It’s unfortunate that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has lacked in great acting performances. It’s a world that prefers spectacle to character, and when it does try to tug at the heartstrings, it generally resorts to melodrama. There’s very little room for Oscar-worthy performances in most Disney movies. Here’s hoping the new Disney+ series will help change that. “WandaVision” was successful due in part to its talented cast, who were able to utilize their acting abilities instead of just their imagination with a green screen. Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki in “The Avengers” was delightful, as Hailee Steinfeld’s Hawkeye in “Hawkeye.” Even though “Moon Knight” is a bit choppy through its first four episodes, it’s Oscar Isaac’s performance that makes it worth watching . “Moon Knight” is one of the stronger MCU Disney+ shows today, thanks in part to Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead’s direction, and Mohamed Diab’s consistent work. Even though it falls into the mid-season sag story-wise that many other shows suffer from.
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Oscar Isaac portrays Steven Grant, a very average employee working in a museum gift shop. He’s been having such bad blackouts that he has to chain himself to his bed at night and put tape on the door so he’ll know if he leaves during one. In many respects, he’s a classic alter ego. But suppose Clark didn’t know that he was also Superman? Steven keeps waking up somewhere else, unsure if he’s still asleep because he regains control of his own body. He discovers that he is also Marc Spector, the alpha aspect of his personality who knows the entire story of Moon Knight’s abilities as Khonshu’s (perfectly acted by F. Murray Abraham), the ancient Egyptian God’s avatar. It turns out that the Gods can still control people on Earth through avatars. Khonshu is a little aggressive when it comes to how he uses Marc, especially with the emerging threat of annual religious cult leader Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), who is trying to resurrect the god Ammit. Steven is on a journey of self-discovery, learning that the world is not what he thought it was–and neither is he.
Isaac and Hawke are two phenomenal performers who together create an intriguing narrative. Steven and Marc are awkward and aggressive extroverts, whereas Harrow is a calm sociopath who will look you in the eye and calmly tell you why he’s killing you. Layla (May Calamawy) is somebody Marc knows from the past who Steven has never met—it’s complicated. Layla is caught in the middle of everything. Similarly to how Indiana Jones solves puzzles in Egyptian tombs, the first four episodes of the show focus on Layla solving ancient riddles. Because of this Focus, Layla takes on a Marion-esque (Indy’s girlfriend) role while Marc/Steven play the lead as Indy.
Diab and Benson/Moorhead’s “Moon Knight” is elevated by the best elements of daring performance outside of Isaac, namely when they get weird. This show is strange, and it sometimes goes overboard with its horror elements—it’s like a superhero version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I enjoyed the action scenes involving shifting personalities and invisible foes, and I hope there will be more of that in the final two episodes.
Unfortunately, “Moon Knight” has a bad habit of lagging in lengthy discussion scenes, much like most streaming series. Some Disney+ Marvel fans might think this is the first truly weird series, but I believe it should be even more bizarre. Instead of wasting time trying to make sense of everything, just let the extremely talented cast and crew take you on a ride through this strange Egyptian landscape. “Moon Knight” is best when it creates an atmosphere of fear and confusion instead of having long conversations that try to explain every detail about the Gods, their roles, and what they want.
However, the screenwriting flaws in “Moon Knight” never fully derail it thanks to the efforts of individuals like Isaac, Hawke, and Benson/Moorhead. The playfulness in this show is refreshing, and yet what really anchors the show is Isaac’s understanding of how confusing it must be to superheros–people who suddenly have to become another person when they’re needed most. I’m more interested in this series’ conclusion and where the character goes from here than any other Disney+ Marvel show—there have been reports of a feature film. For once, it doesn’t seem like a Disney+ program is rehashing what fans have already loved in a movie; they’re eager to offer them something fresh instead. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Doug Moench(Moon Knight created by)
Oscar IsaacEthan HawkeMay Calamawy