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Rant and Rave: Unifying a disconnected mind in ‘Moon Knight’

After a nearly four-month drought without any films or TV shows, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) makes its small-screen comeback with Moon Knight. This time, the gods and goddesses of Egyptian mythology take the helm as the MCU continues to open doors for more superheroes, promising audiences a riveting adventure with the Egyptian pantheon.

But the picture-perfect hero’s journey the production company is known for isn’t the highlight of this series. No longer are audiences seeing the Avengers fighting alien invasions; instead, audiences are introduced to the mythological realm and deities.

But what’s groundbreaking is that the show proves itself as much more than its premise as it touches on mental health—portraying how nothing could get in the way of gaining their valor. Through heroes like Moon Knight, the MCU shows the world that heroes need to grow and go through self-acceptance, too.

Delving deep

What truly sets this show apart is its dissection of mental illness. Past films and TV series even outside the MCU seemingly tackled the subject with a lack of research and appropriate representation—where those with dissociative identity disorder (DID) are portrayed, and in effect, seen as monsters. 

However, Oscar Isaac’s portrayal of Marc Spector and Steven Grant in this series presents mental illnesses exactly as it is seen in reality.

Another noteworthy part about this series’ storyline is its dive into Egyptian mythology—a pantheon not often depicted in Western media. Here, the Greek and Roman gods are gone; audiences are introduced to the likes of Osiris, Horus, Isis, Tefnut, Ammit, Taweret, and Khonshu, all of whom are powerful in their own rights. 

In keeping up with their powerful statures, Moon Knight depicts how the gods and goddesses spare no one during their episodes of wrath, manipulating humans into doing their bidding. Whether it’s killing for justice or fighting the gods’ enemies, humans are not spared from the consequences of the deities’ reckless actions. 

Overall, Moon Knight stitches together both the challenging nuances found in depicting DID and the world of Egyptian mythology without a miss. The show’s storyline creates a whole new world for its audience to jump into—one of adventure, comedic and dramatic quips, and a new perspective on our heroes.

A multifaceted cast

Isaac’s portrayal of not one, but two—perhaps even three—characters is truly off the charts. Constantly switching between the polar opposite alters of Spector and Grant, he was able to pull off a near-impossible task of distinguishing his characters’ wits, personalities, and stunts. Isaac gave some justice to the comic book characters, showing that despite the ambitious expectations of these characters, good development and performance will always ensure that the sky is the limit for any actor. 

Meanwhile, Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow could not have possibly been played by anyone else. He injects the character with as much cunning as he can. However, Harrow just seemed like another bland cult leader, similar to Karli Morgenthau from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, insisting that what he does is for the good of the world. 

Another riveting character is Layla El-Fouly, played by May Calamawy. A combination of Marc’s love interests in the comics, Marlene, and Abdul Faul—an Egyptian supervillain known as the Scarlet Scarab—her entrance into the show instantly compelled many to fall in love with her. Her second-protagonist nature was great to watch, but the delivery of her lines seemed awkward and her development was just as rushed and limited as Harrow’s.

While the gods and goddesses of Egypt sounded like they were more from Bridgerton than Moon Knight, for the most part, F. Murray Abraham’s Khonshu created a love-hate relationship with the audience. His character was mysterious and sassy but was also constantly going back and forth between being noble and manipulative, which can be confusing for the audience. Taweret, portrayed by Antonia Salib, was the most engrossing of the gods, being lighthearted and loveable compared to the dark and uncaring nature of the other gods and goddesses.

Ultimately, the cast’s chemistry is established throughout the show. But Moon Knight’s lack of mastery in pushing for proper character development may have held them back, creating a lack of relatability with the audience. However, these actors’ intense looks and well-written episodes made up for this, giving the audience something to look forward to every time a new scene between two or more characters would come on screen.

Chained to a formula

From Chloe Zhao’s arthouse aesthetic in Eternals to Destin Daniel Cretton’s long takes in Shang-Chi’s fight scenes, the MCU Phase Four has felt a paradigm shift in its filmmaking—and Moon Knight is no exception. Helmed by Egyptian screenwriter and director Mohammed Diab and shot by cinematographer Greg Middleton, Moon Knight uses certain filmmaking techniques—like the use of handheld camera shots—to portray the grounded and gritty nature of the characters.

However, the show does hold back on its visual creativity in the action department. While executive producer Kevin Feige promised a no-bars-held experience in the action, all of the fights that were shown to us felt tame and weightless; the ones that included excessive blood and brutality were usually shown offscreen. Thus, Moon Knight’s watered-down action sequences prevented audiences from seeing epic and hyper-violent hand-to-hand combat scenes—akin to a Batman or Daredevil without morals—into the generic, family-friendly MCU fluff audiences are familiar with. 

Additionally, the show also introduces elements meant to question the audience’s perception of the show’s reality, namely scenes involving a mental institution during the latter half of the season. However, they don’t commit to their premise fully, having the show solidify fantasy from reality by the end. Instead, it leaves it up to one’s own interpretation to allow the character to perform his superhero duties with other characters without breaking continuity. 

Lastly, the show suffers from the curse of the rushed and underdeveloped finale that plagues the Marvel Disney+ shows. With editing that focuses on jumping from one story beat to the next while excluding crucial character moments and set pieces, Moon Knight’s finale might leave the audience scratching their heads—unsatisfied and wanting more.

‘And that’s a wrap!’

A breath of fresh air, Moon Knight proves itself to be a worthy addition to the grand MCU saga, telling an intimate self-contained story and bringing the C-list vigilante into the limelight. While Moon Knight purists may not be too keen on certain character changes, especially with Steven and the introduction of Layla, having labyrinthine foundations in the comics means that any new changes to the character’s mythos don’t necessarily detract from the viewing experience of comic fans and the general audience.

While the show tells of a compelling character study, sacrificing the comic counterpart’s modus operandi of “protecting the travelers of the night” may turn off long-time Marvel fans. Hopefully, future installments highlight Moon Knight’s gritty nature hinted at in the penultimate episode. 

Apart from some narrative missteps, Moon Knight still stands out as one of the better MCU projects to date with a charming lead and a new feel not present in any MCU project thus far. If Moon Knight were to return in future installments, perhaps audiences may see him cross paths with other Marvel heroes. Somehow, it is assured this is not the last people will see of Moon Knight—or his multiple alters.

Score: 3.0/4.0

By Lauren Sason

By Cole Jackson

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