As the first official new original series from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2022, Moon Knight brings in quite a bit of intrigue from the premise alone. Oscar Isaac portrays the titular protagonist, a mild-mannered gift shop employee named Steven Grant who discovers he has dissociative identity disorder and shares a body with mercenary Marc Spector. The duo must work together on their complex identities as they navigate through deadly threats in Egypt.
Moon Knight is the first MCU original series to center on a newly-established titular character, given that WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Loki, and Hawkeye all focus on previously-established characters. Is Oscar Isaac’s latest foray into the comic book genre following the disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse worthy of his brilliant talents? Most definitely. With a brilliantly disorienting narrative that puts you right in the hero’s point-of-view, some of the gnarliest action scenes of any series in the franchise so far, and a top-tier lead performance, the first four episodes of Marvel Studios’ latest sets up the most intriguing story in quite some time.
Given that Moon Knight has dissociative identity disorder, the nature of the character provides an interesting sense of unpredictability to the narrative, whether it’d be on page or on screen. Creator Jeremy Slater and the rest of the writing team along with the direction from both Mohamed Diab and the duo Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead intentionally disorient viewers by placing us squarely into the perspective of Oscar Isaac’s character. This constant unpredictability leaves viewers questioning what’s real, and what isn’t, akin to films such as A Beautiful Mind, Joker, and The Father.
The disorienting nature of Moon Knight is brought to such great effect in some of the action scenes. In particular, a chase sequence that has been teased in the trailers is enthralling to watch not just from pure spectacle, but from the stylistic editing choices that play into the unique narratives. This sequence as well as one in which Oscar Isaac’s Steven Grant gets into it with cultists of Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow stand out, with some of the impact leaning towards the more brutal side compared to most MCU shows.
Ultimately, it’s the brilliant performance of Oscar Isaac that really carries the show, turning in one of the best portrayals in the entire franchise. As one of the best actors in the industry today, he has showcased his incredible craft on films such as Inside Llewyn Davis, Ex Machina, and Dune. Audiences mostly recognize him for his role as Poe Dameron in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, and given that he spent over half a decade in the galaxy far, far away, it was initially surprising to see that he would be interested in joining another massive franchise. Thankfully, Moon Knight allows him to showcase his remarkable range, whether it’d be as the hardened mercenary Marc Spector, or the mild-mannered Steven Grant, whose much-discussed English accent is very convincing and adds a touch of dry wit that’s not as in-your-face as other MCU films and shows are with their humor. This dual performance’s entertainment value is comparable to that of Nicolas Cage’s Academy Award-nominated performance in Adaptation.
Oscar Isaac is supported by a brilliant cast that includes the remarkable Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow, whose motivations are quite fascinating and stand out as one of the better antagonists in any Phase 4 MCU film/series so far. Hawke convincingly brings the charismatic cult leader to life, and whenever he shares the screen with our protagonist, one can’t help but feel the gravitas the two actors bring to the table. Actress May Calamawy portrays Layla El-Faouly, a woman from Marc Spector’s past that provides much insight to his history. Calamawy really holds her own in the series, grounding both Marc Spector and Steven Grant back to Earth. Lastly, F. Murray Abraham lends his signature voice to Khonshu, the outcasted god that used Marc Spector’s body as his avatar. Abraham is expectedly brilliant in his performance, providing a sense of palpable power to the story.
Marvel Studios began their foray into original TV series on Disney Plus early last year with WandaVision. The series went on to receive much critical acclaim, including a few Emmy nominations under its belt thanks to its refreshing deviation from the usual MCU formula (at least until the finale), breaking with the usual narrative storytelling conventions one would expect from superhero films and shows. The refreshing nature of the series is why it stood head-and-shoulders above Marvel’s following efforts; most of which had their fair share of genuinely solid character moments, only to end in the most uninteresting finales possible, with Loki so far being the lone exception to the rule. While we are more than a month away from seeing how this six-part story will end, the bonkers way in which Episode 4 concludes sets us up for a potentially great conclusion. Whether or not the series sticks the landing, Oscar Isaac can celebrate comfortably in the fact that Moon Knight is the most consistently-engaging Disney Plus exclusive from the massive franchise so far.
Overall Thoughts: With its consistently-engaging narrative, surprisingly intense action sequences, and a Top 5 MCU performance from Oscar Isaac, the first four episodes showcase Moon Knight as Marvel Studios’ most intriguing original series thus far.
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