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Marvel's Moon Knight: Oscar Isaac Stars as a Superhero with Dissociative Identity Disorder

A man driving a truck stares at a gun
Oscar Isaac  in MOON KNIGHT

Disclaimer: this report was written after watching the first two episodes of the series. 

Moon Knight, Marvel's sixth television series in Phase Four, features one of the best known superheroes with a mental illness. Although this character with dissociative identity disorder was created in 1975 by Dough Moench and Don Perlin, Moon Knight has never received a live-action depiction. Jeremy Slater (The Exorcist series, Umbrella Academy series) serves as head writer, with directing credits shared by Mohamed Diab (Cairo 678) and powerhouse team Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Something in the Dirt). The directing credits should excite curious fans. The title character wants to fulfill the mission set before him by Khonshu, the Egyptian moon god. Diab, Egyptian by birth, can only be an asset to this project. And Benson and Moorhead have a track record of making well-crafted low-budget "weird fiction" films. In other words, fans are in good hands.

Although the details of Moon Knight differ greatly from those in the world of comics, this team, along with the cast, collaborated to create an original story that invites Moon Knight experts and newcomers to meet at the proverbial table known as television binging. In the comics, Moon Knight begins as Marc Spector, the son of a rabbi and a mercenary who acts as the hands and feet of Khonshu, the Egyptian moon god. He uses multiple identities to function in the world, each which different assets needed for the work ahead. Jeremy Slater and lead actor Oscar Isaac made the creative choice to have viewers enter through the lens of a meek everyman. This brilliant maneuver sets us up to feel just as dissociated as the character. It's the more confident personalities that help our hero acclimate to his new world. 

Ethan Hawke as ARTHUR in MOON KNIGHT

The curtain rises on Steven Grant, a meek gift shop employee at the British Museum. Although he's vastly overqualified and supervised by a bully, Steven has far bigger problems than his job prospects. Fear casts a shadow on his sleep patterns and bedtime rituals. During sleep, Steven finds himself transported to a new place. He sees strange things, hears voices, and can't control his own body. These events leave him unsure if he's seeing visions or a world outside his understanding. Whether he's in the waking world or inside what seems like a dream world, blackouts and weird gaps in consciousness leave him feeling unclear about the day or time. As the dream world and real world begin to collide, Steven Grant begins to question his sanity and realizes he's the alter ego of a mercenary named Marc Spector.

Cinephile fan favorite Oscar Isaac plays the titular character and clearly has a blast. Seeing him portray the meek, overlooked Steven Grant character is somewhat laughable (the man has too much charisma), but he gets to play a range of roles, each with a different accent, as Moon Knight. Ethan Hawke co-stars as Arthur Harrow, a cult leader who has his own mission and tries to bend Grant to his will. Egypt-Palestinian actress May Calamawy stars as Layla El-Faouly, the estranged wife of Marc Spector. Acting as the icing on the cupcake, the iconic F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus) acts as the voice of Khonshu, and his condescending vocal inflections are a highlight of the storytelling.

Engelbert Humperdinck's "A Man Without Love" accompanies most of the first episode, a sentimental 1960s ballad about a man longing for his lost love as he looks at the sky. It's a catchy number, and I like to imagine Moon Knight trying to woo the scattered pieces of his mind back together.  

Oscar Isaac in MOON KNIGHT

Each TV series Marvel has put together carries a certain energy reminiscent of earlier works. Moon Knight carries the action of the Indiana Jones franchise and The Mummy films by Stephen Somers. But the depictions of the identity disorder add a layer of mind-bending energy. While after watching two episodes it's unclear how Moon Knight will fit in with the larger MCU, viewers can look forward to the same quality of action and humor expected of Marvel TV.  If the first couple episodes are any predictor, the violence meter is raised compared to its predecessors, with Moon Knight needing to use brute force to protect himself and others from enemies both mortal and mythological. Unlike many of the Marvel superheroes, Moon Knight lacks superhuman powers. The source of his strength comes from his high-tech suit, training in weapons and combat, and an ability to withstand pain. 

Moon Knight also marks the first time that the MCU has launched a television series with an unknown leading character. Wanda, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Loki, and Hawkeye were all supporting characters elevated to lead status. Moon Knight has no such real estate among viewer's hearts. Even amongst comic book fans, Moon Knight is a mystery, so the studio took chances to bring this character into the public square. Will the MCU zombies respond? Only Khonshu knows. 

Moon Knight debuts with a six-episode limited series and debuts on Disney Plus on March 30, 2022.