After over a decade of tying everything together, the last year has seen Marvel Studios loosening the apron strings. Both Shang-Chi and Eternals introduce new heroes, threats and hidden societies that have little to do with the Avengers et al (bar a post-credits scene or two), and both were heralded as “standalone” Marvel adventures that didn’t require the prior knowledge of an Infinity War, Endgame or Spider-Man: No Way Home.


But as it turns out, both those movies were mere heralds for Moon Knight, Marvel’s new Disney Plus show starring Oscar Isaac. Moon Knight is genuinely a standalone story, that could take place in a completely different universe to the main Marvel continuity if you chose to see it that way. In the first four episodes, I counted just one reference – an offhand reference to Madripoor, a fictional nation that featured in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – and otherwise, this show is very much its own beast.

It's funny to cite this as a positive for a Marvel project when the unique success of the brand was built on that interconnected soap opera (often imitated but never equalled by other studios), but you can have too much of a good thing. Within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s a breath of fresh air to see Moon Knight stand alone (at least until Wong turns up in an episode 6 cameo or something).

Though of course, within the story, Isaac’s hero is far from a lone wolf. As you may have gathered from the trailers this show’s unique conceit is that Moon Knight (aka Marc Spector and/or Steven Grant) suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as multiple personalities, with two different independent beings vying for control of one body.

It's genuinely impressive how much Isaac can transform his performance through minor changes in his voice and body language, to the point where he can be dressed and styled identically but still seem much more “handsome” as the driven Marc. And it’s a good thing he nails it, because he essentially pulls double duty throughout the series, with clues suggesting there may be even more buried personalities to uncover.

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Moon Knight
Oscar Isaac in Moon Knight (Disney)

Initially we spend most of our time with Steven, a British(ish) Egyptology expert and gift shop worker with a nebbish quality. He has a quiet life – but then one day this mild-mannered wimp starts waking up in the middle of pitched battles, in foreign countries and with blood on his hands. It turns out this was all the work of Marc Spector, a cynical American mercenary who shares Steven’s body and speaks to him through mirrors.

If this wasn’t enough to deal with, there’s another voice blaring in Steven’s head – Egyptian moon god Khonshu (F Murray Abraham), who sets both personalities to work in a sprawling, globe-trotting mission. It’s revealed over the course of the second and third episodes that Khonshu recruited Marc as his “avatar” or champion some time ago, giving him access to a mummy-like supernatural “suit” that enhances his strength, healing and fighting ability.

If this detail seems a bit tacked-on to the already-mindbending multiple personalities I’m describing, well, the show doesn’t have too much interest in explaining it either. At least for the first four episodes (which we were allowed to view beforehand), viewers have to accept that Marc’s origin story already happened some time ago (no flashbacks here), and just focus on what’s happening in the here and now.

Moon Knight
Ethan Hawke as Harrow in Moon Knight (Disney Plus)

Luckily, that’s interesting enough in its own right. Moon Knight’s first episode in particular is fantastic, weaving a chilling thriller story as Steven is hunted by horrible monsters, cultists and their leader Harrow (a slightly phoning-it-in Ethan Hawke) while possible allies dismiss his fears as mental health issues.

Unfortunately, the episode that comes after is much more formulaic, efficiently laying out the classic Marvel ingredients – here is the villain, here’s how your powers work, here’s some jokes, here’s the baddie’s sympathetic motive, here’s why he’s gone too far – in what feels like an attempt to force the story into a more manageable shape.

I was genuinely a little disappointed after this episode that what had seemed like a more interesting, inventive take on a Marvel show had been forced into a Falcon and Winter Soldier-shaped hole – but I needn’t have worried. Over the third and fourth episodes, Moon Knight proves to have plenty more tricks up its sleeve, shifting from thriller to horror to comedy to National Treasure-esque action as the story requires, before veering into Umbrella Academy or Legion territory just when you think you have a handle on what’s going on.

Moon Knight Oscar Isaac
Moon Knight Oscar Isaac Marvel/YouTube

At times, I found myself wishing this was a film rather than a running series. It has a recognisably cinematic arc for the characters and could stand to trim a little of the fat that creeps into its 45 to 50-minute episodes (especially some of the backstory offered by Spector’s partner Layla, played by May Calamawy). Frankly, it’d be a better Mummy or Uncharted film than we’ve seen in the last few years.

Still, overall Moon Knight seems to be a resounding success for Marvel’s new era of expansion. Full of great action, twists and genuinely spooky sequences, it’ll give longtime fans another corner of the MCU to explore while also delivering an entry-level story that might even appeal to some newcomers.

And in any case, everyone who watches it can agree on one thing – yes, Oscar Isaac’s British accent is really weird. You kind of get used to it.

Moon Knight streams on Disney Plus from the 30th March, with new episodes released on Wednesdays – sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now. For more, check out our dedicated Fantasy page or our full TV Guide.


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