Egyptian gods provide the superpowers for the latest Marvel superhero Moon Knight, and with acclaimed Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Diab directing four of the new Disney+ series six episode there is a sense of smart Middle Eastern authenticity to balance the special-effects driven action.
Whether Moon Knight reaches the level of success of other recent Marvel+ series (such as Loki, Hawkeye, WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) which traded on the names of established Marvel characters who gave already starred in feature films remains to be seen. Moon Knight is the first in Marvel’s ‘Phase Four’ which will also see fresh characters such as Ms. Marvel, Ironheart and She-Hulk became part of the ever-expanding Marvel superhero universe.
A new character also has to mean an origins story, which also means a challenging first episode as the lead character has to be introduced and refined as well as offering up tasty hints of the superhero action to come. In the case of Moon Knight things are even more complex given that lead actor Oscar Isaac plays a man with multiple personalities, playing both mild-mannered London museum gift shop employee Steven Grant as well as mercenary Marc Spector.
Spector has made a deal with Khonshu, Egyptian god of the Moon, in exchange for superpowers, meaning he transforms into Moon Knight a lethal masked anti-hero with enhanced strength, erratic behaviour and an extremely violent temperament.
Moon Knight is up against messianic Arthur Harrow, a cult leader (played by a long-haired Ethan Hawke) who wants to resurrect the Egyptian god Ammit so that together they can rid the world of anyone whose heart is impure. He has a tattoo of some scales on his arm, which moves when he takes people's hands and delivers judgements on the moral purity of their soul, making them die if that judgement is bad.
The action seems to be pretty high-quality rollercoaster stuff – blending Raiders of the Lost Ark with The Mummy with superheroes added to the mix – with Egyptian-Palestinian actress May Calamawy part of the cast as archaeologist Layla, on board to help decipher pyramids and tombs.
Early reviews have rightly dwelt on Oscar Isaac’s jaunty English accent when playing the jittery Steven Grant, though he is such a strong actor that he pretty much gets away with things despite a few moments that come close to Mary Poppins territory.
Moon Knight is a refreshingly left-field Marvel action romp, and while offering up familiar superhero tropes is also made with a dark sense of dread and unease that very much suits the character. As the story develops over six episodes Steven/Marc's enemies converge upon them, and they must navigate their complex identities while heading into a deadly mystery among the powerful gods of Egypt. Diab directs episodes one, three, five and six, with the filmmaking team of Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead handling the remaining two episodes.
US, 2022, 6x45mins
Directors: Mohamed Diab, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead
Production Marvel Studios
Screenplay: Jeremy Slater (head writer)
Editors Ahmed Hafez, Joan Sobel
Music Hesham Nazih
Main cast: Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy, Gaspard Ulliel, F Murray Abraham, Fernanda Andrade, Sofia Danu, Diana Bermudez