Moon Knight, the latest series from Marvel Studios and Disney+, opens up an exciting new world within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s helmed by Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Diab (Cairo 678), stars Oscar Isaac (Dune), and is produced by Grant Curtis (Drag Me to Hell). The series offers a uniquely grounded take on an otherwise obscure Marvel caped hero, who at least to the general masses has been relatively unknown.
Originally introduced in Werewolf by Night #32 (1975) — and with several appearances before his own run — Moon Knight was created by Doug Moench and artist Don Perlin. He’s a vigilante who serves the Egyptian Moon God Khonshu as their vengeful fist on the mortal realm. (For those interested in diving into the comics as you watch along, be sure to check out the 2016 run from Lemire and Smallwood, or the Ellis run that is on Marvel Unlimited but set to be reprinted by summer.)
From the first few episodes of this thrilling trip into the darker side of Marvel, we’re absolutely all in with the combination of grounded drama — something that seems pulled from the indie-film world that most of its creatives have spent time in — and horror that propels the show. Curtis is known for producing not only Sam Raimi’s horror films, but also his Spider-Man films. Isaac brings his incredible dramatic acting chops — and since he’s also an executive producer, he helped enlist Ethan Hawke to take on the show’s villain role. But it is Diab who truly ties it all together by bringing in a necessary perspective to a new franchise built on Egyptian mythology that, thanks to Western cinema, has been drowning in stereotypical pastiche. Here’s Egypt as seen through the eyes of an Egyptian, with its lore authentically handled.
Isaac is introduced as Steven Grant, one of the personalities that lives inside of the Moon God’s host, who is a shy but incredibly knowledgeable gift shop employee that just can’t catch a break. He’s mostly preoccupied in working his way up to being a curator or getting anyone to agree to a date with him. Shocking, I know… some suspension of disbelief needs to be taken here because he looks like Oscar Isaac. He does pull it off though with a charming English George McFly-ness about him, mixed with sort of a Doctor Who companion vibe — if, well, the Doctor also happened to share the same body. Grant, who is chronically blacking out, quickly pieces together that he is living a double life when his body is overtaken by Marc, a stealthy mercenary on a quest to steal an artefact from the very museum where Grant works. Diab deftly handles tonal changes from psychological thriller as Steven tries to retrace his/Marc’s steps to find out what’s going on, to white-hot fear when Steven faces the monstrous manifestation of Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham). There’s an elevator scene in particular that really goes all out in amping the terror in Marvel. Eventually, the entity cuts Grant some slack when he finds out too much and leads enemies to them.
Together, Steven and Marc have to navigate their role in a deadly mystery tied to the powerful gods of Egypt while discovering the complexities of having dissociative identity disorder (DID). Which is where Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow comes in as a New Age guru type, who gives a whole new meaning to positivity work as a conduit to judge others, with his power to drain the bad away and cultivate good with his followers. Hawke gives us an antagonist who counters perceived insanity with chilling righteous sanity, at first by attempting to extend help to Steven by suggesting the voices in his head aren’t to be trusted, weaponizing his DID against him.
Diab is very careful to tackle the sensitive subject of mental illness versus ableism in a way that heightens the stakes and dissects the ways society as a whole “others” marginalised folks through their differences. Having Hawke and Isaac really explore these themes against a Marvel backdrop meshes realism into the genre in refreshing ways. Diab truly brings nuance to how mental illness and other cultures are depicted, while at the same time carving out an incredible reset of action adventure tropes. While we don’t get too much into her character within the first episode, we’re also introduced to Spector’s heist partner, Layla (May Calamawy), and their history in taking back things that don’t belong to museums. Calamawy is a scene stealer, and we can’t wait to see more of Layla in the incoming weeks. If you thought no one could match the romantic chemistry of The Mummy’s Rick and Evie, get ready for Layla + Marc + Steven + everyone.
Moon Knight gives us hope for a sweeping action-adventure filled with heroics, romance, and some dark twists amidst the mind-effing turns. Speaking of turns — whoa, there are some tight ones in episode one’s cupcake truck car chase (perfectly set to Wham). That was a treat and we expect a whole darn meal as the six-episode event unfolds. This story centres Moon Knight’s journey in a way that is mostly concerned with being a real character study. And it’s a relief that it’s so far less concerned with tying into the MCU, though we did expect to see The Eternals connections in the museum bits. (We’re not entirely counting some of those characters out though!) While not much is known in regards to where Moon Knight fits within the bigger MCU picture, producer Curtis has said it’s not entirely closed off, so who knows where we may see Moon Knight pop up next. We’re honestly just happy to have Isaac step into his own franchise finally and lead the way with creatives like Diab to enrich the fabric of Marvel Entertainment.
Moon Knight premieres March 30 on Disney+