Moon Knight Review: Marvel's Standalone Show Stands Out as Its Strongest

For quite some time now, Marvel Studios has prided itself on creating Hollywood's largest franchise; a cinematic world where characters and storylines carry from one project to the next, easily jumping over the gorges typically created by a separation of film and television studios. The Kevin Feige-led outfit has taken an exceptional liking to scouring its stable to find the most unique characters involved in the publisher's sprawling IP catalog, and creating household names out of virtually nothing.

When it comes to a project like Moon Knight, the series isn't connected to the largest franchise in the land in the slightest, so one might think the show would have to rely on a Superman- or Spider-Man-level character to carry it through. Neither is the case here, as Marvel reaches almost as far as possible into its catalog to pull out a story featuring one of its most bizarre characters. On paper, it shouldn't work. There's no direct connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and few likely even know who the character itself is. Not to mention he's incredibly complex and could yield disastrous consequences if not written properly.

But Moon Knight works; and it works exceptionally well, at that. I'd even go the length to say the episodes reviewed are pound-for-pound stronger than anything Marvel Studios has released on Disney+ to date. To me, it's not even close. Moon Knight reigns supreme by a large margin.

From the leap, the Oscar Isaac vehicle is something Marvel fans have never seen before. Sure, it's got the standard Marvel comedy, but it's quick to dive in much deeper than that. Throughout the first episode, creator Jeremy Slater and his team of writers move to establish their chess pieces on the board in an organized manner, something most creatives might find difficult when dealing with a character such as Marc Spector — or Steven Grant.

You see, Grant suffers from dissociative identity disorder and the show goes to great lengths to treat it with care. The mental illness itself is never the butt of a joke but rather, the situations Grant — and Spector, for that matter — find themselves in are sometimes cause for a comedic break. At the same time, it doesn't skirt around the issue. It's quick to address it head-on and at length throughout the four episodes reviewed by members of the media.

Suffice it to say, the lead role is one few could probably pull off and Isaac does so with ease. The actor is left playing one of three characters, oftentimes all three during the same scene, and he makes it all a breeze. Between the script and Isaac's performances, it's rather easy to follow along, despite the convoluted nature of the series.

Even then, Isaac's just the beginning of a superb cast full of stellar performances. Ethan Hawke's Arthur Harrow is made to be even more complex than Grant, and Hawke sticks the landing in virtually every scene he's in. You're equally sympathetic and terrified of his character, the perfect recipe for the most brutal of villains. Then there's May Calamawy's Layla, who might end up being the strongest of the bunch, commanding the screen every time she appears.

Like all of Marvel's other shows on Disney+, Moon Knight very much places the focus on character over story, something most certainly needed by the series at hand here. In four episodes, the plot lurches forward ever so slowly as it jerks you around the multiple identities involved; but a strong story or plot isn't needed for this outing. It should provide the right character beats to not only introduce fans to the world of the vigilante but also make them fall in love with him, as if he's been on the A-list since the beginning of sequential storytelling.

That said, what story is there is certainly enough to keep one interested, as the writer's room continually piles more onto its plate. Moon Knight is often spooky, and sometimes downright terrifying thanks to Khonshu and the Ennead and their knack for jump-scares and tendency to lurk around most corners. As promised, there are pieces — both plot and set design — reminiscent of Indiana Jones, and then there are moments from The Mummy and other comparable creature features. Much like the mental health aspect of the series, the filmmakers behind this show also seemed to give extra care when re-introducing Egyptian mythology to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

With Moon Knight, there's an interesting dynamic where it's increasingly hard to lump him in with the street-level group of characters most comic readers tend to do. While dark and spooky, Moon Knight simply deals with characters and ideas too far out in the ether to compare him to a Hawkeye, Black Widow, Daredevil, or someone else of that bunch. Not to discount those characters or shows, but Moon Knight is simply just larger than that.

Moon Knight is a massive show, packed to the brim with excellent character moments. It does an excellent job of introducing the title character to the masses, and clips along at a brisk pace (even though it has some of Disney+'s longest run times). Isaac is a perfect addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he handles the role with extreme care. If jumping in cold, few would know this series is even part of the interconnected Marvel Studios world, save for the house's iconic intro being played before every episode.  Moon Knight doesn't rely on the connective tissues every other Disney+ Marvel project has to date. In turn, the creatives are allowed to make the show be the best it can be. Fans hoping for a darker series get what they want here, and it's earnestly one of Marvel's strongest outings yet — considering both film and television.

Simply put, it's something you won't want to miss out on — you can guarantee that.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Moon Knight premieres on Disney+ on March 30th.