‘Moon Knight’ Is Stronger On Atmosphere Than Excitement

Moon Night: Oscar Isaac – Photo: Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022

Making Her Announced MCU Debut With Her Own Self-titled Disney+ Series, Marvel’s moon knight (★★★☆☆) is a hero who literally doesn’t know himself. Beneath his mask of ceremonial bandages and armor, he is a man cut in two, beset by inner demons as well as the mystical demons and deities who stalk his path.

Most of the time, as we’re led to believe from the first episode, he wakes up in London as mild-mannered museum gift shop clerk Steven Grant. Prone to sleepwalking and unexplained blackouts, Steven only dimly begins to realize that he may be living a whole other life as adventurer – and possibly mercenary – Marc Spector. In turn, Spector lives another life himself, as the supernatural protector of the vulnerable, Moon Knight.

Appearing to each other in the reflections, Steven and Marc bicker among themselves, two distinct characters both played by the fearsome Oscar Isaac, living up to his display as the show’s main attraction.

As the series develops an intriguing and chilling mystery around the Steven/Marc split personality, Isaac offers grounded psychological distress alongside monster movie terror, with moments of slimy comedy for a few laughs.

The actor’s British accent as Mouse Steven sounds uncertain, but uncertain might actually work for a character who sometimes doesn’t know if he’s the person he thinks he is.

For the sake of the audience, Isaac does enough to tell the two apart that we can tell Marc from Steven based on facial expressions alone. Even though he acts opposite Steven’s best living statue, CGI-enhanced Egyptian gods, and an appealing eclectic international cast, Isaac’s self-acting acting is what sustains the series.

Stronger on macabre atmosphere than superhero excitement, the series doesn’t establish a confident, soulful style of action, at least not in the four episodes available for review. There are clashes shot and staged so uncertainly, especially in the two episodes directed by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, that they result in the scenes that generate real buoyancy and impact.

On occasion, the dialogue drags on its own quite a bit, as in an exchange between Arthur Harrow, the leader of Ethan Hawke’s deadly cult, and black market antiques dealer Anton Mogart, played by Gaspard Ulliel, who sadly passed away earlier this year after a skiing accident. .

Moonlit Night: Oscar Isaac -- Photo: Csaba Aknay.  ©Marvel Studios 2022
Moon Night: Oscar Isaac – Photo: Csaba Aknay. ©Marvel Studios 2022

Teasing a dramatic reveal, Harrow asks, “Anton, would you like to see for yourself?” “Yes”, comes the answer. “I do what? Not horrible, but certainly clunky, the writing definitely does a disservice to Marc/Steven’s love interest, Layla El-Faouly (May Calamawy).

Written as too dense at first to consider that the man she knows as Marc Spector isn’t faking his new identity as Steven Grant, Layla takes longer than she should to get up to speed. And Calamawy’s flat performance can’t hide her unconvincing character design, an apparent substitute for the comic book hero’s longtime love interest, Marlene Alraune.

Layla’s main appeal is her courage to put herself in harm’s way to save her man or to do the right thing. Of course, danger follows wherever she and Marc/Steven/Moon Knight may go, from the streets and galleries of London to the ancient tombs of the pharaohs.

A handful of moon knightThe hand-to-hand combat is truly thrilling – usually in episodes directed by Mohamed Diab – as a few of the chases bounce propelled by sharp editing or comedic charm, while others simply stumble.

The one mode where the series finds consistent success is in its suspenseful and macabre portrayal of Moon Knight’s backstory and current struggles, as a pawn in a war between Egyptian deities.

Marc, and therefore Steven, are bound by a pact to serve the Egyptian moon god Khonshu (ominously voiced by F. Murray Abraham), bringing justice on behalf of those wronged. Meanwhile, Harrow, an eerily calm cultist of Hawke, leads the followers of the goddess Ammit, determined to impose justice on wrongdoers before they commit their crimes.

Between Harrow’s mind games and the chilling presence of Khonshu dancing around his bewildered brain, Steven is constantly threatened, even in the moments when he is alone, because he is never alone. Not just an avatar for an exiled god, Steven/Marc is sensitively portrayed as an avatar for a mental state that makes Moon Knight particularly vulnerable and powerful at the same time.

moon knight is available to stream weekly on DisneyPlus. Visit www.disneyplus.com.