Review by Camden Ferrell
It has been over a year since the first MCU show premiered on Disney+, and their universe is still expanding with their most recent effort. Moon Knight is their newest series and the first attempt at a live-action adaptation of the iconic character. Even if the series isn’t as subversive or fresh as intended, this is still an enjoyable series with great performances, exciting action, and an overall strong introduction to the MCU for this character.
Steven Grant is a mostly average museum gift shop employee. However, he has found himself blacking out and having memories of a different life. As he learns more about the atypical encounters he’s been experiencing, he finds himself thrust into a perilous global adventure. On this journey, he learns more about his own perplexing identities and greater forces at play in Egypt. This is a premise that incorporates a lot of the main defining traits of the character while also giving him a story that is bigger in scope than his comic book outings.
Jeremy Slater is the head writer for the show, and he does a mostly strong job crafting this story and its characters. It can often find itself hitting the same narrative beats as other MCU properties, but every episode has the occasional surprising moment that will keep audiences on their toes. In the promotion of the show, those involved have insisted that the show leans heavily into the dissociative identity disorder of the protagonist, and this is handled very well. The show is built heavily around the character’s DID, and it allows the story to set itself apart from other Marvel properties.
In addition to the mental illness aspects of the show, it was also promised to be brutal and unrelenting in its violence. I found that this was only partly true. While it is one of the more violent entries in the MCU thus far, it isn’t nearly as gruesome or shocking as it seems to think it is. A lot of the violence feels implied or limited by the show’s rating. However, one of the most interesting parts of the show is how it combines the DID elements with violence to create a unique method of storytelling that hasn’t been seen in the MCU so far.
While there are a lot of moving parts in this production, it is undeniable that the show’s acting is its strongest asset. The series is led by Oscar Isaac who puts all of his energy into his interpretation of Moon Knight. He is great for the most part, really dedicating himself to the DID aspects of the show as well as the costumed action. His co-star, May Calamawy, is a pleasant surprise in the show. She has great chemistry with Isaac and is an unexpected delight. However, even though the show has multiple great performances, everybody is outacted by Ethan Hawke. As the show’s antagonist, Hawke delivers one of Marvel’s best performances ever. He is haunting, calculated, and sinister in his role as Arthur Carrow, and he is by far and away the most memorable part of the show.
Indie directing duo, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, as well as director Mohamed Diab helm this new series. The overall tone of the series feels uniquely grim most of the time, but it can’t always free itself from the MCU’s trademark humor and style. While it makes an honest attempt at feeling distinct and subversive for a Marvel property, it only partially succeeds at that. There are a handful of truly stunning shots and sequences, as a whole, the execution of the series only feels slightly above average more times than not.
Even if its far from perfect, this show is a step in the right direction for the MCU’s brand. It shows that they are not afraid of taking risks and trusting their directors with rich characters like Moon Knight. Moon Knight’s unique history since his comic debut in 1975 has consistently proven there’s more than one way to use and develop this character, and this show is no different. It retains some key traits of the character while also trying to forge a new path for a new audience.
Moon Knight may take a little while to hit its stride, but by its fourth episode, it has set up some really exciting things that will captivate fans. I think many will enjoy how it incorporates the character’s mental illness into the series and keeps you guessing. This may not be Marvel’s strongest project, but it is one of their most unique, and it’s one that will hopefully win over new fans for the character.
Moon Knight premieres on Disney+ March 30. New episodes debut on Wednesdays. Four out of six episodes reviewed.