by Matthew Moorcroft
Episode 1 (The Goldfish Problem) – Strong Recommendation
Episode 2 (Summon the Suit) – Strong Recommendation
- Directed by Mohamed Diab (Episode 1), Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson (Episode 2)
- Starring Oscar Isaac, May Calamawy, F. Murray Abraham, Ethan Hawke
It’s actually a little shocking that it’s taken this long for Moon Knight, of all characters, to make it to live action. Despite being a lesser known character in grand public sphere, the character has maintained a devoted cult following among comics readers for decades for his unique lore and abilities, as well as his struggles with mental health. Even in the 80s, Moon Knight was different among superheroes for the sole reason of being, for lack of a better term, unhinged. His brutality was eventually focused more in the 2000s and the character has since become a poster child for how comics can both misrepresent mental illness while also having runs, like the wonderful 2016 run by Jeff Lemire, that are smart and respectful.
And thus comes along Moon Knight, the MCU’s official introduction to the character, now on Disney+ for everybody’s viewing convenience, while also as a way to keep the content machine rolling so audiences can stay on the Marvel train until Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness inevitably breaks box office records. But despite my growing cynicism at the “content for content’s sake” model that most streamers tend to be focusing on nowadays, if the content is indeed good then at least something good is being done, and thankfully Moon Knight is very good. More then very good, actually – Moon Knight is one of Marvel’s best shows yet, up there with Loki in terms of quality and more proof that the MCU can deliver the goods when it really wants to.
Oscar Isaac does double duty here, mainly in Episode 2, as both Steven Grant and Marc Spector. Suffering from DID, the show makes great pains to place you in their shoes as they constantly blackout, show up in random places, and sometimes find a bunch of people dead around them, and while this is obviously not a 1-to-1 there’s something about the presentation of Moon Knight that feels like well-intentioned then something like Split which uses DID as a plot device for thrills. Even Khonshu, portrayed wonderfully by a sarcastic F. Murray Abraham, could be seen as a personality here, constantly in the back of Spector’s mind as he slowly begins questioning himself.
While Diab helms the first episode strongly and makes a good impression, it’s Moorhead and Benson’s work on the second episode that’s more impressive visually. The constant mirror reflections and duality in frame make the fractured nature of his psyche more and more apparent; you can swear that you can see the other personality in the mirror every time you turn your eye just slightly. And while there isn’t anything new action wise here – it’s relatively action-less so far, which is a nice change of pace – the bits we do get are strikingly shot with great tableaus. Whenever the moon itself is in frame, it feels like something out of the comics in a good way as it’s hyper-realism comes forth – superheroes work best less in reality but instead in artwork, in poses, in myth.
If anything though, Moon Knight‘s best moments happen to be character centric. Isaac really is that good here, and his balance of Steven’s more mild mannered personality and nervous ticks with Spector’s more no-nonsense, by the book attitude is honestly a one-man play onto itself. If this is a highlight reel for Isaac, then it’s a damn great highlight reel, and one that makes a great case for him being one of our current greats. He loses himself in this role and I really hope he sticks around going forward into future MCU appearances.
And while Episode 3 hints at a bigger scale going forward, there is something nice about how small Moon Knight does feel throughout. It feels personal and tight knit, with a relatively limited cast and a greater focus on interpersonal conflict over grand world ending events. Will it get there? Only time will tell, but as it stands Moon Knight‘s strong opening episodes means I will be sticking around for more.