Moon Knight Review: A delectably trippy MCU series fine-tuned by a 'twin-tastic' Oscar Isaac performance
Oscar Isaac cements himself as a bonafide addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with his terrific mercenary 'twin' act in Moon Knight. Read Pinkvilla's review below.
Moon Knight Cast: Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy
Moon Knight Creator: Jeremy Slater
Streaming Platform: Disney+Hotstar
Moon Knight Stars: 3.5/5
"Embrace the chaos;" if ever there was a befitting phrase to describe the psychological mind trip, i.e. Moon Knight. Add in a supremely pitch-perfect cast, headlined by Oscar Isaac in a terrific MCU debut as Marc Spector aka Moon Knight, the show continues Marvel Studios' upward trajectory in experimenting with their superhero content, taking considerable risks after Avengers: Endgame. Does it pay off this time? Let's find out.
Moon Knight marks the first MCU series to release in 2022 after a successful 2021 run with the likes of WandaVision and Loki. Given how it's in the miniseries format, with six episodes under its belt, Moon Knight's showrunner and head writer Jeremy Slater along with director Mohamed Diab certainly had their work set out for them as they were tasked with introducing a new character as complex and wonderfully weird as Marc Spector. I was given early access to the first four episodes of Moon Knight, and as someone who's strictly an MCU fan rather than that of the comic books, I sincerely believe Moon Knight was bestowed with a grandiose MCU debut with the series.
Without giving out any Moon Knight spoilers, Marc Spector is a mercenary with dissociative identity disorder, deriving his Moon Knight persona from Khonshu, the Egyptian moon god. From his many multiple identities, we've been bestowed with Steven Grant, a completely opposite personality from Marc's rebelliousness. Steven, a Britisher working as a gift shop employee at a museum with great knowledge of ancient Egypt, simultaneously experiences blackouts, forgetting crucial memories from his life. As seen in the trailers, we're accustomed more to Steven than we are to the mysterious Marc and that's bang on the money because when we're finally given access to Spector as Moon Knight, it's a bada*s, triumphant sequence to witness. We've given enough time to familiarise ourselves with Steven, but he never overstays his welcome as in actuality, it's Moon Knight that we want to see in his magnificent suit, laying to waste to any and every enemy.
Some of the most enjoyable sequences in Moon Knight are when Steven and Marc bicker, almost like children to take control of their shared body, and that's wholeheartedly indebted to Oscar Isaac. It's very difficult to come across a bad Oscar Isaac performance and Moon Knight is no different. Oscar, even in that laughable Dick Van Dyke-trademark British accent as Steven, clearly sets the two identities apart, a battle of wits, if you may say so, between a mostly mild Steve and an anti-hero in Marc. The complexities and sassiness of these two personalities seamlessly blend through Oscar's tempered performance as he also sheds considerable light on the duo's fragmented mental health, a focal point in the series.
But what's a mercenary without an adversary? Enter Ethan Hawke's devilishly charming Arthur Harrow, a cult leader associated with the god Ammit, who has a solo endeavour; heal the world, but on his own morally ambiguous terms. Letting his tribe look after the violence, Arthur is more tuned to emotional mind games in order to attain his end goal. Alas, he finds his obstacle in Moon Knight and his difference in opinion. Ethan, also a stellar actor in his own might, infuses just the right amount of darkness to not overpower the titular character, but also stand apart as a formidable foe. Hawke and Isaac play off of each other's craziness, without ever overstepping the dramatic boundaries. It's also key to note that Arthur's opening scene is pretty much as good as it gets for an MCU villain with obviously evil intentions. Similarly, May Calamawy as Layla El-Faouly, an archaeologist with past ties to Marc ups the ante with a delightfully mysterious turn as you're intrigued about her from the get-go. Moreover, if Jeffrey Wright as The Watcher in What If...? felt like a voice casting coup of our wildest dreams, Moon Knight earns brownie points for J. Murray Abraham as the dominant voice behind Khonshu. The casting of Moon Knight is definitely top notch as each actor fills the billing, just right.
When it comes to Moon Knight's storyline, the show promises to take us on an epic Indiana Jones-esque globe-trotting journey and it's indeed a relief to see MCU characters anywhere other than New York. This time, we're taken to Egypt, thematically and literally, and from the crisp, detailed production design by Stefania Cella to Hesham Nazih's outstanding score that deserves applause of its own, you can immediately tell that conscious effort and careful curation was put into a culturally sound depiction, aesthetically. Equally enticing is the adventurous action sequences that become nastier and more enjoyable to watch as the stakes turn higher. As for Moon Knight's suit, designed impeccably by Meghan Kasperlik, there's a balanced mix of traditional and modern functionality, immediately peeking your awed interest. In comparison, Steven's Mister Knight suit caters more to the comical effect.
What I found most intriguing about Moon Knight at first glance is how much time was invested in the first episode, introducing Steven Grant before jumping neck deep into Marc Spector, as this storyline choice helps in establishing the dwindling yet somewhat similar mindsets of both these identities, and why they are the way they are. The parallels between this duo are what fans can surely look forward to! For comic book lovers, the equal weightage to the horror elements with MCU's trademark humour might be a buzzkill, but on a universal level, it oscillates between everything we love about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that too, from a fresh, more intrinsic and gutsy point of view.
If you're a newcomer to the world of Moon Knight, you won't be lost in translation as the series can very well be set apart as a separate entity from the MCU and still be understood all the same. What seems to be similar to Loki in terms of story progress, with episode four trenching onto berserk elements, it will be interesting to see how Moon Knight explosively wraps Marc's adventure and reaches a conclusive ending by its sixth episode. Nevertheless, if the delightfully chaotic Tom Hiddleston starrer has taught us anything, you save the best for the extreme last.
In finality, Moon Knight is a delectably trippy MCU series, which helps establish not just Marc Spector's but also Oscar Isaac's standing in MCU's long run. And that honestly, is nothing but a clear win for Marvel fans! Embrace the chaos, i.e. Oscar Isaac as Moon Knight.