Moon Knight’ Review: Oscar Isaac makes it work

The new hapless hero of Marvel’s new Disney Plus series Moon Knight Steven Grant discovers that not only does a violent vigilante occasionally invades his brain but also there is a grumpy Egyptian lunar deity stomping around in there too. And with a weird combination of comedy, action, horror and general weirdness, it’s fair to say that there is a lot going on in Moon Knight.

The season is a mishmash and should probably not be working but it eclipses expectations to be wildly entertaining.

Beginning March 30, Moon Knight will be available on Disney Plus every Wednesday. Grant, a mild-mannered milquetoast who works in a London museum, is played by Oscar Isaac. By day, he’s a very normal person, but at night, he binds himself to a bed surrounded by sand (to show up footprints if he takes off sleepwalking, obviously). His nightly musings, however, aren’t your typical somnambulist ramblings. Steven awakens one morning in the European highlands, smack dab in the thick of a gunfight.

Then things start to become weird. Steven’s understanding of Egyptian mythology comes to life as he becomes engaged in a fight between ancient gods, thanks to the intervention of a brutal mercenary and a strange cult.

The first four episodes of Marvel’s Moon Knight were distributed to critics, and it says a lot that I devoured them all in one sitting and can’t wait to see what happens next. Moon Knight is strange, crazy, and a lot of fun.

It’s become a cliche to claim that each new Marvel product is unlike anything else you’ve seen before. Okay, Falcon and the Winter Soldier and, more lately, Hawkeye were relatively standard action/adventure episodes, but WandaVision and Loki took things to new heights. Is Moon Knight different from any other Marvel storey? Both yes and no. WandaVision and Loki were both deliciously bizarre, shocking, and unusual, and it’s an ascending spiral of craziness. Yes, it’s unlike anything Marvel has done in the past. Especially since there’s absolutely no reference of anything or anybody from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is impossibly restrained by Marvel’s standards. In fact, the show’s early episodes are at their poorest when it goes into the kind of thing you’d anticipate from a Marvel film, with some uninspiring and predictable CG creatures.

In episode 1, there’s a large action scene that puts a new spin on a classic action scene, serving as a complement to (and possibly a light parody of) the showcase car chases in Hawkeye, Falcon, and Winter Soldier, as well as any other film featuring a thrilling chase sequence. This chase scenario features some amazing editing that increases the levels of both danger and hilarity with each delightfully ridiculous clip. This scene highlights the essence of the series: It’s humorous, thrilling, and seeks to take you out from classic Marvel territory and into new ground.

From a horrifying passage haunted by a skull-headed creature to a sinister moment in which the extras in the background are shown to not be who they appear, the series delves into horror territory. It’s astonishing how many tone swings there are in this first episode, with many genres overlaying like the warring personalities in Steven’s mind. What’s even more remarkable is how well it works. Moon Knight is a one-of-a-kind experience thanks to the writing, directing, graphics, and even the show-stopping editing. And it’s all grounded by Isaac’s smart performance, which expertly navigates these many tones.

Isaac has a natural gift for physical and verbal humour. His British accent helps; it’s not the most authentic London accent ever (I’m British, FYI), but the “bruvs” and “bollocks,” as well as one well-placed “wagwan,” are amusing. Some viewers may not comprehend it (Isaac alluded to British comedy and comedians such as The Office and Peter Sellers), and some superhero aficionados may not enjoy a show with few superhero themes. Isaac, on the other hand, carries the show on his shoulders and makes it appear effortless by playing both sides of the main character.

Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow, a chillingly placid villain who reflects Steven Grant’s turbulent nature, is his antagonist (s). Hawke’s attraction is a large part of why Harrow is another Marvel villain you can’t help but think has a point. Two big-screen giants, Isaac and Hawke, are crucial to making Moon Knight’s wackiness stick.

While Moon Knight is a unique experience, it also harkens back to two earlier comic book adaptations that aren’t strictly part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Moon Knight, as oddly distinct as it is, may remind you of Venom and Legion.

Moon Knight follows a Hollywood A-lister who is harassed into violence by an irascible voice in his brain, similar to Venom. It’s less gory than Venom, but it’s also sharper and funnier, with better antagonists. However, while Moon Knight’s divine voice is frequently hilarious, there is only one Venom.