The Marvel Cinematic Universe template that’s been around for 14 years (What’s it like 14 years ago?) has its detractors. Perhaps, especially when these Disney productions feature a new character, it can be a little formal. Heroes are introduced on the basis that they will advance the never-ending plot, the connectivity that makes this fictional world so captivating, rather than having a real character study.
Enter “Moon Knight”, the latest Marvel Studios show to hit Disney+. As someone who spent his childhood gobbling up all the Marvel comics he could, it’s mind-boggling that we’ve gotten to the point where a C-list character is starring in the most prominent entertainment franchise out there. However, here we are with capital M, capital S, movie star Oscar Isaac in the title role.
While only the first episode of the six-episode series was released on Wednesday, “Moon Knight” illustrates that it’s more than capable of going against the traditional Marvel formula and delivering, at least on the surface, that stands alone and not bogged down by the continuity of the 27 films that preceded it.
At the heart of the show is Moon Knight’s struggle with dissociative identity disorder, otherwise known as DID. While that’s a rather delicate plot device to anchor the season, Marvel Studios does it deftly, a great credit to Isaac himself. “Batman with DID” would be an oversimplification of the hero, but with the way Moon Knight’s story intertwines with that of Khonsu, the Egyptian god of the moon, “Moon Knight” isn’t a Dark Knight, and that’s a good thing. Batman from DC Comics wears a dark costume because he wants to hide in the shadows from his enemies. Moon Knight wears white because he wants his enemies to know he’s coming. There is sure to be some frontal action in the next five episodes of the series.
To kick off, viewers are introduced to Steven Grant, the first personality condition to inhibit Isaac’s character. Grant is a mild-mannered British museum gift shop clerk who works as a point-of-view character. Along with the audience, Grant slowly learns about the chaos created by Marc Spector’s other personality state, the one who acts as the Moon Knight character. He quickly experiences memory holes that leave a trail of blood and bodies around him. The Grant personality state, confused by the chaos around him, works as viewers quickly try to keep up with the intentionally vague plot.
The series is a bit bloodier than what has been seen in the MCU before. This isn’t to say it’s an R-rated horror movie, but it illustrates another difference for Marvel Studios. It’s intriguing to see Marvel including more adult content when these shows are hosted on the family-friendly Disney+. Previous Marvel shows that aired on Netflix, such as “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” were added to Disney+ this month, prompting the entertainment monolith to add more parental controls for adult content. They definitely should for those series, which contain a lot of violence and explicit sex scenes. That’s a little different from what kids see with Ant-Man and Spider-Man!
I wonder if those additions to the streaming service mean that viewers will see more adult-oriented content with these Marvel properties in the future. “Moon Knight” can be a figure operating in that space, curating a mix of the supernatural and street-level superheroes. With a Blade movie starring Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali on the way, alongside potential new Daredevil and Deadpool projects, Marvel may be starting to test the limits of how much they can get away with hyper-violence at the House of the Dead. mouse. Here’s to hoping “Moon Knight” can open those floodgates and continue producing something rarely seen before with Marvel IP.
“Moon Knight” eventually sets the stage for a unique MCU work that should stand well on its own among its peers. With future installments likely to delve into Egyptian mythology and shed greater light on Ethan Hawke’s cult leader character, “Moon Knight” has the ability to continue offering a distinct series that is more than welcome in the busy superhero room.
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