GateCrashers Review of Disney+’s Moon Knight
Moon Knight has been a character that I’ve strictly known from memes up until his latest series. It seemed like a character with a complicated history and baggage that was going to be tough to dig into, so when they announced that he’d be getting a MCU Disney + show, I was rather excited. I knew some of the heavier themes may get dropped in favor of the MCU’s general preference for humor over thematic substance. But the Moon Knight show actually impressed me quite a lot with its tone, directing choices, and even sometimes it’s version of that familiar MCU humor.
Moon Knight follows Steven Grant, played by Oscar Isaac, a quiet nerdy type who legitimately has to strap himself down when he goes to bed to avoid waking up somewhere else. It turns out that his blackouts and random memories he’s been having are associated with his dissociative identity disorder. He’s sharing his body with a mercenary named Marc Spector, who is working with an Egyptian god as his arbiter in the mortal realm. Things get complicated when Marc’s secrets start spilling all over Steven’s life, who quickly starts to realize he’s way in over his head.
Before I talk about the rest of the plot, the show does not focus on dissociative identity disorder as a mental health issue in the first four episodes. I cannot even truly recall them saying it outright, but it never treats the identities of Steven or Marc as lesser than because of their illness. My biggest worry about the show was how they would handle this part of the character and if it would become the butt of jokes. A lot of the symptoms we see on the screen are close to what is listed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness 5th edition). Many elements are exaggerated for fiction, but I cannot fully say if it demonstrates a realistic depiction of the disorder. What I can say is that it doesn’t make those suffering from it a joke or a villain for their affliction.
Oscar Isaac’s performance as both Steven and Marc is wonderful. With both identities occupying the same body, he makes distinct variations on his performance for each of them. Steven has an accent which is the biggest difference, but it’s more than that. He carries himself as someone who lacks confidence in himself with slouched shoulders and more of a feel that he will make himself smaller for those around him. Marc, on the other hand, is a lot more forward with who he is as the aggressive mercenary. His speech is a lot heavier in tone and carries himself with confidence. There is one shot where he looks directly into the camera and you can just feel the fact that he isn’t afraid of who he is. When they’re both Moon Knight, they have their own approach that is unique to their character. Marc has the more superhero aesthetic as a mummy with a cape who throws crescent moons like they’re bladed bats. Steven’s version wears a suit and tries to talk his way out of situations rather than fists first. The two communicate through mirrors and reflective surfaces which the directing team uses to their full advantage.
Mohamed Diab and the shows other directors created a series that feels tonally different than the rest of the MCU Disney + shows. It’s a lot darker in its themes and in setting as well. Many of the scenes are dimly lit at night, which matches the aesthetic of a character with an attachment to the moon. To show Marc and Steven’s interactions, we see them communicate through mirrors and reflection. There are times where there are full on conversations while others are the viewers getting a glimpse of the other personality as they are spotted in reflections. The action sequences in the show may be the strongest of the Disney + era with a bit more violence than the other series. The fights can air more on the side of brutal, but still doesn’t reach the heights of fight choreography that shows like Daredevil met. Something else Moon Knight explores are fleeting glimpses of horror.. Overall, the show is trying to strike its own distinctive note without relying so heavily on the MCU as a whole as the other shows. The first 4 episodes don’t mention any MCU elements almost at all.
Moon Knight is the first MCU property to even flirt with the idea of horror. While it’s rather tame, there are a few scenes that have a diet horror flavor which is a good indication for the future of the MCU. There is one scene later in the episodes that actually made me sit back and go “that was kinda spooky!” Which I loved, but I don’t want to spoil it. What I can talk about is the scene we see briefly in trailers, with the Egyptian god Khonshu. Steven is trying to run from something that he finds in a storage facility, but when he enters the hall, the motion lights start to slowly flicker from one side to the other. Khonshu appears in quick glimpses as we flip back and forth between the POV of both ends of the hallway. It’s a really well executed visual to build to the reveal of the skull headed God. I hope this is just the first steps into horror proper.
Moon Knight as a series is a great place for people to learn about the character in an easy to digest format. It doesn’t get into the deeper nuisances of mental illness, which I think is good because it could end up becoming a joke for the MCU formula. Oscar Isaac’s performance as both Marc and Steven stands out amongst the other performances we have seen from many actors in the superhero genre. With the brief glimpses into horror while still maintaining the shoehorned MCU humor, I do hope this is the start of shrugging that off to explore other genres fully.