Just when you thought you’d seen the best that the MCU has to offer on TV, they come out swinging with Moon Knight. This refreshing narrative focuses on Steven Grant (and Marc Spector) as they fight to uncover the mysteries of the Egyptian gods while thwarting an evil force threatening to unleash terror on the world.
It’s crazy to think that until now, almost everything in the MCU has incorporated well-known comic book characters, or at least characters I’d heard of in some capacity. Moon Knight is one of the only MCU properties I knew absolutely nothing about prior to watching. I didn’t know the character, his backstory, his powers and even the narrative… and that made this such a fantastically refreshing watch. Right from the get-go, there was this mysterious vibe looming over the entire series in terms of what’s going on with Steven’s blackouts and filling the large holes in the character’s past. The first episode especially hooked me with its eerie tone and growing list of questions I needed answers to. Episode by episode, this series gave use more of an insight into who exactly Moon Knight is, answered crucial lingering questions and filled the gaps of Steven’s past – all at the perfect moments. Within individual episodes, there were moments of strange pacing but as a series overall this thing was perfectly paced. It moved along quite quickly, getting through a decent amount of story in six episodes, but never felt like it was rushing to pack anything in – a display of great writing.
Steven Grant’s journey through the season had its highs and lows, hitting multiple emotional beats and giving us plenty of insight into what makes the character tick. The story is heavily character-driven, letting the relationships drive the narrative and dictate when things move on. This creates a nice natural flow that evokes the feeling like you’re traveling alongside Steven and co. on a treasure-hunting adventure, rather than just following along from a distance. There’s a hint of a fun Indiana Jones vibe at times, becoming more prominent with each episode, and it’s capped off in episode four, which is my favourite of the season. The fourth episode ups the creepiness, throws in a splash of horror and gives off major The Mummy vibes – something I particularly couldn’t get enough of. There is a creepy atmosphere that looms over much of the season, but it’s especially prevalent in that episode. The light horror elements create a bit more tension and enhance the stakes within each episode – a really nice touch.
By far the biggest thing to praise in this series is Oscar Isaac’s brilliant performance as Moon Knight. Given the task of portraying multiple characters, some actors would crack under the pressure – but not Oscar. He does a remarkable job in giving a dual performance that has you locked in to both characters and caring about how their respective narratives develop. The contrast in how he presents both characters is something to behold – even if you forget about the differing accents, just the way he carries himself while playing Steven vs Marc is enough to know who you’re watching. There’s even a few notable scenes in which he flips between his personalities in one continuous shot, and seeing how he subtly contorts himself to go from Steven to Marc in an instant is just fantastic. He brings a tonne of energy to the film, hitting every witty line of dialogue without missing a beat, and is the shining light across every scene.
Another scene-stealer is May Calamawy, who plays Layla. She brings this bubbly and charismatic aura to every one of her scenes, building an instantly loveable character who you just want more of. Her back and forth with Oscar Isaac makes for some hilariously charming moments. On the other end of the heroic spectrum, Ethan Hawke is great as the villainous Arthur Harrow. There’s not a tonne of depth to his character, taking on a pretty straightforward role in the story, but Ethan elevates the role through the sheer strength of his acting talents. While not particularly menacing, I found the very subdued and relaxed attitude he brings to the role a very nice touch, making him fell somewhat unique in the grander context of the MCU’s villains.
I do also want to touch on the use of CGI across the series. The first two episodes have a few moments where the visual effects aren’t really up to scratch with what you’d expect from such a big studio. There’s a notable scene or two where it’s very obviously not been polished enough, ultimate making me concerned for the following episodes. However, it looks like they saved their visual effects budget for the latter episodes, where the CGI doesn’t miss a beat. It goes relatively big in its finale and pays off brilliantly. On that note, the series is not heavily action packed, but any time we do get to see Moon Knight in action, it’s a pretty exciting showcase of what we could see more of down the line.
In the end, Moon Knight is a great piece of storytelling, showing how through fleshing out and developing the characters you can create a compelling narrative with mystery, intrigue and genuine entertainment. It’s fun ride with a number of comedic beats, but it’s also not afraid to get dark and deliver some thrilling horror-inspired sequences. Led by an award-worthy Oscar Isaac performance, Moon Knight may be my favourite of Marvel’s Disney+ series’ so far – which should be reason enough to check this one out!