Marvel’s slow takeover of all genres is almost over. He has directed spy dramas (Captain America: Winter Soldier), sitcoms (WandaVision), horror films (Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), Scandi dramas (Thor: Ragnarok), storytelling choose yourself (also Dr Strange), foreign language dramas (Captain Marvel – some characters speak Skrull), and teen dramas (the various Spider-Men). Soon they’ll be in the news – imagine Kirsty Wark wearing a domino mask while discussing Britain’s trade deal with Asgard (a potential post-Brexit victory, in all honesty).
And we’ll no doubt be putting photos of this woven, hyphenated Spider-Man menace on the cover of The Irish Times to accompany our editorials against his lawless shenanigans.
There’s no end to the genres and forms you can co-op if you’re Marvel. Moon Knight is the sixth Marvel mini-series created for Disney+ (all episodes are now on the platform). He again takes a new approach. He asks the question: What if Frank Spencer of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em was a superhero?
Much of the early action takes place in a version of the British Museum, another rapacious institution that has plundered the world’s art treasures in the name of cultural hegemony.
“Aw, Betty! shouts the tenuously employed klutz, before transforming into a CGI-capped muscle man, weightlessly battling demons and damaging property (which is still very Frank Spencer, in all honesty).
Sometimes when great actors take on superhero roles, you don’t see them embody a character as much as you see them thinking about the new house, ranch, or hovercraft they plan to buy with the movie. money.
If you were to ask Chris Pratt about the Star-Lord drama arc, for example, he’d probably show you ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of his bank statements and a photo of himself on a yacht cuddling a panda in a onesie adorned with jewels.
That said, the star of Moon Knight is Oscar Isaac, my wife’s other husband, and he’s far too good to just phone. Isaac really commits to the role of Steven Grant/Frank Spencer, an awkward gift shop clerk with a high-estuary English accent, slumped shoulders, and puppy dog expression. He doesn’t wear a beret or a trench coat, but that’s implied.
He even uses the word “plonker” – and not referring to an old B-list Marvel villain called The Plonker who has plonker powers, but in the vernacular British sense of the word, the sense in which Del Boy the uses on Rodney.
Much of the early action takes place in a version of the British Museum, another rapacious institution that has plundered the world’s art treasures in the name of cultural hegemony. Steven works there and is generally looked down upon and treated with condescension by his co-workers. However, every once in a while he wakes up in a different country surrounded by dead terrorists, which is shocking to him but funny to us.
Television has done well in recent years portraying the complexities of mental illness on shows like Russian Doll, Euphoria and This Way Up. Marvel’s Moon Knight says, “Hold my beer!” and joins the fray to explore, in particular, dissociative identity disorder. Now, I didn’t look this up in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but if Marvel did their research right, the symptoms include “slapstick”, “hilarious results”, and “superpowers”.
Steven Grant is, unbeknownst to him, an American mercenary called Marc Spector (it even sort of rhymes with Frank Spencer), who is also Moon Knight, the vengeful avatar of a skeletal, bird-headed moon deity called Khonsu. The final track is not a product of his mental health issues. This song is real. So you can see how difficult it can be to get proper psychological support for Steven.
We also meet Ethan Hawke, a crackpot villain with broken glass in his shoes and a bunch of cult followers who loved him in Before Sunrise. He works for a totally different Egyptian god who has a crocodile head like bus driver Richard Scarry. The Egyptian gods are all CGI hams with American or British accents.
It might creak a bit if you think of Egypt as an independent country with its own culture (see also: the British Museum). And then there’s Layla, the super capable wife of one of the Oscar Isaacs.
She’s played by the excellent May Calamawy but she’s sidelined somewhat by the chemistry Oscar Isaac has with Oscar Isaac. There’s a lot of Isaac-on-Isaac action in this show.
I felt more in danger watching stop-motion Godzilla fight Mothra or Vincent Browne trashing a government minister or Miss Piggy hitting Kermit
We all love Isaac, damn his beautiful wobbly face. The problem here, as with many Marvel properties, is that the show’s original idiosyncrasies drift into something too familiar and formulaic as the story builds up.
So we get a boring penultimate episode that stalls any forward momentum for a hallucinatory, psychoanalytical look at Steven/Marc’s tragic past. Everyone should be in therapy, but Hollywood screenwriters have been in treatment for so long that they think the origin stories are much more interesting than they actually are. This episode really should have been a few scenes.
And then there’s the finale in which, as always, all human endeavor is reduced to a disappointing superhero battle with no stakes. Why disappointing? Because superpowers are boring. Moon Knight, despite his status as an avatar of a deity, is just strong and tenacious. I’ve met strong, tenacious people who didn’t need such noble backgrounds and frankly, my materialistic view of the universe respects that more.
Feeling of danger
Why no issues? Because the creators never really define the aforementioned superpowers in a way that makes physics feel real. So Moon Knight’s strength and strength are unclear and we have no real sense of danger as he smashes through concrete and is hit by moving vehicles.
As for the weightless CGI behemoths unleashed around Cairo as the story progresses, they just make me feel like I’m watching someone else play a video game. I felt more in danger watching stop-motion Godzilla fight Mothra or Vincent Browne trashing a government minister or Miss Piggy punching Kermit. Maybe they should ditch computers and do it with puppets.
The other issue is this weird miniseries format that Marvel is pioneering. Six episodes is both far too long and far too short for stories like this. It doesn’t have the impact of a movie, but it also doesn’t have the lived-in feeling of a good TV series. You can compress this story into two high-octane hours or you can, alternatively, squeeze in fun monster-of-the-week adventures and allow the bigger tale to breathe on a longer episode. Moon Knight might even have a dog or a hobby.
But I guess you could never convince a star like Oscar Isaac to commit to a longer series. And he is very good. He has lots of nice conversations with himself in two different accents and with slightly different hairstyles. Although I’m sure you’re still thinking, “You know what, I could do more Oscar Isaacs.”
Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that post-credits footage suggests there might be a third Moon Knight personality with a totally different accent, thus setting us up for what will surely be called Moon Knight 2: 2 Many Moon Knights – an all-Oscar Isaac production with Isaacs as far as the eye can see and Isaacs at the very bottom. At that time, my wife will probably leave me and marry the box.