Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Moon Knight: Review Episodes 5 & 6

*Contains some spoilers
Opinions expressed are my own

Overall Moon Knight was a fun, innovative adventure for Marvel Studios, and an interesting new direction for the Disney+ catalog. It effectively took viewers on an enchanting journey into Egyptian lore and mythology. However, it subjectively missed its “Mark”, and has many fans sweepingly divided on whether or not this was a good series. After the first announcement of the adaptation of the mature Marvel Comics series, fans were hoping that the MCU would do something different with this character. Conclusively, many viewers feel like they only partially attained this, as the series mesmerized audiences with Oscar’s performance, and the exciting exploration of Egyptian lore, it still however left many fans feeling unsatisfied and cheated in terms of the depiction of the Crescent Crusader.

While the series did successfully introduce a comic favorite to new audiences, and even goes “dark” in some instances, viewers are still immediately reminded that this is a Disney show, that is ultimately going to play it safe. From its lack of blood and any brutality, to its lack of – well – Moon Knight himself, the series can be a bit of a disappointment to some long-time fans. Fans of the comic knew that we were getting Jake Lockley at some point, only to be cat-fished with yet another black out – cop out avoiding any actual on-screen savagery. What should’ve been some of the most intense action-packed scenes comparable to The Punisher, were never even given a chance to be experienced.

(L-R): Oscar Isaac as Moon Knight and Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

After receiving and reviewing the first 4 episode screeners, I was hoping that by the last two episodes that my initial impressions would have significantly changed.  While Episode 5 successfully gave me so much hope, ultimately the 6th and final episode was extremely underwhelming, and fell flat reconfirming my first thoughts.  Read first impressions Here. The roughly 40-minute runtime with only 6-episode format did not give enough time to fully develop this series, which Disney has proven multiple times that this structure does not work. Even if it’s only a standalone one-off it doesn’t do enough justice to the character to only serve as an incomplete mini-series.

As I previously mentioned in my first review, the psychological horror super-hero adventure does take a lot of creative liberties, while actually staying pretty close to the comics. It features an overall fantastic cast, great costume design, and a fascinating emphasis on Egyptian culture. Overall, I must say that Oscar Isaac gave an absolutely stellar performance as the cloaked avenger. He was so entertaining as both Marc and Steven that he actually completely outshined Moon Knight.

(L-R): Oscar Isaac as Steven Grant and Marc Spector in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved. 

So What worked ?

Oscar Isaac nailed his portrayal of Steven Grant, the mild-mannered gift-shop employee, who becomes plagued with blackouts and memories of another life, and discovers he has dissociative identity disorder, sharing a body with mercenary Marc Spector. The show does a great job in depicting Stevens struggles with depression and the lengths that he goes to keep his personalities in check. Oscar is on point in his switching back and forth between characters. He perfectly transitions between personalities even arguing with himself. I love how they show him surrender control to summon the suit.

One thing that stuck out was the handling of the different suits between Marc/ Moon Knight and Steven/Mr. Knight. This was a very cool twist, that was done very well. This was a great way to differentiate personalities when conjuring the powers of the ancient Egyptian God of the Moon, Konshu, as the relics take on the abilities of the Avatar.  

Protector’ Avatar of Konshu the Egyptian god of moon

Oscar Isaac as Mr. Knight in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Overall, the acting was fantastic on all ends, with great casting choices and stellar performances from the core leads Isaac, Hawke, Calamawy and Abraham (Konshu voice). Isaac is rightfully being praised for his portrayal of the vigilante struggling with multiple personalities, as he gave a phenomenal performance to each respective personality. It successfully explores Spector’s many ongoing conflicts as a character; his relationship with his god, his friends, allies, and, most importantly, himself. As Steven Grant he is ultimately sad, lonely, neurotic and confused. This disheveled version is entirely different from his millionaire persona in the comics, which is fine as this works better having him be completely opposite of Marc, the more violent, strong, and confident persona.

In Episode 5, Asylum we dig deep into Marc’s backstory as we witness his abusive past. This episode was by far superior to the others, as it displayed some dark tragic moments that were detrimental to telling Marc’s backstory. Showing viewers his darkest childhood moments, and pent up memories (which Steven basically held from Marc), revealed why Marc is so messed up. Witnessing the tragic death of his younger brother, and how it ultimately affected his entire family we see how it results in Marc losing his mind. Not only did his mom spiral into a brutish monster, she blamed Marc for the accident. We learn why Steven exists, as a means to mentally and emotionally protect and shield Marc from his dark reality.

Another stand out performance was by May El Calamawy, who exceptionally portrayed Layla El-Faouly/ and perhaps Scarlet Scarab. Layla was created for the MCU and is influenced by a couple of comic characters, predominantly Marlene Alraune, daughter of Archeologist Dr. Peter Alraune. She plays the extremely patient, smart, and overall badass wife of Marc. Aside from abruptly becoming a superhero and Marvel-esque pandering, Layla instantly became a fan favorite, and honestly I would love to see more of her in the MCU. She took the spotlight, outshining Moon Knight in his own series, this could’ve been introduced much later feasibly in a second season. However, she was outstanding as Layla El-Faouly, the Duat recreated Layla, and as Taweret while possessing Layla’s body. In the series’ season finale, Layla decided to become an Avatar for Taweret, the Egyptian God of fertility and protector of women and children. It was odd how quickly she accepted the task of becoming an avatar now, while she was so definitively against Khonshu’s offer. While her suit looked great, it was so forced and random how she suddenly got her own super-suit. Making her the Egyptian superhero, could be Marvel’s way of incorporating Scarlet Scarab, with drastic changes to the character. 

May Calamawy as Layla El-Faouly in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

She was still one of the best parts of the series as her relationship with Marc was integral for the show. The dynamic chemistry between both her and Marc, and her and Steven carried the show. May and Oscar had an alluring connection keeping us interested any time they were both on screen.

Ethan Hawke was the compelling main antagonist, Arthur Harrow. With having only one comic book appearance, and not much source material to pull from, Harrow was convincingly an intriguing and well-developed villain who has his own views on eradicating evil. You can see the direction the show-runners went with focusing on the extremely influential cult messiah who enchants believers with his charismatic energy. Surprisingly, Bushman, the oldest nemesis of Marc Spector, takes a drastic backseat in this series. Another downplayed villain is Anton Mogart, played by the late Gaspard Ulliel who recently died tragically in an accident. Non comic-viewers won’t even realize these characters in their short stint in episode 3. Ultimately, with all the supernatural elements and focus on the Gods, and Avatars you get the direction they went for.

The series successfully encapsulated the essence of Egyptian lore, and history, while also tying into other pantheons. The Gods were compelling and a pivotal force of the plot-line. Marvel essentially set something up that was different and unique not directly tied to the bigger universe, but still left us breadcrumbs of Easter eggs. I did like how they explored the dynamic of the Gods, their warring and contradicting beliefs. It was interesting to see Ammit vs Khonshu and how they had similar beliefs, yet Khonshu differs in that he believes in peoples right to choice.

So What didn’t work ?

How did Steven suddenly learn to fight? He went from being scared, timid and anxious to being a straight-up ninja in the final episode. There was no explanation of any kind, nor any hint of training or preparation. In the final episode he just started fighting as if he’s been a professionally trained fighter all his life. 

In the beginning of the series we did get a glimpse of how neurotic he is, and how randomly he loses his sense of time and reality. While the show successfully showed his jumping between personalities, they didn’t exactly acknowledge any adversity with mental illness. Instead of seeking help, he just loses track of himself which is left to question why people at work don’t seem to notice he’s been missing for multiple days. We are left to wonder was Marc always jumping personalities throughout his childhood and young adult life? The show didn’t fully encapsulate the depths of having split personalities, it kind of jumped over the traumatic or troublesome aspects of it. There was a lack of his troublesome past, or fully developed interactions that would be experienced with people having multiple personalities. What are his triggers? How dangerous is he ?

Oscar Isaac as Steven Grant/Marc Spector in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

There was ultimately no Moon Knight in Moon Knight. Aside from being outshined by Marc, Steven and Layla, the Moon Knight was barely a focal point in his own series. Oscar Isaac gave such a great performance as Marc and Steven that it was to the detriment of Moon Knight himself. The few moments that Moon Knight did actually show up weren’t that memorable. 

 Not only was there a lack of the suit in itself but overall it didn’t feel like a Moon Knight series. The tone of the series wasn’t consistent. They went somewhat dark with the exploration of his past but then completely Disneyfied any aspect that would be deemed brutal. The series felt very safe, too playful and lacked any of the violence seen in the comics. Some fans are left wondering if Netflix handled Moon Knight, how significantly different it would be. Marvel is struggling with Mature content, which is disappointing as Logan and Deadpool have clearly proven that R ratings can work. Certain characters should be handled differently. How is there no blood? Moon Knight can be just as brutal as Batman and violent as Frank Castle.

Fans were left super disappointed with the Jake black out cop outs. This was a major disservice to fans, they should have given us something at least by the series final. Jake Lockley, is Marc’s third personality whom fans were highly anticipating would make an appearance. In the comics, Spector takes on the identity of Jake, a rough cab driver with ties to the criminal underworld. In the television series finale we briefly get a glimpse of Jake as he is revealed in the end credits to be the driver Khonshu introduced to Harrow. Khonshu mentioned that Lockley was the most violent aspect of his Avatar. Unfortunately, we never got to witness any of these actions. Another issue with the way they introduced Jake was that if he is ultimately even more disturbed than Marc, than how did the scales balance ? Marc and Steven should have been smart enough to know that there may be a 3rd personality. Layla even witnessed questionable moments, yet no one acknowledged it. 

The Asylum scenes were confusing in terms of the afterlife, what was real, what wasn’t? The earlier scenes appeared to be Marc/ Steven in the afterlife, but the finale Harrow was in a real institution. 

Unfortunately, it didn’t stick the landing, the last episode didn’t feel like a finale. The ending did nothing to tie the series together. We are left with so many questions. The rushed ending has been so commonplace with Disney plus shows that it’s becoming expected. Episode 5 was the highlight of the series, but there should have been at least 3 more episodes to tie things up. The last remaining episodes should have dug deeper into the rest of the Egyptian gods and show us why Moon Knight is important. He felt irrelevant. Why couldn’t Khonshu just revive Marc, or have Osiris (lord of the underworld) retrieve Marc’s soul?

The series also had very wonky poorly done CGI, with some moments that looked like incomplete green screen. The visuals made the series look cheap, and less serious especially the gods and the ship scene with Taweret which completely felt like a children’s movie. Otherwise, Khonshu and Moon Knight looked worthy of their comic book counterparts. 

Moon Knight features a fantastic cast with stand out performances, a fascinating take on mythology and Egyptian lore, however this is a series, that will definitely have fans divided. The series has a comedic tone comparable to Tom Hardys’ portrayal of Venom, and it feels like a sequel to The Mummy movies, when it should’ve been more like Split. While Isaac is super enjoyable to watch and honestly makes the series interesting, Moon Knight essentially plays it too safe, making it not-so-memorable. It feels very disconnected from the rest of the MCU, and there are so many unanswered questions and unexplained events. Not all Marvel comics are lighthearted and campy. Ultimately, wish the tone was a little darker and the series took bigger risks.

Overall: 6/10

Moon Knight plays it too safe, avoids any actual bloody action sequences, and rushes its plot-line before establishing its hero. The titular character is outshined by his avatar self and his cast mates. Aside from holding back on blood and brutality Moon Knight does exhibit some spectacular qualities. They did a really good job modernizing his suit, he looks cool and like someone you don’t want to mess with. I just wish it pushed the limits and gave us a more violent depiction of the Crescent crusader.

Nadya Martinez
Nadya Martinezhttps://gothamgeekgirl.com/
HI! My name is Nadya Martinez AKA GothamGeekGirl; I’m a geek journalist, annual comic con attendee, movie-loving, cosplayer & comic book enthusiast. Also, Blogger/Owner GothamGeekGirl who loves to draw comics, cosplay, read indie comics and connect with other geeky minds. Always looking for what’s new in comics, gaming, and entertainment, helping to promote brands, events, and creators across the Geek community.

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