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Critics call 'Moon Knight' a unique standalone MCU story anchored by a game Oscar Isaac
Is Marc Spector's MCU debut worth your time and the price of a Disney+ subscription?
To quote that old doo-wop song by The Capris, "There's a moon out tonight." And not just a moon — there's also a brutal vigilante who fights crime on behalf of the lunar satellite. Well, he's not so much an agent of the moon as he is a proxy for an Ancient Egyptian deity associated with the moon. Wait...what were we talking about again? It all gets a bit confusing when you're dealing with a Marvel character like Moon Knight, who is slated to make his MCU debut tomorrow (Wednesday, March 30) in a new TV series on Disney+.
Confusion is the name of the game for Marc Spector...or should we say Steven Grant? That is to say there are two personalities inhabiting a single body and only one of them is aware of their super-heroic capabilities. X-Men and Star Wars vet Oscar Isaac pulls double duty as Spector and Grant in this Fight Club meets Indiana Jones romp involving ancient magic and mystical MacGuffins.
According to the first reviews from critics, Isaac is the shining anchor of an MCU adventure that has almost nothing to do with the wider comic book universe we all know and love. In fact, it might just be the most standalone outing since Phase 1 over a decade ago. More importantly, the narrative — which can apparently be quite frightening — never treats its main character's mental illness as a joke.
Like Isaac has said in previous interviews, Moon Knight is as much of a respectful character study as it is a rip-roaring superhero adventure. As of this writing, Moon Knight holds a score of 79 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. While still incredibly fresh by RT standards, the show is currently the lowest-rated title of Marvel Studios' small screen projects.
Ethan Hawke and May Calamawy co-star as Arthur Harrow (the central villain) and Layla El-Faouly (a woman from Marc's past), respectively. Jeremy Slater serves as head writer and executive producer.
Head below to see what critics are saying...
"Here, Marvel’s attempting to do something it hasn’t lately done: Break a new character through the medium of TV. And Moon Knight, an adventurous limited series, suggests a way forward for a content-creation engine that’s come to feel overwhelming. There’s a freshness to it that’s enticing even for those outside the fandom ... Exploring other facets of the universe while trusting audience members not to wonder how it all connects has enabled Marvel to make a series that is finding its way towards a genuinely compelling portrait of dissociation, anchored by two terrific performances. The fact that it can be watched on its own terms is icing on the cake." -Daniel D'Addario, Variety
"It often feels like a throwback to Marvel’s classic approach to reworking lower profile comic book characters into household names meant to become key players within a larger cinematic universe. That relative change of pace is one of the things that Moon Knight has going for it compared to some of Marvel’s other recent series that tend to make more sense the more of the MCU you’ve consumed. But Moon Knight’s also a foray into the fraught world of character studies where bold acting and directorial choices jump out in ways that underline how easy it is for comic book adaptations to go sideways when they get too caught up in their own headiness." -Charles Pulliam-Moore, The Verge
"Hardcore Moon Knight fans out there who never thought this day would arrive might feel like collapsing at the sight of this crazed champion presented fully in front of their eyes. It's also the perfect show to slip into if you're an MCU casual, as it does keep the rest of the long-running story at arm's length. Isaac called this the 'the first legitimate Marvel character study since Iron Man' (though that could be disputed, for sure), mostly meaning that it was an origin tale set outside the hulking weight of knowing everything going on elsewhere in the MCU. We're still left — without the rest of the MCU to prop this up — with a clever, action-packed war of wills." -Matt Fowler, IGN
"There’s a creepy — and, at times, fairly graphic and disgusting — chase sequence in a pyramid involving mummies, and then a twist leaning even harder into the complications raised by linking a mentally ill man to the world beyond this one. The conclusion to that fourth episode left me more engaged in the plot of Moon Knight than anything had in the preceding hours. But given the character’s long history of being more exciting in theory than reality — and given that none of the previous MCU shows have been at their best in their finales — my hopes aren’t too high for the concluding chapters. There are many interesting aspects to Moon Knight, but neither the comic books nor this TV show named for him quite know what to do with them all." -Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone
"Moon Knight solves some of the problems of other Disney Plus shows, but it still feels like Marvel is still trying to stretch a movie over five hours. The pacing can be a bit jarring as well. The first episode is as propulsive as any of the MCU shows to date, but the pace slows considerably as characters start monologuing about their pasts. Again, it’s improved, but it’s also a work in progress." -Jacob Siegal, Yahoo! Entertainment
"In taking a relatively obscure character and leaning into his more eccentric elements, writer Jeremy Slater (Fantastic Four, The Umbrella Academy) has delivered something that feels genuinely different from any corner of the MCU yet explored — somehow managing to make Egyptian gods canon in the process. Not everything runs smoothly, and the larger narrative is at times less compelling than the quirky character work. But thanks to the inspired inception of Isaac’s Steven Grant, and a story that judiciously places the central character’s humanity on a level with his heroics, Marvel’s newest addition shoots for the moon and largely hits its mark. -James Dyer, Empire Magazine
"Moon Knight remains cripplingly dedicated to plot and exposition. Hawke and Isaac’s pairings are rarely given any space to breathe; they’re tasked with repeating their hero and villain’s boilerplate motivations and making sure everyone watching has a clear understanding of exactly what’s happening. Housed within another movie stretched into a series, Moon Knight dulls two stars that should be lighting up the Marvel universe." -Ben Travers, IndieWire
"The series even segues into horror territory, from a terrifying corridor stalked by a skull-headed monster to a sinister scene in which the extras in the background are revealed to not be what they seem. It's amazing how many shifts in tone this first episode contains, assorted genres overlapping like the personalities at war in Steven's head. But what's more amazing is how well it works. The writing, the direction, the visuals, even the show-stopping editing all pull together to make Moon Knight such a singular experience. And it's all anchored by Isaac's deft performance, navigating these different tones with complete assurance." -Richard Trenholm, CNET
"Helping Moon Knight outshine the others is the central star power. Isaac is joyfully game as Marc, fully immersing himself in the role physically. The actor has previously spoken about not wanting to join another franchise after Star Wars and X-Men, with Isaac only coming around to the MCU after meeting Mohamed Diab and talking through the filmmaker’s vision to create a character study. That’s exactly what [director Mohamed] Diab delivers, with Isaac given the space to explore Marc’s many quirks." -Jack Sheperd, GamesRadar
“Moon Knight is vaguely different, has no real connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and will be hailed by many as a deeply original chapter in the MCU. But when you look outside that limited worldview and recognize all the aforementioned touchstones it’s drawing from, Moon Knight is initially thought-provoking, but hardly the game changer that many devout fanboys will likely declare it." - Rorigo Perez, The Playlist
"Moon Knight isn’t always memorable ... Conceptually, the first season of Moon Knight feels intended less as a TV show and more as an explanation for why viewers would want to watch the character eventually hobnob with Doctor Strange or Blade or whomever. So far, it’s an argument for Oscar Isaac, and not Moon Knight, to join the Avengers." -Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter
"I love how un-MCU this series is while still feeling right at home in the comic book universe from Marvel Studios. Oscar Isaac is a great addition to this mythos and Ethan Hawke already ranks as one of the best Marvel villains yet. My only complaint is that six episodes are not nearly enough Moon Knight and I already want more." -Alex Maidy, JoBlo
Moon Knight premieres on Disney+ Wednesday, March 30