Starring Oscar Isaac, Moon Knight is the first Marvel release to be completely untethered from the rest of the MCU. In what could have been a risky move that might easily polarise fans, the end result is a hugely entertaining story that is probably the best Marvel show to date.
The show opens with Steven Grant (Isaac), who has extensive knowledge of Ancient Egypt and works at the British Museum in London, hoping to become a tour guide. Despite tethering himself to his bed while he sleeps, he wakes up one morning in Austria and witnesses a cult meeting led by Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke). Harrow is a religious leader whose association with the goddess Ammit leads him to exact justice on people based on their future crimes.
After witnessing Harrow kill a woman, Steven comes face to face with the man due to a scarab he unknowingly has in his position. Steven tries to hand over the scarab but a mysterious voice prevents him, and after several blackouts and numerous dead bodies, he escapes from Harrow and wakes up back at home in London. He’s pursued by Harrow, escaping with the aid of a woman called Layla (May Calamawy) who calls him Marc.
Harrow eventually catches up with Steven and releases a jackal like creature to kill him. Fearing for his life and with his reflection requesting control of his body, Steven relinquishes and a cloaked warrior takes over to defeat the creature. The next day, Steven discovers that his reflection is in fact another identity in his body known as Marc Spector, who is the current avatar of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham). They discover that Harrow is the avatar of goddess Ammit, and is seeking to resurrect her so she can purge all of humanity of evil. Marc and Steven must quickly learn to work together alongside Layla and Khonshu to defeat Harrow before Ammit can be resurrected.
Moon Knight has done the unthinkable and managed to pull off what was quite a tricky concept. A man with disassociative identity disorder possessed by an Ancient Egyptian god sounds pretty bonkers, and having this completely standalone to anything else in the MCU, without even a single cameo, is even crazier still. But this really works and it’s actually refreshing to have a Marvel series that has no prior ties to the MCU. The plot is interesting and the focus on Egyptology is fascinating and a completely new direction for Marvel. It also brings a darker tone and makes for a much creepier and more gruesome MCU than what we’ve seen before.
Oscar Isaac gives a truly standout performance as Marc and Steven. It can’t be easy to play multiple personalities but Isaac pulls it off effortlessly, and it’s easy to see the two distinct characters whenever they’re on screen to the point where they genuinely feel like two different people. I did initially take issue with Isaac’s slightly questionable, clichéd English accent but I soon realised over the course of the show that it’s like this for a good reason, same as the ridiculous English stereotypes and quips that get thrown around.
It was also refreshing to see a very strong female character in the form of Layla. While on initial introduction it first appeared that she would just be your usual female stereotype, instead Layla came into her own and became a very strong, independent character who could quite easily hold her own. Harrow as well is not your usual stereotype, as a mild-mannered, serene voiced zealot whose take on humanity and evil is not exactly black and white. As a villain, he’s not immediately hateable and is played very well and understatedly by Hawke.
The series looks good, from the set and costume design to the overall feel, however, there is some questionable green scene CGI from time to time that spoils this a little. Fortunately, this tended to be in the backdrops and Moon Knight, Mr Knight and all of the gods didn’t suffer from the same problems – the fights in the final episode especially are pretty impressive. There’s also a bit of a drop in the pace around episode 3, mostly due to a lot of dialogue heavy scenes going into detail on the Ancient Egyptian mythology. Thankfully though this soon picks up with a rather fantastic asylum-based sequence in episode 4.
The series feels like it flashes by very quickly, and I’d almost argue that it’s too short. I would quite happily have watched a few more episodes, and I have particular frustrations with the final episode as the story seems to have been wrapped up much quicker than it should. I also took exception to how the series ended, that is until the credits sequence which managed to wrap everything up rather nicely and hopefully hints that despite its standalone nature, there may be yet more to see of Moon Knight.
As a standalone Marvel series, Moon Knight is a shining standout. It’s not perfect, but with a great mythical background and a stellar performance from Oscar Isaac, it’s a great watch and hopefully won’t be the last we’ll see of Mr Knight.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!