This review is based on the first four episodes of Moon Knight.
After three successful theatrical phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and a current fourth one that includes characters appearing on the Disney+ streaming services, fan favourite Moon Knight is finally leaping out of the comic book pages and onto the screens, as the first major Marvel Comics character to debut and lead on his own Disney+ series.
Unlike the shield-holding Captain America, mystical hammer-wielding Thor or bow and arrow toting Hawkeye, the supernatural Moon Knight, real name Marc Spector, is both a curious and interesting choice, not only to join the MCU but to lead his own show.
An Avenger, Defender and Marvel Knights (just to name a few of his affiliations), Spector is an oddity because since his 1975 debut, the character has had more changes to his character than Loki has switched sides. Partly because, well, Moon Knight is not just one man, but many of the same character.
Confused? Well, Spector suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder and has been recognised to have at least three other primary identities, including English-Jewish billionaire businessman Steven Grant, taxi driver Jake Lockley and white suit-wearing consultant Mr. Knight.
As for Moon Knight, the character is a resurrected ex-Marine who has been fully healed by the Egyptian God Khonshu, and granted special abilities, including a powerful white suit that changes with his personality. Or so we see, unless it’s all in Spector’s head.
What audiences and fans will get from the first four episodes is a deep dive into the titular character and if you’re a fan of the comics and the hero’s origins, the series keeps it all very close. The story starts with Spector, and while we see glimpses of Spector in the first episode, audiences will also get up close and personal with the others, including Grant, now a museum gift shop employee living in London with a huge passion for Ancient Egypt. Awkward and shy, Grant is what you would call an all-out loser who rarely goes to sleep and tries to stay awake most nights. Because of this, he is always tired and losing track of the time and day.
The series doesn’t tell viewers why he tries to stay awake but shows that when he falls asleep, he’ll wake up somewhere strange and unfamiliar. Complete with no memory whatsoever as to how he got there in the first place. Showing, not telling, is one of Moon Knight’s strengths and the first few episodes bring us into the headspace of Spector/Grant and we see exactly why Grant does the things he does. It’s only when Spector and Khonshu begin haunting Grant through mirror reflections and hallucinations, do we get the idea that he has another personality attempting to come out. Who Spector is and how Khonshu came about too, gets explored as the episodes progress, but we won’t spoil it for you in case you’d want to figure that out on your own when you catch the series.
The stand-out in this not so superhero tale is Star Wars alum Oscar Isaac, who has assembled an impressive resume. Fresh off from the Oscar-winning Dune, Isaac jumps right into the role and showcases the breadth of his talent, as he switches back and forth between the various personalities effortlessly, all while successfully making each of the said personalities unique and believable. It’s truly a marvel how one actor can portray so many different characters at once, and for that alone Isaac deserves some sort of award.
Joining him is the legendary Ethan Hawke, who plays Doctor Arthur Harrow. To Isaac’s Spector and Khonshu, Harrow is the antagonist, a complete radical who just like Spector, has a special relationship of his own with another ancient deity. But Hawke’s Harrow sees himself differently, of another man imbued by the powers of a higher being and thus, perceives himself to be some sort of a Saint on a mission to cleanse the Earth of bad people. You know how mental some of these headcases can get, with the Thanos mentality of wanting to save the universe, by killing half of it. Harrow evaluates the good deeds and the sins of his followers before deciding if they get the boot or not, and by boot, we mean death. He is calm and collected, and the complete opposite of the titular hero who is unreliable and in the nicest way possible, not in the sanest frame of mind.
This makes Moon Knight an even more interesting watch because unlike past Marvel Studios’ Disney+ series, including The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Hawkeye, there’s no apparent good versus evil. The hero is chasing after a big bad on a mission of mass destruction, and even if we did, he’s not really someone we can depend on during times of need. It is the unique dynamics here that makes Moon Knight less of the typical superhero series, and leans more toward drama, adventure and believe it or not, horror.
With the main theme of the show surrounding ancient Egyptian Gods, Moon Knight incorporates supernatural elements such as scary hallucinations, explorations into mythology complete with jumpscares and entities that have you thinking you’re watching The Mummy instead. Of which, we’d like to clarify is not a bad thing, because who doesn’t love a reminder of Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz’s iconic film series every now and then?
Unlike past series where our heroes are bound to the same old towns (even the overly used New York City), Moon Knight takes viewers on a globetrotting adventure out of familiar American states to the United Kingdom and the Middle East. It’s refreshing to watch a Marvel hero in a completely new location and setting as it only goes to show how much the MCU is expanding, making it completely exciting in terms of storytelling. Quick mentions of Madripoor suggest that despite taking place in a different part of the world, with seemingly no connections to the Avengers and other recently debuted heroes including Shang-Chi, the story of Moon Knight is not isolated from the wider MCU.
Although Marvel has delved into deeper darker tones as seen in WandaVision, Moon Knight takes it to a new level with quite possibly one of the most violent action scenes we’ve seen in any Marvel project, including the movies.
The action in Moon Knight is bloody and intense and while some fights take place off-screen, the blood splatters all over our hero’s costume obviously point to a nasty fight. This may be shocking to long-term Marvel fans who are used to family-friendly action and light comedy, which is our way of saying, this MCU show is not one for the kids. In fact, parents might want to review the series first before introducing it to kids because Moon Knight is definitely not kid-friendly. It’s not gory or sickening, but the switch-up can be a major whiplash to those unprepared.
Our only issue with Moon Knight is that it spends a lot of time building up an understanding of Spector’s mental illness and how that affects the relationships he has with those around him including new character and his close associate, Layla El Faouly (May Calamawy). Fans don’t get to see a lot of the character Moon Knight himself, as Spector frequently switches between a few other personalities back and forth throughout the series. Out of the four episodes we’ve seen, Moon Knight only appears in three of them and not for very long.
In addition, with the episodes placing heavy emphasis on Spector and Grant both attempting to establish a working-relationship means viewers who are only there for action will be tested on their patience, even if it is worth being patient.
That said, these new strides by Marvel Studios, along with Egyptian director and screenwriter Mohamed Diab, makes Moon Knight a complete standout from what we’ve seen before. From its complicated and deeply complex characters, blend of genres and overall darker tone, Moon Knight is for sure going to interest viewers who are sick and bored of the go-to repetitive structure and formula that has haunted Marvel Studios in the past five years. And if you’re one of those hoping to see something new, prepare yourself because you’re in for a ride alright.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Moon Knight is a standout from all the past Disney+ Marvel series that came before it. Shocking, dark and violent, this series will have you taken by this complex hero of the night.
Story - 8/10
Direction - 9/10
Characterisation - 9/10
Geek Satisfaction - 9/10