Like Indiana Jones on Acid
A quick take on of “Moon Knight”
Four episodes into the new Marvel series Moon Knight, it should come as no surprise to learn that its stars Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke shared some magic mushrooms while shooting on location in Hungary. There’s no other way to describe Moon Knight than as something akin to Indiana Jones on acid, a hallucinogenic, globe-trotting trip with the gods of ancient Egypt that blends horror, fantasy, and action together with ease. It’s a fun, gothic romp that offers adventure and surrealism rather than anything terribly profound or substantive – but that’s more than enough to make it worth watching.
Indeed, Moon Knight is clearly preoccupied with its fever dream of a premise above all else. It surfaces a potentially intriguing moral conflict between different notions of justice offered by the ancient Egyptian gods Khonshu and Ammut via their respective avatars Isaac and Hawke. Moon god Khonshu metes out brutal but after-the-fact justice to those who have already done wrong through Isaac’s superpowered title character, while Hawke’s villainous Arthur Harrow aims to prevent injustice and create “heaven on Earth” by releasing the imprisoned Ammut and “eradicating the choice of evil.” If this all sounds bonkers, well, it is – and while the show briefly gives the underlying debate its due, it pushes straight past it into a generic but well-done and genre-bending race-against-time narrative.
Our heroes fight off supernatural terrors like undead mummies and invisible jackals that threaten their progress along the way. For his part, Khonshu whips up an eclipse and turns back the sky millennia to aid them on their journey before the other Egyptian gods (yes, there are more) imprison him in a stone statuette. That any of this manages to work as well as it does is due primarily to the show’s cast: Isaac brings his natural charisma to bear as main protagonist Marc Spector, while May Calamawy plays archaeologist (and Spector’s estranged spouse) Layla El-Faouly with a roguish and nonchalant charm reminiscent of Indiana Jones himself. Likewise, veteran actor F. Murray Abraham of Amadeus fame voices the demanding, bird-skulled Khonshu with a capricious and often entertaining arrogance. Hawke cultivates an aura of sinister altruism and quiet menace in his captivating turn as Harrow, a dark ascetic and former avatar of Khonshu who now takes aim at his former master.
Still, it’s delightful to see a show lean so heavily into such an insane underlying conceit – much less pull it off so well. All Moon Knight asks in return is that we sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip.