I’ve always talked about how much of a comic book fan I was growing up and even though I strayed away from them as I grew older, I still dabble from time to time. I am also a fan of all comic book movies, sans Howard the Duck, and I am a firm believer that they are just as much art as any Oscar winners out there.
One book that I gravitated to in my youth was Moon Knight. I always liked the lesser popular characters in the Marvel Universe and indeed Moon Knight is an acquired taste for many. The character of Marc Spector who has dissociative identity disorder is certainly off the beat and path than the go to heroes, but he is very much one of the most interesting anti-heroes to inhabit the world of superheroes. It’s also a very interesting story as this hero basically deals with a mental illness which grounds the subject matter even though there are many fantastical elements to it.
Disney+’s latest Marvel limited series sees Moon Knight coming into the live adaptation mode and Hollywood A lister Oscar Isaac, who has seen much recent success appearing in Dune, is perfectly cast as the mysterious Spector who also has other identities like the bumbling Egyptian museum employee Steven Grant. This alter identity is a far cry from Spector’s bad ass identity as a mercenary endowed with supernatural powers and Steven is the perfect cover for Spector. There are other identities Spector uses to cover his true self and from what I hear, the series will delve into more of them besides Grant.
Now this review is only on the premiere episode as I am not that important to receive screeners of future episodes like some websites, but I figured I would lay down my thoughts on the first entry in the series and wait till more episodes drop to further my opinion. I will say that the premiere episode is an enticing endeavor that will capture viewer’s interest right away regardless of whether they know the character or not.
Helmed by Mohamad Diab and penned by Jeremy Slater, the first few minutes do not open with Isaac’s steven but instead we see Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow instead. The antagonist of this story performs an odd ritual where he breaks glass, puts them in his shoes and then proceeds to walk off using a cane. It is a very delicious opening salvo and one that tells you that this isn’t your ordinary Marvel MCU entry. I applaud Diab and company for going all out with the odd tone of it all and am very eager to see more of this man.
We then, of course, are introduced to Mr. Steven Grant who is anything but heroic. Poor steven lives a life of solitude and we find that he doesn’t have many friends. Come to think of it, most don’t even know what his correct name is. Steven works at the museum where he runs the souvenir shop, but we also find out that he knows more about Egyptian history then the tour guides probably do.
Steven also suffers from time loss where he literally wakes up in different places not knowing how he got there and why. It’s an ailment that forces him to restrain himself while sleeping and secure his apartment, so he won’t get out. It doesn’t work though as he constantly finds himself in situations that are unknown.
One sleepwalking trip takes him far from home. This is where we hear the voice Khonshu, Egyptian god of the moon (voiced by the great F. Murray Abraham). This serves up more comedic relief as Khonshou tells Grant to “surrender his body” to Spector who is the more capable mercenary, and he often refers to grant as the “idiot.” Here, Grant runs into Harrow and his many disciples in a small town while Harrow is conducting his ritual. This is where he deems who is worthy and who is not and his seance actually kills a poor older woman right in front of Steven. This scene leads to the big action set piece of the episode as Steven is chased by Harrow’s soldiers.
The sequence is humorous as Grant steals a cupcake truck and flees with his assailants in hot pursuit all the while Wham’s Wake Me Up Before You Go Go plays out in the background. It is also exciting, and action packed as Grant goes in and out of consciences and when he does recover things have happened and bad guys have been taken down. Fans of Moon Knight will know right away that it is Steven’s host body, the mercenary Marc Spector, taking control so he doesn’t die.
My only complaint about this technique is that we don’t get to see what Spector can do. We only see the aftermath of what he has done fighting wise. I get why Diab uses this trick to set things up, but I’ve always been a visual person. There is also some questionable CGI in this sequence which took me out of the moment a little, but it was just a little.
Grant escapes and makes it back home, but Harrow and his followers follow him back to the museum where Arthur tells him to give back the priceless artifact that he has unwillingly taken from the cult. It is truly an unnerving scene as we see that Harrow has many followers in plain sight, so we know his army is large.
The episode ends with Grant once again running from a mythical creature set loose in the museum to take him down, but it is here where he finally communicates with Spector through his appearance in a mirror. Spector tells Grant to let him take over so he can save them from the threat.
This is where we see the transformation into Moon Knight for the first time and it is a welcome sight as the mysterious mercenary does take over and proceeds to beat the ever-living crap out of the monster. It is the perfect way to end the episode as it will certainly entice audiences to keep watching as this show will be a far different entity then anything we have seen thus far in the MCU phases. Moon Knight’s uniform is perfect as it represents the comic book with its cape and bandages that make him look like one bad ass Egyptian mummy. I also love how his eyes light up and I hope we will see Moon Knight more in the future. Marvel has a habit of unmasking its stars because they think we need to see them for all intents and purposes. I’m sure Isaac will be front and center so let Moon Knight come out to play as that is what the fans, like me, want to see.
There is a lot more to come in the show, but I liked how Diab played the intro very much like a puzzle where the viewer has to follow along with grant as he tries to piece together what is happening to him. It is the perfect way to introduce this lesser-known character to the masses and as a fan from years ago, it is a pleasure to see Moon Knight in all his glory in live action.
Harrow, who is an elite zealot is the usual Marvel villain who wants to take over the world and he is doing this by deeming who is worthy and who is not. Those, like the unfortunate old woman, will be cleansed by his hand and only those he deems fit will serve by his side. It’s something we’ve seen before, but I feel Hawke’s performance will elevate this above the standard cliche.
Another aspect of this particular show that I found rewarding was that even though it takes place in the MCU, there are no references to anything or anyone else in the shared universe. Sometimes, I feel Kevin Feige force feed us that the movies and series all take place in one universe, so we are constantly assaulted with reminders of such. I’m sure there will be references here and there but this episode was devoid of any, so I was free to watch without worrying about looking for potential Easter Eggs.
From the initial teasers, the action looks like it will truly be brutal. I even got saw the concept fight choreography on video and hopefully they will keep what I saw intact as it looked exhilarating and complex. Unfortunately, Moon Knight does most of what he does best off camera at the end so I’m patiently waiting to see him go full berserker mode in later installments.
Overall, as a fan of the original source material and character, I like what I saw from this opening salvo and Isaac and Hawke look like they are all in with their performances. Moon Knight himself looks authentic and true to the source material and here’s hoping that the action will rise to the occasion. I would also like to see Moon Knight interact with other characters from the MCU as I feel this will be gold for the blockbuster cinematic universe. This series looks meatier than some of the campiness we’ve gotten in the past and I’m digging the mysterious vibe it’s setting. If you’re looking for something different from the comic book genre, give Moon Knight a chance. If I had to give a score for this first episode, I would give it a 3.5 so depending how the rest of the series goes will determine my overall score and ultimate satisfaction of this beloved albeit nontraditional superhero.
I will return with more opinions on the show in the future! Keep it locked and loaded for more reviews to come on Moon Knight as we are your destination for everything action and comic book in 2022 and beyond!