The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand with the latest addition to its Phase 4 rollout, Moon Knight.
In the titular role, Oscar Isaac plays Steven Grant, an employee at a museum who struggles with a sleeping disorder, only to discover that he has dissociative identity disorder. One of his identities is Marc Spector, a mercenary whose existence is haunted by the presence of an Egyptian god, Khonshu, who bestows Steven/Marc with the power to become Moon Knight. However, the power isn’t all that it seems, but it’ll have to do as Steven/Marc and Layla El-Faouly (May Calamawy), combat cult leader Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke).
With Phase 4 in full swing, Marvel’s Moon Knight is an ambitious move toward the dark elements that the MCU is striving to promote and it succeeds with this latest series. With an assortment of television series under its belt, the MCU wins big with its latest magical entry. The imagery and sounds take elements of horror, action, and dark fantasy to blend a combination of its own that keeps you engaged every step of the way.
From fear buildups to outright jump scare scenes, you can see how the MCU is stretching its formula to incorporate new ways to experience the stories left to be told. Moon Knight becomes the guinea pig in this experiment and with Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness premiering after Moon Knight finishes in May, it’s a clear indicator of how well Marvel can play around with dark fantasy and horror.
Additionally, the MCU has been placing various human elements into its shows, with Moon Knight focusing on mental illness through Isaac’s character Steven/Marc. Loki, The Falcon and Winter Soldier, and WandaVision all deal with mental health in their own way and now Moon Knight joins this conversation. The show does an excellent job of highlighting the fear and confusion that Steven goes through while trying to navigate the mundane elements of life. You begin to root for Steven and become attached to him, versus feeling more of a transactional connection to his Marc.
Speaking of Isaac, he’s a true delight to watch on-screen. Many actors have tackled playing multiple characters in a film or a TV show. So, Isaac’s attempt isn’t uncommon, but he’s one of the better ones to have done it. He seamlessly maneuvers between playing the kind and frazzled underdog, Steven, and the intense and brooding vigilante, Marc.
An additional shoutout goes to Calamawy and Isaac for creating convincing chemistry between Isaac’s Steven/Marc and Calamawy’s Layla. The pair highlight the strained relationship between Layla and Marc well while portraying a blossoming connection between Layla and Steven. Also, on their own, Calamawy and Hawke both bring in additional charisma to the screen as they orbit around Isaac’s characters. Calamawy adds a likable earnestness, curiosity, and strength to her role, whereas Hawke brings a quiet intensity as the main antagonist within the show.
Honestly, the show’s success lies at the intersection of Isaac’s acting and the haunting imagery used to push the story forward. And though some moments may have some lulls here and there, audiences are taken on an epic journey where we aren’t sure if everything that’s happening is real and neither are the main characters.
As the MCU continues to carves out its mystical movie/TV vertical, it’ll be interesting to watch how these new shows and films take the mantle of the latest and greatest MCU property. Recognizing that Marvel likes to heavily reverse engineer its offerings, it’ll be equally intriguing to witness how all of these shows and movies tie into the Marvel universe, or rather Marvel multiverse.