Saturday, May 28, 2022

‘Moon Knight’ Review: Oscar Isaac Gets Wonderfully Weird in Marvel’s Best Series Yet

Marvel Studios’ latest series Moon Knight dropped its first episode on Disney+ today, introducing audiences to a character who — while no stranger to Marvel Comics — is brand-new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The show follows the life of Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac), a mild-mannered gift shop employee whose polite, unassuming existence is plagued by blackouts and mysterious memories of another life separate from his own, one lived by a man named Marc Spector. We’ve had the opportunity to watch four episodes from the six-episode series that promises to be Marvel’s best television entry yet.

Thus far, the MCU has produced four live-action shows for Disney+ prior to this, all of which have focused on popular, well-known characters and branched out from existing stories and plotlines carried over from the films. So it was perhaps a daring feat to hinge a new hero’s origin story on an introduction in his own television series, sans familiar names, places, and events … but this leap of faith was an indisputable success.

Oscar Isaac stands at the forefront of Moon Knight as our troubled vigilante, and it’s difficult to imagine anyone else being able to pull off this intricately layered role with such a brilliantly nuanced performance that fits in so well with the MCU (and its characters) as it exists today. Isaac carries an impressive filmography in his back pocket, and he’s had a particularly exceptional run of films and television over the course of the past year. However, his performance in Moon Knight confidently falls into line as one of the best of his career thus far. It would be easy to say that Isaac serves as the big name draw to stir up interest in this new character, but it goes much deeper than that. Viewers will find themselves drawn to Isaac’s portrayal of Moon Knight not only for his star appeal, but because of the visceral, captivating manner in which he brings Marc Spector and Steven Grant to life.

Oscar Isaac as Mr. Knight in Marvel Studios' MOON KNIGHT
Marvel Studios
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Given the Dissociative Identity Disorder that his character suffers from, Isaac is tasked with ensuring viewers can clearly differentiate between his distinct identities on-screen. In the comics, Marc’s personalities could be easily represented by clothing and other stylistic choices. But in the show, it’s up to Isaac to hone in on his speech and utilize careful, precise body language and facial expressions — which is one of the most profound aspects of his performance. While Marc and Steven share a single body, they’re wildly different people (and it’s downright entertaining beyond all measure to watch Isaac act with himself).

Every hero needs a nemesis, and for this series, it’s Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow. Upon the reveal of his character’s name, fans were quick to try to pick apart clues based on his small appearance in the comics. Rest assured that a compelling story awaits for Arthur, who plays a strong opposite to Isaac with his character’s disconcertingly calm and righteous demeanor. Meanwhile, May Calamawy’s Layla El-Faouly quickly proves herself to be a strong, capable female lead for the series (and despite her connections to Moon Knight, she can certainly take care of herself). F. Murray Abraham serves as the voice of Khonshu, who isn’t just a fearsome god, but rather an omniscient voice in Steven’s head that seems to enjoy chiding and berating him as he tries to come to grips with what’s happening to him.

Oscar Isaac as Steven Grant and Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow in Marvel Studios' MOON KNIGHT
Csaba Aknay/Marvel Studios

Leading up to its premiere, Moon Knight has been touted as a wild, mind-bending adventure, which comes as no surprise given the comic source material that it’s based on. However, what’s surprising is how easily the show manages to slip in the MCU’s trademark brand of humor throughout. The show’s prevailing themes are still dark and downright bizarre, but the aptly-timed comic relief is what ties together the various seams that make up this story. The comedy allotted in Isaac’s film career has generally been few and far between, but this is an area he absolutely excels in when given the opportunity (see also: Poe Dameron in the Star Wars sequel trilogy).

In order to fully appreciate the complex story that’s at work, viewers would be wise to devote their full attention to each and every moment of this vast, globe-trotting series. The show is meant to feel disorienting as it begins to play out (because the story unravels from Steven’s baffled, clueless perspective), but it successfully lands on the right side of the fence between being intriguingly chaotic rather than downright convoluted. Moon Knight isn’t Marvel’s first foray into the wonderfully weird, as we were given a taste of strange happenings in WandaVision and Loki, but it goes deeper and darker than ever before, pushing the limits and diving into uncharted waters for the MCU. Viewers will be left on the edge of their seats and eagerly waiting to see what chaos still awaits by the time episode 4 comes to a close (it’s a doozy).

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Following the various shakeups in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Phase Four has been working diligently to fill in the gaps left behind after the departures of key, longtime characters. The most exciting and entertaining potential path ahead for Moon Knight would be the establishment of a live-action iteration of the Midnight Sons, which would allow the franchise to really hone in on all aspects of the supernatural. But beyond that, Isaac’s portrayal of Moon Knight lends itself heavily to his overall potential as one of the leading faces of the MCU moving forward.

The first episode of Moon Knight is now streaming exclusively on Disney+. Stay tuned for all of our coverage on the series, including episodic recaps and more.

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