Still fresh from the mega-blockbuster that is Spider-man: No Way Home, Disney makes sure the MCU is never far from our minds. It’s quite serendipitous that screeners became available during Oscars week, as the series stars Oscar Isaac (who I’m surprised has NOT been nominated yet given his phenomenal acting skills). I’m thrilled to see him joining the MCU and he’s the reason I’m excited to see this series.
The series opens with Isaac as Steven Grant, a mild-mannered museum gift-shop employee who initially thinks he has a sleeping disorder that makes him prone to sleepwalking. So he chains himself to his bed every night and bolts his door. As it turns out, he’s plagued with blackouts and intense dreams of living another life. Moon Knight introduces the first superhero who suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID), previously called Multiple Personalities Disorder. It’s also the first series where we don’t actually see its superhero right away as we spend the first two episodes following Grant as he tries to figure out just what in the world is happening to him.
Moon Knight isn’t your typical superhero show where the protagonist does what heroes do and gets to save the day. Nope, Grant is an awkward, bumbling, socially-inept guy whose boss thinks is a complete loser. He barely has any friends that he resorts to talking to a human statue performer at the park as he’s the only person willing to listen to him.
I have to say Isaac is so brilliant and hilarious with his cockney accent that I don’t even mind just watching Grant floundering about. He makes the state of being discombobulated so hugely entertaining. Given a chance to play a dual role has got to be any actors’ dream and Isaac is perfect as both Grant and his alter ego Marc Spector, a brute and skilled mercenary with extraordinary ability thanks to the ancient god of the show’s namesake. Khonshu, the Egyptian god of the moon, uses Marc as his avatar to avenge his justice on earth. Steven and Marc are polar opposites but Isaac is absolutely spot-on in portraying both, able to switch between the two personas effortlessly.
It’s interesting that this show is both the funniest as well as the scariest MCU show so far. Somehow the drastic change in tone doesn’t feel jarring which is quite a feat in and of itself. The car chase sequence in the Swiss Alps where Wham’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go is blaring is riotously funny. Even Khonshu is initially petrifying when he first shows up with his shrouds blowing in the wind. The raven-like skeleton beak is quite ominous looking as he relentlessly torments Steven. But he becomes quite witty and hilarious in later episodes and F. Murray Abraham is an inspired voice casting with his deep, gravely voice.
Now, I haven’t read the comics nor have I heard of this character before, but I’ve read that the series deviates quite a bit from the comics. Apparently, Ethan Hawke‘s villainous character Arthur Harrow, who was modeled after cult leader David Koresh, isn’t in the comics. He basically is the human version of Hydra’s Project Insight meets Minority Report where he executes people before they do the crime. So far Hawke’s performance is not all that interesting nor menacing however, all the scenes of Steven and Marc bickering are far more entertaining. I also enjoy the costumes whenever the two transform into their respective avatar. While both have glowing eyes, Steven’s attire looks more like a dapper white tuxedo while Marc’s is a silvery shroud with a cape.
Director Mohamed Diab infuses the show with globe-trotting spy sensibilities combined with mythical Indiana-Jones-y action-adventure. I read an interview where the Egyptian-born Diab wants the show to stay true to his roots and it shows in the set pieces, especially the sequence inside the ancient tombs which is perhaps the bloodiest scene I’ve seen so far in the MCU, even when the goriest bits is blurred out. People expecting to see some good fight scenes would enjoy the action-packed spectacle in episode 4. The music by Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih is dynamic and nicely complements the series’s style and tone.
Now, though the series is a lot of fun, I can’t pretend that I comprehend everything that’s going on. The plot does get pretty hard to follow as they go from London to Egypt. As if things weren’t confusing enough already, a woman named Layla shows up who claims to be Marc’s wife. Played by Palestinian-Egyptian actress May Calamawy, Layla is a pretty badass character but she also brings out some of the emotional moments in the series. Some of their scenes in the desert remind me of Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser in 1999 movie The Mummy.
I do want to mention that for someone who has family members suffering from mental illness, it’s nice to see they’re not demonizing mental disorders. For one, it’s the hero who’s suffering from it, not the villain. So far this show does a good balancing act to make sure they’re not just exploiting that condition just to give the character an unusual backstory. Towards the end of the fourth episode, they even address that mental illness is no laughing matter.
There are two more episodes left in the series and I wish there were more. Watching Oscar Isaac plays two characters is a pure delight even during some of the most bizarre moments. They even tease there’s a possible third character occupying the same body as Steven/Marc, so that’ll be a hoot to watch. If he’s the only actor on the show, I think I’d still be entertained. For a show I wasn’t even anticipating, this is such a blast that I don’t even mind seeing a feature film version. So long as Oscar Isaac is involved of course.
Have you seen MOON KNIGHT? What did you think?