Marvel’s ‘Moon Knight’ artfully twists reality

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

The lights flicker. A skeletal, deified, bird-like figure appears to be charging toward Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) with long, hanging drapes billowing in the wind. The lights flicker again. Now, the figure is an old woman looking after Grant’s wellbeing. What is the truth? 

“Moon Knight” prompts viewers to question their normalized faith in stories as told from the narrator’s perspective. Wading through a pool of uncertainty, viewers embark on a journey to make sense of this mysterious, captivating and thrilling release from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

With six episodes on Disney+, “Moon Knight” departs from the traditional lore of Marvel. Instead, it centers on Steven Grant, a gift shop worker and Egyptology fanatic who unknowingly suffers from dissociative identity disorder. Told from Steven’s perspective, the story immerses viewers in his memory losses and bewilderment as he struggles to come to terms with who and what he is. 

Isaac excels in the portrayal of Steven Grant and his alters, contributing to the production’s emotional and psychological depth. With varied mannerisms, body posture and diction, Isaac molds his body like a block of clay, expertly bringing different souls to life. Though they exist in the same body, each persona has free range to exist as a totally unique individual. 

While Marvel cinema typically centers on an external conflict between hero and villain, “Moon Knight” focuses on a mental battle of self-love and worth. Told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator, the story is purposefully choppy and confusing, full of internal questioning as viewers are left to decide who and what to trust. 

The filming style further lends to the series’s motif of uncertainty. At times, opening shots appear centered on common objects or scenes familiar to the viewers. However, as the camera pans out, the added perspective reveals how the audience has been deceived, showing the focus point as upside down, mirrored or only half the truth. It is in this way that the cinematography of “Moon Knight” resonates with the continuous question of what is real and what is a figment of the mind. 

Beyond creating a cloud of confusion and distrust, “Moon Knight” uses mirrors to create a mystifying experience that draws viewers in, as they represent a reflection of the soul and also a manner for Steven to communicate his with alters. Seamlessly placed mirrors, puddles and glass visually add to the sensation of a false truth. The lack of cohesion between mirrors and the scenes playing out dramatizes and reflects the unreliability of the narrator. 

Similarly, “Moon Knight” paints time as a false construct. Days bleed into nights, and periods of time escape from Steven’s consciousness. With consistent, metronomic tick-tock sounds playing throughout a number of scenes, “Moon Knight” effectively juxtaposes the linearity and order of presupposed time with the chaos and internal struggle of Steven Grant. Time, a notion that can be manipulated to travel across different skies, becomes a meaningless constant and unreliable symbol of reality for viewers to depend on. 

Although the show is incredibly dynamic and nuanced, the ending feels rushed and incomplete. The first four episodes immerse viewers in a world of intricate characters and Egyptian lore, enthralling in their storytelling and plot development. To try and resolve the conflict in two episodes does an injustice to the majesty of the show — a common trend in recent Marvel television shows. Viewers are left with the sentiment that producers ran out of time to attain a semblance of resolution and are instead focused on enabling future productions. 

Despite the pacing of the show, “Moon Knight” leaves viewers on the edge of their seats until the very end, questioning their own grasp on reality. With Egyptian mythology, intriguing mysteries and a novel depth of self-conflict, Moon Knight stands out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Contact Sejal Krishnan at [email protected].