Moon Knight: Disorienting Fun
Moon Knight Is Unlike Any Other Superhero Show
Going into Moon Knight, I had few expectations. I wasn’t familiar with the character. All I knew about them was that Moon Knight had more than one personality, and at least one of them had superpowers. All the trailers confirmed was it would be intensely trippy.
So, you can imagine my delight when the show was funny, creative, wild, and like nothing else in Marvel. Sure, the general structure of many Marvel movies and shows still lightly shackles it, but it’s the specifics where it comes alive.
The Series Is Delightfully And Refreshingly Weird
The trippy aspects of Moon Knight come in a lot of flavors and happen more often than you’d expect. The editing sometimes will purposely make you feel dizzy or disoriented. I got vertigo from a camera flipping upside down. It also uses cuts in time to turn action scenes comedic or frantic. A car chase in episode two was the highlight, making something rather gory and brutal into shenanigans. Moon Knight’s favorite trick is using reflective surfaces for the personality’s conversations—sometimes with those surfaces at weird angles. With all this blended together, the story gains an almost dream logic, where you need to pay attention to infer what happened during the missing chunks of time.
This also combines with a slippery narrative flow. The pacing doesn’t exist like regular television, and you’re expected to be on board for a lot of stuff with only brief explanations. We get a nice, gentle “first act” introduction to the other personality, but then it’s off to the races. There’s a whole pantheon of gods, invisible monsters, a secret society, and hidden backstories. It’s a testament to the writing that it’s possible to track what’s happening. It’s a testament to the actors that it has emotional coherence.
The Acting Makes Moon Knight So Much Stronger
This brings me to the most impressive part of Moon Knight: Oscar Isaac’s acting. I cannot stress enough how good it is. He’s not only playing dual roles, sometimes only acting alongside himself, but we see him seamlessly switch between personalities on screen. My jaw hit the floor when he instantly swapped his mannerisms, accent, and general demeanor. His two (as of the three episodes for the review) personalities, Marc and Steven, are distinct and likable in different ways. Even if you dislike Marvel, you’ve got to see the skill on display.
And he’s not the only one bringing their A game either. Ethan Hawke plays the best Marvel villain we’ve possibly ever had. Arthur Harrow is terrifying and yet charismatic. He’s got shades of Thanos with his hellbent plan but also has the unnerving friendliness of Ego before he attacks in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Every time he shows up on the screen, the tension ratchets up more.
Moon Knight Shows The Best Villian Since Thanos
Finally, we’ve got two fantastic supporting characters in Layla (May Calamawy) and Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham). Layla is a classic badass-with-a-heart-of-gold type who’s elevated by fantastic facial acting from May. Her history with the Marc personality lends even more dynamics to the usual double-life plot. Khonshu is just a fun supernatural character with a lot of snarky lines. The CGI in Moon Knight is fantastic across the board, but this “morally multifaceted” bird creature is an excellent mix of unnerving and oddly expressive.
Despite these positive qualities, I’ll acknowledge that this shouldn’t have worked. Even with the good stuff, Moon Knight is chaotic in a way that will buck some viewers. It’s not conducive to relaxation or sitting back and soaking it in. You’re either on board with a kitchen-sink show that demands you pay attention, or you will find your suspension of disbelief shattered by episode two. But if you can roll with the punches, it’s a show that keeps you guessing, explores mythology in a modern context, and plunges viewers into it all with wit and charm.
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