“Moon Knight:” Violent Sleepwalkers, Creepy Egyptian Gods, and British Oscar Isaac

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Courtesy of Disney

Oscar Isaac plays the mild-mannered Steven Grant, a charming everyman thrust into chaos when he discovers he shares a body with a ruthless mercenary.

Nicole Kowalewski, Arts & Culture Editor

This is a story about an avatar.
No, not James Cameron’s blue people or the popular animated series– the Egyptian kind in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Not sounding familiar? I don’t blame you. Even the main character had a hard time wrapping his head around it.
“Moon Knight” is the latest in a long line of Marvel Disney+ series and the first to focus on a protagonist not previously introduced to the MCU. Having established several familiar faces (mainly the Avengers) in their previous limited series, Marvel and Disney are taking a bit more of a risk with this one, but it seems to have paid off…so far.
The show follows the awkward but charming Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac), a gift shop employee at the British Museum who struggles with what he believes is a sleeping disorder. Things escalate when he begins to experience blackouts and terrifying dreams of violent escapades, and soon Steven is faced with the truth (no pun intended): he shares a body with the ruthless mercenary Marc Spector. As it turns out, those powerful Egyptian gods Steven studies every day at work? They are real– and Steven/Marc serve as one of their avatars. Refusing to sit back and watch Marc’s violent work unfold, Steven struggles to decide between friend and foe as his body’s two identities wrestle over control.
“Moon Knight” on the whole is definitely engaging, but because we as the viewers follow Steven/Marc’s points of view, things often become confusing. Anyone who read the series description would know that Steven has dissociative identity disorder, which ostensibly explains the odd phenomena he experiences in the first episode or two. Some parts of this, like Steven’s blackouts, are straightforward– he does not remember asking such-and-such woman out because Marc had control during that point. But other occurrences, such as Steven’s fish magically regaining his lost fin and losing it again, make no sense. It is left up to the viewer to surmise what happened. Of course, a little mystery never hurt anyone, and there is always the chance such details will be explained in later episodes, but a fine line exists between mysteries and plot holes.
A big factor contributing to the confusion is the filmmaking style, which is actually a strength in its own right. The show is visually striking, and the camerawork contributes to the off-kilter feeling of the plot. A great example is the portrayal of Steven vs. Marc. When the pair are speaking to each other, the personality in control of the body will catch sight of their reflection in some sort of mirrored surface. That reflection will have a will of its own, speaking and moving apart from the physical body of Steven/Marc. It is a credit to Oscar Isaac how marked the subtle differences between Steven and Marc are. Of course, he is helped by the fact that Steven speaks with a British accent and Marc does not, but the differing mannerisms, inflections and body language between the two go a long way.
Based on the initial two episodes– a new installment is released every Wednesday on Disney+– “Moon Knight” checks all the Marvel boxes with action, humor, a hint of future romance and stunning visual effects. Throw in the old existential crisis every superhero seems to go through and BAM, you have a hit. Though these characters are much less widely recognizable than the Scarlet Witch or Hawkeye, “Moon Knight” seems to have an icon in the making.
To decide for yourself whether “Moon Knight” will join the ranks of classic Marvel hits, stream the show on Disney+. New episodes premiere every Wednesday.