-go that this isn’t the whole story, as he has several instances of blacking out and missing days at a time; having visions that are unclear to him whether they’re scarily realistic dreams or potentially from another life. After a strange run-in with a mystical threat at the museum where he works, Steven uncovers that he has dissociative personality disorder and shares a body with a mercenary named Marc Spector. However, it isn’t quite as simple as just sharing a body with Marc – as Marc is a servant of the Egyptian god Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) and turns into the figure known as Moon Knight anytime he needs to deliver Khonshu’s justice.
Right off the bat – the entire show, regardless of how good the writing or direction is, completely hinges on whether or not whoever is playing Steven/Marc can sell it. And luckily, we have one of the finest actors working today in Oscar Isaac playing the roles. Isaac is absolutely tremendous here – as both Marc and Steven. He makes both characters so distinct from one another, but both his performance and the writing for the characters help showcase the clear discomfort they both feel given their situation. This gives the superhero antics a particularly frightening and at times deliberately, refreshingly clumsy feel as it’s never quite clear if Marc or Steven will take the Moon Knight/Mr. Knight mantle. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, and have to learn to work together… but it is quite literally never a simple answer in terms of making that happen.
Ethan Hawke plays the villain of the series, Arthur Harrow, who is an avatar for the Egyptian god Ammit – who is almost a direct parallel of Khonshu. These clashing ideologies and different ways of delivering justice are genuinely thought-provoking to watch, and Ethan Hawke’s commitment to the role of Arthur is half the reason why it works as well as it does. Hawke has expressed that he was deeply drawn to portraying Arthur as a cult-leader, and that approach is incredibly evident in every frame he’s on-screen. Hawke is one of the finest actors working today, and seeing him portray such an evil character that truly believes in Ammit’s cause feels like the perfect role for him in a superhero project. When Isaac and Hawke are on-screen together? It’s absolute dynamite and I can’t wait to see how it continues to unravel as the series continues.
There are certainly some elements that feel a bit rushed in terms of how they are presented to general audiences who might not know a lot about Moon Knight as a character, but it’s also hard to be upset when the show is so consistently swinging for the fences. It’s a complete narrative, stylistic departure from anything the MCU has turned out thus far – both in film and television. It also feels the most assured, like there was a genuine passion and road map before the cameras began to roll. It’s far from a perfect series, but Moon Knight is genuinely an enthralling and innovative corner of the MCU full of gritty action, fantastic performances, and an engaging story at its core.
Moon Knight is now streaming on Disney+!