Choosing to watch a movie or TV show based on a comic book property can be a daunting task these days if one isn’t, as the late legend Stan Lee would say, a “True believer.” Marvel Studio’s latest theatrical release, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, has no less than four entries in the greater MCU series that are most likely to be required watching before seeing it, if my calculations are correct. Shared universes can be fun for those who get in on them at the ground floor, but it can also be a nice break to invest in something a little more self-contained every now and then. Moon Knight, the latest Disney+ original miniseries set in the MCU, is one such adventure, and this lack of baggage is one of the many factors that make it one of the best ones so far.
You don’t really need to do any homework before jumping into Moon Knight. In fact, you don’t really have to be a fan of the superhero genre at all (although it certainly does help, particularly by the last episode, which presents a much more straightforward superhero climax). Driven and elevated by Oscar Isaac’s brilliant performance as a very mentally troubled gift shop attendant who finds himself mixed up with an evil cult, a violent Spectre, and Egyptian gods, Moon Knight is an action-fantasy adventure that, more often than not, isn’t content to stay within the boundaries of your typical superhero fare. Things get trippy pretty quickly, and the series occasionally dips into straight horror territory, a first for the MCU (or second, depending on whether or not you watch this or Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness first). The imagery and camerawork are particularly interesting, and the look of the show owes much to its directors, which is not often the case with a studio that usually prefers to churn out content via metaphorical assembly line. Another bright spot is the soundtrack, which is exciting, memorable, and fantastically mysterious.
The special effects occasionally do not quite measure up to the lofty standards set by these successes. Marvel Studios has claimed that movie-level budgets set their Disney+ original miniseries apart from others, but if this is true than this money was clearly spent inconsistently, as Moon Knight’s CGI sometimes looks goofy and weird (although some of the things are kind of hard to portray in a non-goofy way to begin with, to be fair). A couple of the episodes in the middle of the series are also not quite as good as the others, and it is these two entries that are also the most straightforward and traditional of the bunch (along with the aforementioned finale). Moon Knight is at its best when it is doing its own thing, not aping The Mummy or Indiana Jones. The series can also be quite dark, and not just in its subject matter; occasionally I had a hard time making out what exactly was happening on screen.
Even with these shortcomings, Moon Knight is by far my favorite of the Disney+ MCU series thus far. The only other one that comes close in my estimation is the equally weird WandaVision, which just goes to show that breaking the mold every now and then can be greatly beneficial, even if the mold is one that has proven to be successful time and time again.
All six episodes of Moon Knight are now available on Disney Plus.