For better or worse, Disney Plus series Moon Knight is Marvel’s biggest curio yet. It centres on unassuming British Museum employee Steven Grant, who suffers from dissociative personality disorder and finds his agency reclaimed by Khonshu, an Egyptian moon god. Steven is one of several personas who inhabit the body of a man played by Oscar Isaac, who also plays an American mercenary named Marc Spector in addition to identities undiscovered beyond the opening episodes.
The Dune star’s British accent, a talking point from the trailer, lies in an aural uncanny valley. A polarising issue acknowledged by the actor, he justifies the choice as a byproduct of his character’s Dissociative Identity Disorder. Whilst there’s truth in that – the dark side of the Moon Knight, represented in Marc’s rebellion, has the authority of a main character – it doesn’t quite align the quality of Isaac’s differing performances.
But it works: with no route to gravitas through a bizarre accent, the befuddled museum worker is instead rendered onto Marvel’s quippy hero template. And there are funny moments in his disorientation in the world, especially when Ethan Hawke’s cult leader, Arthur, and May Calamawy’s Layla (Marc’s old acquaintance) get involved.
The dynamic between the beaked corporeal form of Khonshu (mightily voiced by F Murray Abraham) and Steven plays like Tom Hardy’s Venom duo and it can be almost as goofy at times, with a bombastic score that pushes everything over the top. It’s an unexpected creative choice from the directors, Benson and Moorhead (Synchronic, The Endless) and Mohamed Diab (Clash), who are generally more interested in grounding their stories in realism.
As a brand-new page in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Moon Knight doesn’t start as strongly as last year’s crop of shows. With zero references to the canon (though a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Fantastic Four easter egg is present), the work required to establish new lore requires some patience. When the early moments of superheroism arrive, the emotional heft is lacking because the cloaked caper remains a deeply veiled mystery.
Nevertheless, the set pieces are thrillingly crafted and the newness is appreciated. Having a fresh protagonist who’s disassociated from pre-existing Marvel leads showcases an exciting universe that doesn’t just circle back to the same old people (a recurring trap for Star Wars). The challenge for this show is to establish the titular character as one with a worthwhile story, as opposed to simply a key asset within the roster of Earth’s mightiest warriors, which naturally may be the endgame. Will we want to see more solo outings or just want to see him team up with others? The question remains open but, with an intriguing central mystery and teases of a big showdown, we’re keen to find out.
Moon Knight is released on Disney+ on 30th March 2022.
Watch the trailer for Moon Knight here: