Pop Culture Weekly REVIEW: Moon Knight is Gripping, Dark & Marvel Studio's First Horror
When Marvel Studios expanded the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to series released exclusively on Disney+, it not only allowed the franchise producers to expand storylines and create new ones, but it freed them from having to continuously do films that served solely as origin stories. While WandaVision expanded Wanda's story on grief and Loki fleshed out his journey after the events in The Avengers, Moon Knight truly serves as the first MCU series to launch a new character....and what an incredible launch it is.
Moon Knight stars Oscar Isaac as Steven Grant, a mild mannered museum gift shop employee, trying to make sense of the chunks of time he continues to lose. Through sleepless nights and increasingly inching into daytime, Steven begins seeing visions of Khonshu, an Egyptian moon God that seems to be appearing more and more frequently.
We learn, as Steven does, that he suffers from dissociative identity disorder (although this is never explicitly stated in the first four episodes I watched). At the same time that Steven does, we meet Marc Spector, a ruthless and highly skilled mercenary that just so happens to share the same body as Steven himself. Unfortunately for Steven, Spector is being pursued by Arthur Harrow (played by Ethan Hawke), a cult leader determined to find an ancient Egyptian artifact he believes that Spector has.
Brilliantly, the creative team introduces us to Moon Knight just as Steven himself is introduced to Moon Knight. It's a clever and very Marvel way to introduce the audience to a character who the general public probably hadn't heard of. In fact, the Moon Knight series itself is a clever take on what otherwise could have been a quiet weird origin story.
Oscar Isaac shines as - well, every character he plays here, and the supporting cast is strong and fleshed out. That's one of the benefits of having the room to breathe in a series as opposed to trying to fit in all of this story into a two hour film. The writers take every minute of each episodes nearly 60 minute run time to create a layered, world building series that will eventually crossover into the rest of the MCU.
Moon Knight is most definitely Marvel Studios darkest MCU entry yet, both in its story and its visuals. The main character is quite literally mentally ill, suffering from a near debilitating disorder that he has no control over, yet has very real, often violent consequences. The care that is shown with this is impressive indeed. And while the violence doesn't rise to Marvel's The Punisher (which seems to now retroactively be a part of the MCU) levels of graphic visuals, it is most certainly Marvel Studios most graphic chapter.
The series is also Marvel Studios first foray into horror, whether intentional or not. The stunning visuals marry perfectly with the haunting Egyptian deities, creating some very frightening sequences. Over the first four episodes, the genre of Moon Knight might be described as action adventure mixed with horror. Sort of if The Mummy franchise was put in a blender with the Insidious franchise.
And a review of Moon Knight wouldn't be complete without mentioning the incredible soundtrack. The Egyptian inspired music bounces from intense orchestral swells to pulse pounding modern production, expertly accompanying the art like visuals.
As Marvel Studios continues to expand the MCU, Kevin Feige and company continue to prove that it's in good hands as they branch out in new and exciting directions, both in story and execution. While Moon Knight vaguely feels like it's in the MCU, it also feels new and different too. Ultimately, it will be up to the audience to determine the legacy of this risk taking next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in my opinion, they've hit another home-run.