Review by C.J. Bunce
With a small but significant first–and possibly only–season now behind us, the latest Marvel series proved the promise of the series opener wasn’t just a fluke. With unusually fantastic superhero storytelling and backstory, top acting, and unparalleled art production and music, Moon Knight is a serious contender for not only the best of Disney’s era of superhero series, it also springs ahead as better than all the Netflix Marvel series and any series (DC, Marvel, or indie) that came before in the superhero genre, complete with a Dark Knight villain done right, and a Wonder Woman who finally delivered on the excitement and potential of nearly a century of comic book superheroines. The sixth and final episode of the season is now streaming on Disney+. We’re only through four months of 2022, and even with some high calibre shows so far, if you see only one series this year, so far this is the one not to miss.
Anthropology, archaeology, and Egyptology–they are tops when it comes to story setting and tropes, and yet there’s not a lot that gets it right and makes it to the small or big screen. The production values and design for Moon Knight scream Steven Spielberg and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it also conjured the fun of Universal’s 1999 reboot of The Mummy. Every other superhero series has that misstep, either a concept or one or more flat episodes. That didn’t happen with six hours of Moon Knight. And it felt like three of the best Marvel movies instead of just another superhero TV series.
Unlike every other new comic book story that hits the screen, this was very much comics creators Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood’s character, and there couldn’t be a better tribute to Bill Sienkiewicz’s classic 1980s visual incarnation of the complex hero.
What is the best episode of television this year? Egyptian director Mohamed Diab delivered one of the year’s best episodes in the first episode, splicing together Steven Grant’s frenetic existence revealing an exhausted man at the end of his rope. Then that penultimate episode, “Asylum,” was simply stunning as we encounter the weighing of the value of life, the backstory of each half of the Moon Knight, and saw the story’s hero embark on an incredibly rendered ship of the dead. And then there’s that finale–especially the rise of a new superheroine who was torn in equal parts from the comic books and ancient Egyptian mythology. Just stunning.
Has any villain in the MCU been more smartly designed and brilliantly portrayed than Ethan Hawke′s creepy pre-crime cult leader? Has any actor better portrayed a complex superhero in the MCU than Oscar Isaac? Is there a superheroine you’d rather see get her own movie than May Calamaway as Tawaret’s temporary avatar with those magnificent wings right off the top of the Lost Ark of the Covenant? (She’s inspired by the Scarlet Scarab of the comics).
Visually the special effects gave viewers looks at things we have never seen before, from anthropomorphic Egyptian gods everyone learns about in grade school (and some of us in college) to mind-bending mindwipes and fake-outs (that Marvel’s Legion only began to touch on). We’ll be on the look-out for Stefania Cella′s next production design project. And the sound! Powerful voiceover work from F. Murray Abraham, Antonia Salib, and Saba Mubarek. And the musical score by Hesham Nazih was mesmerizing and truly unlike anything we’ve heard before in the MCU. We’re all accustomed to action movie scores that try to emulate John Williams’ work, but this had the same effect with an entirely different musical palette.
Seriously–this is the real deal for comic book readers and fans of Egyptology and adventure stories. Ten times the Netflix Marvel series and a major cut above Hawkeye, Loki, WandaVision, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier–or anything that’s come out of DC–Moon Knight is streaming now on Disney+.