‘Moon Knight’: Oscar Isaac has fun waking up to the superhero inside him
Like its hero, the entertaining Disney+ series shifts between identities, from dark and heavy to pure pop silliness.
The online site Ranker recently ran a list of the 100 most popular superheroes and villains in comic books, with Batman topping the list and other iconic characters such as Superman, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man in the Top 10. But when we get to the likes of Martian Manhunter, Sunspot, Jubilee and Juggernaut, well, there are only so many hours in one’s life, and I’ll freely admit I know little or nothing about some of those latter figures. (Please don’t throw things at me at the next Something-Con if we cross paths.)
So it goes with Moon Knight, who made his Marvel Comics debut nearly 40 years ago and has appeared in animated series and video games but is just now getting the full MCU treatment in the Disney+ series of the same name. (This is the first live-action Marvel series that’s a pure origins story and isn’t spinning off characters we’ve already seen in the franchise, e.g., “Wandavision” and “Hawkeye.”)
I knew little more than the basic bio of this complex and intriguing superhero who has dissociative identity disorder, but with the chameleon-great Oscar Isaac taking on the multiple-personality role and having great fun with the comedic everyman setup, and the equally versatile Ethan Hawke along for the ride as a cult-like villain who thinks HE’S the real hero (as do most super-villains), this is an entertaining sliver of the MCU that plays like “Minority Report” meets “National Treasure” meets “Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde” meets “Split” meets “Venom.” (That’s a lot of meeting.)
First episode available now on Disney+, with another episode premiering each Wednesday through May 4.
With Bob Dylan’s “Every Grain of Sand” on the soundtrack, we meet one Steven Grant (Isaac), a mild-mannered, socially awkward, Egyptian history buff who works in the gift shop of a London museum, has only a one-finned fish for a companion and oh yeah — every night he bolts the door to his apartment and chains himself to his bed, because he has this habit of sleepwalking and wandering everywhere.
Not that the rituals can spare Steven from one day waking up in a glen in the Swiss Alps and then wandering into a village where Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) has a charismatic hold on the townsfolk and serves as judge and jury — not for crimes committed, but for misdeeds in one’s future. That’s because Arthur is an acolyte of the vengeful god Ammit, whereas Steven, we learn, is connected to the deity known as Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham), but wait, there’s more!
As Steven fumbles about while speaking in an exaggerated Cockney accent, he starts seeing a different version of himself: one Marc Spector, a dashing and lethal American mercenary who keeps telling Steven he’s not even supposed to know about this dangerous and mystical other world and he should just go to sleep and let Marc — and Marc’s white-clad alter ego, the intimidating and nearly immortal Moon Knight — take over. Further clouding Steven’s head is the appearance of May Calamawy’s Layla, who doesn’t understand why Marc is calling himself Steven and using that stupid British accent.
There’s a LOT going on here, people!
At times “Moon Knight” leans into the absurdist, light comedic aspects of the story; any time a TV series trots out Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” we know the material isn’t afraid of severe tonal shifts, from dark and heavy to pure pop silliness. We also have the classic MacGuffin in the magic gold scarab Steven keeps in his possession, which leads to the immortal line: “Steven Grant of the Gift Shop, give me the scarab and you won’t be torn apart.” On other occasions, the violence is real and visceral; you really don’t want to get on Moon Knight’s bad side. As directed by Mohamed Diab and the duo of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, “Moon Knight” is a cinematic, globe-trotting, mind-bending and worthwhile addition to the ever-expanding Marvel universe.