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Moon Knight exciting but spread too thin


     When asked about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), acclaimed director Martin Scorsese once made a simple statement:

     “That’s not cinema.”

     Fearing that artistic cinema was a dying pursuit, he voiced his concerns that the MCU was little more than mindless entertainment for the masses. However, Marvel’s latest miniseries, “Moon Knight”, may have (at least partially) proven him wrong.

     “Moon Knight”, to put it as simply as possible without spoiling too much, follows mild-mannered Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) as he is thrust into a world of Egyptian gods, deceit, traumatic pasts and a threat that could destroy human civilization itself. Along with his alternate personality Marc Spector (who appears to have been born out of dissociative identity disorder), his estranged wife Layla (May Calamawy) and the ostracized moon god Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham), who has taken Grant/Spector as his human avatar, he must fight to stop cult leader Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) from releasing the god Ammit, who intends to judge humanity’s souls before their time on Earth is up.

     Regardless of my opinions on the series’ narrative and comprehensibility, what’s undeniable about “Moon Knight” is its sheer gorgeousness. Though much of the show takes place in dark, cramped or otherwise generally dismal places, there is a dark sort of beauty to it. The CGI can be somewhat questionable

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at times in early episodes; however, shadows, set layout and camera angles are all used to great effect. In particular, the series makes great use of mirrors to effectively depict internal conversations between Grant and Spector that would otherwise not be visible.

     These visual accomplishments also segue into another positive element of the series: its skillful blending of genres. Though past MCU miniseries such as “WandaVision” and “Loki” incorporated some dark themes, “Moon Knight” takes this to a new level, creating a masterful mixture of drama, suspense, action and downright horror at times. The series contains many moments of genuine emotional vulnerability on the parts of nearly every character, a welcome addition to a franchise that has often shied away from emotional depth until recent entries. 

     Horror, however, is a touchy subject for a franchise like the MCU, as it’s clear that the producers are trying to expand the scope of their franchise while also struggling to maintain an element of family friendliness. Unlike past movies and miniseries, “Moon Knight” crosses this line, showing its fair share of frightening monsters, occasional jump scares and more realistic (and arguably more horrifying) fears such as child abuse. While I enjoyed the darker tone of this series as compared to previous entries, I couldn’t help but feel that it’s also pushing younger fans out of their comfort zones, a dangerous move for a franchise that has previously been a source of entertainment for all ages.

     On that note, there were several elements of “Moon Knight” that I felt less than ecstatic about, chiefly the plot and pacing. Undoubtedly more complex than any miniseries Marvel has put out before, “Moon Knight” attempts to cover so much ground in a mere six episodes that it just ends up feeling… shallow. Every element that should make the series amazing is there; it has beautiful cinematography, exceptional performances (especially from Ethan Hawke, who is a little too good at being a doomsday prophet) and frequent conflicts. The problem is that the story is too extensive for its limited runtime, and as a result, I felt that none of the episodes explored the story and characters as deeply as they should have. Similarly, the overly cramped nature of the plot causes the pacing to be far too quick; many scenes were often over before I had time to even process what I had just seen.

     In all, “Moon Knight” sets up an ambitious premise — one that I feel is too grand for its own good. From a cinematic perspective, the show is truly excellent, delving into the beautiful imagery, dark themes and raw emotion that, as Scorsese pointed out, was often lacking in early entries in the MCU. However, the immense scale and complexity of its story means that there is too little time for it all to be effectively explored, leaving it somewhat unsatisfying for viewers hoping to find definite answers to every great question it asks.

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