• Platform: Disney+Hotstar
  • Original Air Date: 30/03/2022 to 04/05/2022
  • Cast: Oscar Issac, May Calamawy, Ethan Hawke
  • Created By: Jeremy Slater

I generally avoid the Marvel Studio shows on Disney + Hotstar as they are mostly woke garbage that either violently deconstructs beloved characters or destroys them completely in the name of reimagining them for a more progressive and diverse audience. If that is not the case, then they shove these characters behind some “Mary Sue” who is portrayed as someone who has the same inherent abilities and powers by default that our beloved characters had to toil hard to earn over the years. I decided to watch Moon Knight because it was about a character that I had no idea about and hence could not be spoiled and also because there was nothing interesting to watch in theatres this week.

Steven (Oscar Issac) is a mild-mannered gift shop employee. He has a known problem of sleepwalking disorder and has been taking precautions to avoid getting into serious problems because of his condition. However, he soon realizes he has been living a dual life and his alter ego, Marc Spector might be an international assassin. As Steven tries to uncover the secrets of Marc and his condition, he meets a gamut of interesting and dangerous characters that not only shape his life but also force him on a journey of self-discovery.

I had a bitter-sweet experience with Moon Knight. There was just as much to like about the series as there was to dislike. The series’ protagonists, Marc/Steven are shown suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder. Marc has also pledged his body and soul to the Egyptian God of the moon, Khonshu to be his Avatar on earth. Steven has no idea of this deal between Marc and Khonshu, to begin with, and hence often finds himself in precarious situations of which he has no idea or understanding. He is left with unearthing details about his own existence and piecing together the evidence to understand who Marc and Khonshu were. After that, he has to convince the people around him of his predicament and explain his odd behavior.

If that was not enough, he soon learns that he has a wife and now has to strike a balance between his two known identities to save his marriage. With so much happening around a single character, Moon Knight never runs short of plot elements and surprises to impress its audiences. This aspect of the series also ensures that the narrative remains breezy and the audiences are invested in the story of Marc and Steven.  

Oscar Issac is brilliant in toggling between the two different identities and it is his performance that ensures that we are glued to his character and are curious about his character’s future. The fact that both the identities are so different in mannerisms, dialogues, physical ability, and even sense of humor makes his achievement even more profound. I found many viewers who absolutely hated the character of Steven and that was because of the fact that he constantly presented himself as a disc brake on the action sequences that were mostly dealt out to the character of Marc. Steven’s dialogue delivery and odd mannerisms were also a stark contrast to his physically imposing and suave rendition of Marc which proved to be a stickler for many viewers. Thus it was a mammoth task to pull off every facet of these two distinctly different characters (sometimes in the same scene) and Issac was flawless in his rendering of Steven and Marc. If one looks closely, one can even notice the change in the mannerism of both the identities when they are in the company of their wife, Layla (May Calamawy). All these elements contribute to making the character wholesome, appealing, and one that I was interested in and wanted to know which way it was headed.

Apart from the conflict between the characters of Marc and Steven due to their superhuman abilities and the personality disorder, the larger plot of the series involves another Avatar, Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), who is trying to unleash the Egyptian God Ammit on the world. Khonshu understands Harrow’s plans but he is unable to convince the other Gods in helping him to stop Harrow. Thus it is left up to him and Marc to stop Harrow from resurrecting Ammit. Soon Layla too joins in on the quest and we see fortunes swing violently as the two stakeholders battle it out in Egypt. The central narrative of the series has a similar feel to what we got in films like The Mummy and it brought back sweet memories of days when films were aimed at primarily entertaining the masses. There was enough material in the central plot to fuel the 6 episodes and keep the proceedings interesting.

While innumerable people were calling out May Calamawy’s Layla for being another Mary Sue and being better at what the Moon Knight does without having any superhuman abilities, I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. There might be some over entitlement involved in the way the character was written but May was charming and rendered her character with such finesse and a sense of believability that it was not difficult to shrug off everything negative that came to the mind about her character and just enjoy her essay. The hero moments, in the end, were just as enjoyable and they were so because of how wonderfully they were rendered by May and also because the series was building up to them from the very beginning. Even the unnecessary dialogue, “Are you an Egyptian Superhero?” raced by without being too much of cringe because my attention was transfixed on May’s essay and her swell moves in the action sequences.    

My problems with the series were stooped in the fact that there was very little of Moon Knight in a series that was called Moon Knight. The action sequences were very limited and whatever little was there didn’t have the kind of impact that it needed to have. The series gets extremely exposition-heavy as we move along and every time, Ethan Hawke’s character is onscreen you have to be prepared for some relentless lecturing that made sense sometimes and didn’t make much sense some other times. The only reason why these sequences were tolerable was because of Hawke’s persona and his ability to keep the audiences interested in his character even when all he is doing is mouthing lines.

The last two episodes of the series were a real drag. The entire portion involving Steven-Marc’s journey to the gates of hell and everything involving the mental asylum and the interactions with Tawaret (Antonia Salib) were such a drag that I nearly fast-forwarded through these portions. Yes! These portions shed some light on the life of Marc and we understand how Steven came into being but they didn’t have to pull it out as far as they did. The extensive dialogues involving Ethan Hawke as a psychiatrist and Marc as a patient were tiring. While the hero of the series is stuck in the underworlds, it is Layla who is entrusted with not only saving the God Khonshu who could then save the hero but also becoming an Avatar herself of Tawaret.  

The series ends with an interesting twist in the end credit scene that I hope the makers will build upon in future seasons. I was conflicted between enjoying and being bored by this series because of the many aspects discussed above and I feel that the same would be the case with most of the people who go into this series even without any expectations. It could have been a crispier cut with more action and more Moon Knight and that would have solved a large chunk of the problems plaguing the series. It is still an enjoyable one-time watch.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars) 

Also read: Watch Suhana Khan, Khushi Kapoor and Agastya Nanda in ‘The Archies’

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