Today we interrupt our usual film coverage to bring you a review of Moon Knight‘s first episode – believe it or not, you do get used to Oscar Isaac’s accent.
Marvel’s cinematic universe on Disney+ keeps on growing. Now, in addition to the familiar heroes getting spin-off shows, we’re introduced to an interesting new one. So far, Moon Knight is livened up by Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke’s terrific performances, as well as the captivating concept. If there’s a catch, it’s that the show seems to be making light of what has the potential to be a story on the darker and grittier end of the scale.
We’re introduced to our unconventional hero, Steven Grant, as he goes about his everyday business. There’s little unusual about him – he wakes up, talks to his fish in a terrible cockney accent, calls his mum, and goes to work in the gift shop of a museum. Admittedly, at the beginning Isaac’s accent is terribly grating and does take some getting used to, but the reasoning behind it soon becomes clear. Of course, there wouldn’t be a show if there weren’t something a bit unusual about Steven, like the fact that he chains himself to his bed at night.
Our protagonist simply thinks he’s a sleepwalker, but it’s soon established as a lot more serious than that. Steven wanders around at night, but also seems to black out at random times, waking in unfamiliar places having done things he can’t recall. Moon Knight‘s premiere episode does an excellent job of establishing the quite scary nature of Steven’s experiences. Isaac, who lets out a scream of pure terror every time Steven wakes (whether or not he was really asleep), also conveys the fear the situation causes as he begins to lose track of entire days and see things he can’t explain.
He gets himself into some real trouble when he awakens in the middle of stealing a golden scarab from Hawke’s mysterious cult leader. Using a mystical tattoo of some sort of scales of justice, he passes judgement on his followers. There are unfortunate consequences for those deemed unworthy. Not much is revealed about Hawke’s character in this episode, but he does a good job of being both mysterious and utterly insane.
For perhaps the first time since Netflix’s Daredevil series, the actors behind the protagonist and antagonist are perfectly and evenly matched. Each chews the scenery as much as the other.
But this is where the trademark Marvel humour comes in and spoils it. Steven’s fear and paranoia is undermined by the studio’s incessant need to make things lighthearted. During his escape from the cult leader’s clutches, what could be a thrilling car chase (but regrettably isn’t) ensues. I like Wham! as much as the next person, but the trend of placing upbeat songs in action scenes to seem out-of-place in a ‘cool’ way is becoming a bit old hat. Also, the best use of Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go on film will always be in Zoolander.
This problem is compounded by the fact that we get plenty of intrigue, but not any action. The entire plot is told from Steven’s perspective, and none of what he does while blacked out is shown. Unfortunately, this includes the fighting. Moon Knight is known as one of the darker and more violent Marvel characters, and there’s certainly the opportunity here for some well-choreographed, potentially quite bloody combat. It’s not clear yet if Disney is shying away from this, or whether it’s witholding it to build excitement for some set pieces later in the series.
I just hope that in that respect, the show hasn’t started as it means to go on.
This episode is a promising start to Moon Knight. Isaac and Hawke are brilliant, and there’s room for their performances to get even better over the coming weeks. Steven’s character is skillfully introduced; I just hope there’s more action coming our way in the next episode.
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