[TV Review] New Marvel series ‘MOON KNIGHT’ wanes and waxes in quality

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

MOON KNIGHT

(Eps. 1-4)
Rated TV-14, about 50 minutes per episode (of six).
The premiere episode is now available to stream on Disney+, and it will be followed by weekly installment releases on Wednesdays.

The prospect of an Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe is simply too good to pass up, especially when Isaac portrays a cloaked vigilante with dual personalities and Hawke is a deep-thinking cult leader. Top that off with the camera control and lighting of gifted cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo (The Green Knight), and we’re cooking with gas. 

While the series loses momentum in its middle episodes (episodes three and four of its six-installment run), the rhythm among its wild spectacle, compelling mythos and adventure tune into a new, enjoyably offbeat Marvel entry.

In the series, Isaac portrays a former U.S. Marine struggling with dissociative identity disorder. Sometimes, he’s Marc Spector, a Jason Bourne-like crime fighter, while other times, he’s Steven Grant, a mild-mannered store clerk with an exaggerated British accent. How he navigates those personalities is much like Tom Hardy as Venom, but not quite as over-the-top and silly. Steven is less informed about his Egyptian god gifts than Marc. So, we spend more time with Steven as he makes a fool of himself and learns that he can bruise baddies like an Avenger. 

However, not long after, he discovers that his newfound powers can be both a blessing and a curse. So, when he captures the attention of religious zealot Arthur Harrow (Hawke), the storm of chaos grows bigger than the moon. 

It’s the ordinary-person-called-to-do-the-extraordinary angle that puts the hook in you. Watching Steven as he tries to take control of his extreme situation is a constant thrill. It’s a fun, ridiculous ride, much like The Mummy, as it juggles Ancient Egyptian mythology and goofy cartoon antics. (I mean, our central hero talks to a giant moon god – voiced by F. Murray Abraham – that looks like a skeletonized Big Bird. And the last shot of episode four will trip you out.) 

While Isaac’s side keeps it perfectly zany, the calm menace of Hawke sends your mind soaring as he spits poetic fire like, “the difference between medicine and poison is dosage.” He’s a fascinating character that slips broken glass into his sandals to be comfortable with perpetual pain. Arthur also has a scale tattoo that decides people’s moral goodness like he’s Two-Face operating on a Minority Report level. 

The action has some gripping choreography. But the real standout is Palermo’s photography. This is probably the best shot Marvel project we’ve had so far. The natural lighting and camera twirls are a sight to behold, while some CGI work is more questionable (especially when the story takes us to Egypt).

It isn’t easy to judge something when you haven’t seen the complete arc. Who knows? Maybe everything will snap into place in the final two episodes. But for now, it’s a mixed bag, but an amusing one at that.

Grade: B

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.