This review contains spoilers for episode 1 of “Moon Knight” and the “Moon Knight” comic books
Since the show’s announcement in 2019 and following confirmation of Oscar Isaac’s casting in May 2021, anticipation for the Disney+ series “Moon Knight” has been steadily building for quite some time now. Personally, Moon Knight is my favorite comic book character and Isaac’s casting as well as the addition of Ethan Hawke as the villain sounded like a dream come true. After watching the premiere, though, I’m not sure that dream turned into reality.
The series premiere introduced us to Isaac’s Steven Grant, a museum gift shop working, friendless loner who longs to be anywhere other than where he is. The episode shows us, though, that his social life and dead-end job are the least of his worries as it seems Steven will wander out of his apartment at night having no recollection of where or what he might have done.
The episode, and most likely the series as a whole, hinges on a very non-British Isaac’s performance of this very British loser who is a soon-to-be superhero. The setup for Steven’s character is not breaking any new ground, but, luckily, Isaac’s British accent is only distracting in the first few minutes, giving way to the viewer being able to enjoy Isaac’s almost against-type work as Steven.
We learn through the episode that Steven’s mysterious lapses in memory seemed to be filled with him dealing with Hawke’s Arthur Farrow, a cult leader spreading the teachings and judgment of the Egyptian goddess Ammit. A horrifically unfunny chase scene with Isaac driving a cupcake delivery truck on a horrifically rendered CGI highway gives a glimpse into the blackouts that Steven experiences and their violent aftermath.
What makes the “Moon Knight” character tick is that these blackouts are not actually Steven going around and messing with crazy cult leaders, but, rather, an entirely different identity which takes over Steven’s body named Marc Spector (there’s also technically a third identity but that’s sort of still Steven, and they don’t appear at all in this episode). Isaac ditches the accent for Spector, which I expect will become a welcome relief in later episodes.
The premiere doesn’t explicitly state this, but Steven’s multiple identities arise from him having dissociative identity disorder, something that deviates from the comic’s less-than-stellar representation of the character’s mental health issues. The premiere doesn’t delve too deeply into Steven’s mental health, but it does indicate this conflict between Steven and his other identities will play a major role in future episodes.
The cinematography plays rather well with this idea at multiple points throughout the episode by using reflections and mirrors to show Steven being visually multiplied at many moments. Of course, the episode does it so much that it almost felt like the producers didn’t think audiences would pick up on the visual metaphor after only seeing it once or twice and that they would need to see it eight or nine times to actually understand what is happening.
This overused visual element serves as a good example of my least favorite part of this series: it’s still a Marvel Cinematic Universe project. The MCU has such a habit of taking extreme creative potential and watering it down into mass-marketable hogwash.
Something like the first few episodes of “Wandavision” felt so refreshing because Marvel was legitimately taking creative risks with it’s stories. “Moon Knight” puts all the cards on Marvel’s table to do something genuinely different, but the story, cinematography, lackluster CGI and even Hawke’s villain all just feel so familiar and played-out.
I anticipate the only thing that will keep me coming back for each new episode of “Moon Knight” will be Isaac’s moderately engaging performance, but even he is one overtly British phrase away from me turning off my TV and sleeping through the remaining phases of “Moon Knight.”
John Scott is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @JScott050901