moon knight it must be a dunk. It has one of the best actors alive, Oscar Isaac, playing one of Marvel’s juiciest characters, a mentally unbalanced vigilante named Moon Knight. He has another great actor, Ethan Hawke, playing his adversary, the mysterious Arthur Harrow. He has a talented creator in Jeremy Slater and a handful of skilled directors including Mohamed Diab and the team of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson. A month or two ago, it was my most anticipated Marvel Cinematic Universe TV show to date.
Then it premiered. And now in three weeks moon knightAll six of ‘s episodes, I find myself much more frustrated than satisfied. All the ingredients are here for another solid Marvel Disney+ television series. But something is missing.
Or, rather, something is different in moon knight than all previous MCU series on Disney+, even though the show has continued to explore the main theme of all these Marvel TV shows: the murky and complicated nature of human identity. That’s been present on every Marvel streaming show, but it’s particularly important to moon knightwhere Isaac plays a meek museum gift shop manager named Steven Grant, who discovers that he is just one of several personalities sharing a single body, and that one of those other personalities is a mercenary turned “avatar” for him. Egyptian moon god Khonshu.
Suddenly, Steven finds himself involved in a mad race around the world for a mystical beetle coveted by Heller, who worships another Egyptian god named Ammit. Steven also needs to deal with his other personality, Marc Spector, who is not very interested in sharing control of his body and who is married to a woman named Layla (May Calamawy) who Steven has never met.
The most interesting part of moon knight it is the notion of these wildly different men sharing one body. That concept takes the subtext at the core of most superhero stories, where, say, Peter Parker has to decide whether to go on his date with Mary Jane or save Flash Thompson from Doctor Octopus, and turns it into literal text. . How do you maintain a job, a private life and a family, when you share your physical being with another person with other worked, other private life, and other family? Steven can go to sleep in his bed and wake up in Austria, with no memory of how he got there and none of the skills a man might need in that situation to navigate his way home. That is really fascinating!
But that’s not what moon knight it’s about. Instead, it’s a brilliant scavenger hunt, with Marc/Steven traveling, trying to retrieve one ancient artifact after another. In episodes 1 and 2, they need to find and protect a magical beetle. This week, everyone wants an all-important sarcophagus.
Steven and Marc are occasionally at odds, such as in Episode 3 when Marc needs Steven’s expertise in Egyptology to help solve a riddle hidden in another former MacGuffin. But moon knight doesn’t really explore what it’s like to have multiple personality disorder. It’s not even about what it’s like to live a double life as a superhero. It’s just a big chase. If that chase was really exciting, then moon knight it could still be a worthwhile show. But is not; each episode contains short bursts of action, followed by endless scenes of characters explaining things: the nature of the Egyptian gods and their avatars; the details of the Ennead; how Steven’s dissociative identity disorder works.
That’s the biggest difference between moon knight and previous Marvel Disney+ shows like Loki either The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: It stars a character who hasn’t appeared in a single Marvel movie or TV show before, so it has a lot more exposure to produce as a result. Marvel correctly assumed that viewers knew enough about Wanda and Vision and their relationship from the avengers films that could prevent massive information dumps about their lives. That gave her time to flesh out her various mysteries and play up her spoofs of classic TV sitcoms. Similarly, while Hawk Eye introduced a new hero to the MCU in the form of Kate Bishop, it also had the old familiar Clint Barton, who had already been through six character development movies, to guide audiences through the story.
moon knight, on the other hand, features a whole new cast of characters and gods and Marvelized Egyptian mythology and it all needs to be cleared up for viewers. (It also stars a character who is much less well known, even among many comic book readers, than Loki or Hawkeye.) Every time moon knight builds to a more intense register, he inevitably has to slow down again and again to keep the audience in the loop on who needs which antique and why. It’s proof that it’s really hard to do an origin story and a thriller at the same time. Hopefully, the second half of the season strikes a better balance of those two elements and finds a little more room to explore its hero’s fractured psyche.
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