I’ve been a fan of Moon Knight since I first truly got into reading comics in the late 80s; beyond the fact that his striking white suit was just a […]
I’ve been a fan of Moon Knight since I first truly got into reading comics in the late 80s; beyond the fact that his striking white suit was just a damn cool visual design, the character’s multiple personalities and Egyptian lore behind his powers just struck me as fascinating and unique. Though he’s hardly ever been what you’d call mainstream – and is much more likely to be known amongst non-comic readers for the ‘RANDOM BULLSHIT GO!’ meme – that only added to the character’s allure for me; I’ve always enjoyed the so-called lower tier characters, who would often get into the most interesting and leftfield adventures even on the page. Moon Knight’s first appearance was in 70s horror title Werewolf by Night – one of a number of Universal-style monster comics that Marvel were publishing at the time – which demonstrates the kind of oddball, supernatural corners of the Marvel universe the character not only frequently found himself in, but actually started in too.
Though the 90s were as unkind to Moon Knight as they were to even the biggest comic book characters, Charlie Huston’s mid-00s Moon Knight run, characterised by its graphic hyper-violence and twisting narrative, only solidified the character as much more than ‘Marvel’s Batman’, as he’s so often – and unfairly – described. Though there were runs inbetween Huston’s and a Warren Ellis reboot of sorts, none had the impact of either Huston or Ellis; the latter bringing ‘Mr Knight’ to the table amidst some gloriously stylish and diverse action.
And so we arrive at Moon Knight’s belated entry into the wide-ranging, far-reaching Marvel Cinematic Universe. Oscar Isaac stars as the titular character; here, his Steven Grant persona is a sweet, mild-mannered English guy who works at the British Museum. He has an interest and infectious enthusiasm for Ancient Egyptian mythology – but he also has a problem sleeping, the effects of which cause him a great deal of confusion in his day to day life. He seems to lead a double life; though initially putting this down to difficulty separating his waking life from his dreams, when a cult-like figure from his ‘other’ life tracks him down at work, things start to get a lot more serious – and his seemingly mundane existence takes a turn for the weird.
First things first: Oscar Isaac is absolutely spectacular in the lead role. His Steven Grant is funny, tragic and relatably downtrodden; there’s a blackout-related scene in which it’s revealed that more time has passed than we or Steven realise – and Isaac’s performance in his realisation of this is absolutely heartbreaking. Though his English accent is a little kooky – it feels ever so slightly off without actually being bad at all – there’s a good, story-based reason for this to be the case. Ethan Hawke is suitably creepy as the pseudo-messianic figure Arthur Harrow, with a quiet and unsettling intensity in his role and performance, though he’s used sparingly in this opening episode.
There’s a car chase sequence in which the ambition clearly outstrips the budget – though perhaps it was time or other constraints; let’s not forget that Moon Knight was put together in the midst of the pandemic – with some ropey CGI, but other than that it’s a beautifully shot and pretty much flawlessly executed show. It’s hugely atmospheric, with a genuinely off-kilter and creepy ambience – and though the car chase CGI may be off-puttingly amateurish, the creature CGI and other effects work is superb. It’s surprising just how funny it is too at times, without making light of the serious mental health aspect.
I was riveted from beginning to end; the final sequence – and, really, the whole episode itself – is an absolute masterclass in building up to a perfect character entrance, which makes next Wednesday feel like an awfully long way off. Though Moon Knight may have taken an incredibly long time to make it to the MCU – references to which are somewhat refreshingly absent in the first episode, allowing the story to stand entirely on its own two feet – it’s clear that it was worth the wait.
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