This body ain't big enough for the two of us.
He may resemble another caped vigilante with a certain brutish charm, but Moon Knight, the newest hero to join the MCU, is a breath of fresh air for the superhero genre. It stars Oscar Isaac as timid and shy Stephen Grant, a museum gift shop employee suffering with multiple personality disorder. When he discovers that one of his personalities, Marc, is a super-powered mercenary working for a vengeful Egyptian god, a battle for bodily control ensues. With this hook of a concept, Moon Knight strays from the traditional origin story formula and creates something truly unique, and while it doesn't stick every landing, it is without a doubt the most thought-provoking Marvel show to date.
Delving into complex topics like mental illness and PTSD isn't exactly an easy feat to pull off. Since the premiere of WandaVision in 2021, Marvel has shown their careful touch with these more sensitive subjects — such as repressed trauma and depression, both of which are recurring themes in all Marvel projects post-Blip. But a lot of these moments have been at arm's-length. They're bookended by pulled punches or humor, often softening the lasting impact. Moon Knight, however, doesn't play by the same rules.
Multiple personality disorder is the focal point of the series, not just in terms of its symptoms and effects, but in how the human brain works overtime to protect us from stress and pain. In a lot of ways, Moon Knight celebrates the power of the brain while also shedding light on its fallibilities. It might look like a debilitating mental illness to someone viewing it on the outside, but to someone like Stephen who's experiencing it, the symptoms act as a weighted blanket, providing temporary relief. Marvel does a surprisingly thoughtful job of exploring this, and even when moments feel a bit heavy handed or in your face, the impact is still just as poignant.
To efficiently portray the split personalities, cinematographer Gregory Middleton takes advantage of the environment to show the internal (and external) dialogue Stephen and Marc have with each other. Talking to reflections in a water fountain, the shiny backside of a street sign, rearview mirrors — the level of thought that when into setting up each conversation is beyond impressive, and Oscar Isaac's moving performance amplifies these moments to the highest degree.
The only downside to this execution is how the show marries mental illness with the otherworldly influence of gods and goddesses. There are certain scenes where it feels like Stephen's personality disorder is exploited for the sake of plot twists and cliffhangers, which stand in stark contrast from the otherwise careful brush strokes. It gets a bit tangled up, but fortunately, there are only a handful of these moments.
Moon Knight as a character is hard-hitting, showing no mercy to the goons and baddies he deals godly justice to. The show doesn't shy away from the violence and brutality the same way it doesn't tip-toe around mental illness, and I appreciated seeing the darker side of this fairly unknown hero. The finale holds its fair share of Marvel CGI craziness, but the rest of the action is excellently shot and edited. To see Moon Knight appear alongside the likes of other MCU heroes would be an incredible sight, and hopefully one we will see very soon.
- Final Thoughts -
Moon Knight introduces one of the most complex characters in the MCU in a surprisingly impactful and memorable way, thanks to a strong performance by Oscar Isaac and clever cinematography. It hits a few bumps along the way, but even so, this is a Disney+ original you definitely don't want to miss.
(Moon Knight image courtesy of Nationalworld.com)