'Moon Knight' review: Marvel's new show mixes spectacle and gravitas with ease

·5-min read
Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke star in Moon Knight. (Marvel Studios/Disney+)
Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke star in Moon Knight. (Marvel Studios/Disney+)

This month Marvel took over the British museum to launch its latest MCU show Moon Knight. With Oscar Isaac donning a hybrid suit and kilt ensemble, backlit colonnades emphasised the mythical majesty of this latest chapter of the ongoing Marvel saga.

With an equally dapper Ethan Hawke in attendance, those first two episodes wowed the invited guests. However, despite the spectacle of a Marvel launch in full force, there must have been some left wondering what prompted the involvement of these two acclaimed character actors.

Read more: Everything new on Disney+ in March

Why would they choose to hitch their collective talents to this particular mainstream multiverse, when their tastes might be considered more avant garde or arthouse in apprehension? With Moon Knight arriving on Disney+ on 30 March, it is exactly these questions that deserve answering.

Not only that, but after Marvel moves on from British antiquities to something new, is this entry in their canon going to be worth the emotional investment?

Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke star in Moon Knight. (Marvel Studios/Disney+)
Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke star in Moon Knight. (Marvel Studios/Disney+)

On first impressions Oscar Isaac seems like a perfect fit for Marc Spector, aka Moon Knight, a conflicted anti-hero defined by multiple personalities. His career is a mass of contradictions, peppered with Coen brothers joints, Star Wars trilogies, villainous X-Men appearances, as well as more acclaimed, yet serious offerings including Paul Schrader’s latest The Card Counter.

Opposite Jessica Chastain he also appeared in HBO’s Scenes From a Marriage, further demonstrating his prodigious range to small screen audiences. A range which faces its fiercest challenge to date, playing many sides of the same coin for Marvel fans.

Read more: Oscar Isaac reveals reservations about Moon Knight

For anyone has seen the Moon Knight trailer, one thing which sticks out from the off is that English accent. In snippets and out of context people may have asked questions, but within the series as a whole it works well.

Watch a trailer for Moon Knight

His choice of high-pitched English intonation comes to define the character, emphasising anxieties and playing on his panic during action sequences. Plagued by night terrors, belittled by fellow workers and sharing his head with a number of different people, Steven Grant (one of Spector's many personalities) is a real mess.

Read more: Marvel fans confused by Moon Knight accent

However, much of the pleasure in those early episodes comes from watching Oscar Isaac characterise that conflict, as different personas battle for dominance.

In opposition to this chaos Ethan Hawke offers up Arthur Harrow, who comes across like David Carradine’s character in Kung Fu. Introduced to audiences during a ceremony involving broken glass and alcohol consumption, he is man with clarity of purpose, seeking to restore balance in a world he feels to be lacking.

Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke star in Moon Knight. (Marvel Studios/Disney+)
Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke star in Moon Knight. (Marvel Studios/Disney+)

This is the fundamental conflict which drives this story, as one man of unwavering willpower, faces off against another plagued by divergent agendas and Godlike abilities.

Beyond this inherently complex setup, Marvel have really delivered in terms of character, as both actors fully inhabit their singular roles. Isaac especially, is having a ball flipping between personalities and embracing the chaos which exists within him.

Directed with consummate flair by Sundance alumni Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson amongst others, Moon Knight mixes spectacle and gravitas with ease, whilst introducing audiences to a new kind of Marvel hero.

Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke star in Moon Knight. (Marvel Studios/Disney+)
Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke star in Moon Knight. (Marvel Studios/Disney+)

Aided and abetted by Khonshu, the Egyptian moon God voiced by Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham, this limited series feels like the beginning of something larger. As the story is cleverly unpacked and Steven-centric moments turn into globe-trotting intermissions with an alter ego, Moon Knight really begins to find its stride.

Seamless VFX shots are merged with more practical elements, giving action sequences a more organic and visually inventive feel. With Ethan Hawke being nefarious in opposition to Oscar Isaac on crusading form, demon dogs and ornamental scarabs guide the plot effortlessly.

Strong support comes from May Calamawy as Layla El-Faouly, who proves pivotal to Steven in later episodes, while the Gaspard Ulliel (who sadly died earlier this year) brings a hot-blooded malevolence to proceedings in his final role as collector Anton Mogart.

Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke star in Moon Knight. (Marvel Studios/Disney+)
Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke star in Moon Knight. (Marvel Studios/Disney+)

As for where Moon Knight fits into the fabric of an ever-expanding multiverse is up for debate; Egyptian Gods and messianic cult leaders might seem like an odd fit at first glance. Then again, critics said that about Guardians of the Galaxy before Chris Pratt danced his way into movie history as Peter Quill.

Off the back of that particular curveball from writer director James Gunn, Marvel gained in confidence and garnered a majority share in cinemas across the globe. That is what this studio consistently delivers either on big screens or through a dedicated streaming platform.

Moon Knight is just further proof that studio exec Kevin Feige and his brain trust of Marvel minded wunderkinds, still have their fingers on the collective pulse of this comic book culture.

Moon Knight will air weekly on Disney+ beginning 30 March, 2022.

Watch: Moon Knight lands 16+ rating in the UK

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