Moon Knight is the start of a new era for Marvel. It continues the work laid with Phase 4 and the 2021 Marvel Disney+ series but also sets off on its own path. Through the first four episodes (there’ll be weekly reviews for episodes 4-6 when they air, this review covers episodes 1-4 with no spoilers), viewers go on a mind-bending and enlightening journey with excellent performances. The series follows Steven Grant/Marc Spector as he unravels the mysteries of his “sleepwalking” and an ancient Egyptian plot to take over the world. That’s an oversimplification of the plot, but it’s safe to say this is on par with strangeness with something like Loki or WandaVision.
The series stars Oscar Isaac as Marc/Steven, Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow, May Calamawy as Layla, Gaspard Ulliel as Anton, and F. Murray Abraham as Khonshu. The official synopsis from Marvel goes like this:
A former U.S. Marine, struggling with dissociative identity disorder, is granted the powers of an Egyptian moon god. But he soon finds out that these newfound powers can be both a blessing and a curse to his troubled life.
The story follows Steven Grant, a mild-mannered gift-shop employee, who becomes plagued with blackouts and memories of another life. Steven discovers he has dissociative identity disorder and shares a body with mercenary Marc Spector. As Steven/Marc’s enemies converge upon them, they must navigate their complex identities while thrust into a deadly mystery among the powerful gods of Egypt.
Mohamed Diab directed episodes 1, 3, 5, and 6, while Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead directed episodes 2 and 4. Jeremy Slater served as Head Writer with Peter Cameron, Sabir Pirzada, Beau DeMayo, Michael Kastelein, and Alex Meenehan getting writing credits as well.
Moon Knight Is Carried By Its Three Stars
You can’t talk about Moon Knight without highlighting the performances of Isaac, Hawke, and Calamawy. These three performances are the backbone of the series. Oscar Isaac has to pull double duty (and with his brother as a stand-in) performing as the mild-mannered Steven and the badass Marc. The scenes where he switches between the two seamlessly are breathtaking. It’s a masterclass in facial expressions, tone, accents, and more. Isaac is a master, and he knows how to use his acting prowess.
Similarly, Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow is excellent. He’s excellent in a completely different way than Oscar Isaac though. Harrow isn’t your typical Marvel villain. In Moon Knight, Marc/Steven are the ones with mental illnesses that are unhinged. Harrow is calculating, calm, and just plain eerie. It’s that juxtaposition that makes the audience question who to root for in Moon Knight. Everyone has secrets and they’ll eventually unravel. It’s also unclear what Harrow would do if he achieves his goal in the show of raising Ammit from the dead.
Finally, for the core three, May Calamawy holds everything together with her performance as Layla. Hawke and Isaac had high praise for her during the press conference for Moon Knight. If it took massive acting chops for Oscar Isaac to play two different personalities, Calamawy should get props for performing off him. In those scenes where Marc and Steven go back and forth, Layla has to react to both of them. Marc is her lover, but Steven is someone who she has more in common with. It’s a dance that they do, that makes the smaller moments in Moon Knight that much better.
Violence, Special Effects, And Ancient Gods
The violence in Moon Knight might be the most speculated piece of the series. Off the bat, this show is not on the level of the Marvel Netflix shows. It’s still going on Disney+ without a content warning. There are moments of violence on par or pushing the bar set by other Marvel series, but it’s not anything to clutch pearls about. That shouldn’t take away from the series though, this would be the most violent show if the Netflix shows didn’t exist. The violence isn’t here just for the sake of it either. The scenes where we get the most brutal acts are for a good reason.
For the first three episodes (the fourth was a bit unfinished for screeners, but will be done by the time it airs, thanks to hardworking VFX artists!), the effects were top-notch. The two Moon Knight suits look absolutely stunning. The scene from the trailer where we got our first look is even better in the show. The other suit that Marc/Steven wears is just as good. For Moon Knight fans of the comics, the suit here is accurate and the details go above and beyond.
The gods featured on the show are fantastic for a different reason. Some of the funniest moments on the show are because of Khonshu. He adds another wrinkle to the mental gymnastics that Marc/Steven have to go through. Steven isn’t used to talking to an Ancient Egyptian God, while Marc is. So their conversations and fight to switch or not switch between personalities add to the overall chaos of the show.
Your New Favorite Marvel Disney+ Series: Moon Knight
Like Marvel does best, Moon Knight takes from several other genres and properties, co-opts it into their style, and gives us something that’s a mixture of all the best features of various genres. Parts of Moon Knight feel like The Mummy, others feel like Indiana Jones, and some feel straight out of the horror genre. As the series goes on, each episode feels like it borrows from a different piece of cinema and television. Normally that would be distracting to be slightly different tones for each episode, but with Moon Knight, it just works.
Through it all, Moon Knight takes lessons from its predecessors while further improving on the formula for Marvel’s television series. Whether your favorite is Loki or Hawkeye, Moon Knight takes the cake for what these series can do from a storytelling and entertainment perspective. You get all the hallmarks of a serious, excellent character study combined with the Marvel action you know and love. All the way up to episode four (there’s a reason Marvel showed the first four episodes for review), the series takes audiences on twists and turns that spiral in and out of two personalities, Egyptian gods, and lots of bloodshed.
Moon Knight is the new pinnacle for Marvel television.
Moon Knight premieres on Disney+ on March 30th, with new episodes every Wednesday.
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