Moon Knight could be the MCU’s missing puzzle piece. In a connected universe characterized by quips, binary hero/villain dynamics, and CGI spectacle, there remains a Daredevil-shaped hole that needs filling. The Netflix shows prided themselves on platforming a darker, grimier side to superheroes and that has been absent since Jessica Jones’ cancellation back in 2019.
Enter Moon Knight. While we only have a two-minute trailer to go on, the series’ (literally) hard-hitting action and more inward-looking nature promises to enter territory that Marvel Studios has feared to tread. At this early stage, it’s looking like a treat for those who want something altogether different from typical Marvel fare; a dark show that’s not afraid to get its hands dirty.
Case in point: the final 20 seconds of the trailer. While much of the teaser deals with whether Oscar Isaac’s Marc Spector is experiencing reality or merely dreaming, Moon Knight takes away the façade with its closing statement.
In a dimly lit bathroom, the camera creeps in on a scene that (deliberate or otherwise) is faintly reminiscent of Daredevil’s iconic hallway fight. Moon Knight apes The Man Without Fear in another, more brutal fashion by pummelling his victim, each punch landing with the bone-shattering force that’s so often missing from Marvel’s litany of breezy and choreographed showdowns.
This is fist-to-face, bone-on-bone, and it puts the rest of the MCU on notice. Moon Knight isn’t pulling its punches, and nor should it. While it’s never going to reach the level of violence found in Daredevil, it feels like a breath of fresh air compared to what has been, more often than not, a tame, watered-down approach to superhero fight scenes.
And the Oscar goes to…
Another aspect that works heavily in the show’s favor is the casting of Oscar Isaac. Traditionally, Marvel tends to opt against plonking megastars front and centre in the MCU. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston were both branded ‘unknowns’ at the time of their casting, while Robert Downey Jr. certainly wasn’t at the peak of his powers by 2008’s Iron Man.
But by positioning a ready-made name as its lead, Moon Knight brings with it the cult of personality and singular voice that the Disney Plus shows have lacked a little. Moon Knight requires a deft touch, a protagonist that – due to Spector’s various disorders – must be simultaneously charming, down-to-earth, dangerous and, most of all, believable. Charlie Cox managed to straddle that line perfectly. Arguably, no superhero actor since has been quite as convincing as the Daredevil actor, able to strike with his silver tongue one minute and strike even harder with his fists the next.
Isaac can achieve that. The boyish charms of Poe Dameron in the Star Wars sequel trilogy may be his most prominent role, but the violent, hair-trigger charisma of his performance as a criminal opposite Ryan Gosling in Drive shows another side to the actor’s undeniable talents. His acclaimed turn as narcissistic CEO Nathan Bateman in Ex Machina is a similarly useful tool for Isaac to draw on as he dives into Spector’s grab bag multiple personalities.
Over the moon
Marvel has also made great strides in representation in the past 12 months. Two major Deaf characters – Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari and Alaqua Cox’s Echo – were introduced. Eternals also saw the MCU’s first gay superhero in Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos, while Loki, too, was confirmed to be canonically bisexual. Daredevil, of course, is blind. Now, Moon Knight can form part of that wave of change with its portrayal of mental health.
In the comics – and something that is heavily hinted at in the first trailer – Marc Spector suffers from dissociative identity disorder, which allows Spector to inhabit multiple different personalities. In lesser hands, it could be played for laughs. However, Moon Knight’s trailer has done away with the one liner-heavy style of delivery in favor of brooding shots and quiet introspection. By showing the stigma surrounding mental health, the series demonstrates how superheroes aren’t always superhuman. Some are flawed, broken beings that require different coping mechanisms.
WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier both dealt with grief and trauma to varying degrees, and Moon Knight will inch the conversation forward a more. It’s a small step, but a significant one. Oscar Isaac’s presence and a more sombre tone only helps give the show more legitimacy.
It seems Marvel is intent on doing things differently with Moon Knight. While it’s not a one-to-one parallel with Daredevil, the similarities are striking. The show could even do for the MCU what Matt Murdock’s adventures did for Netflix: open up a new, more personal side to superheroes that’s rarely explored at length in the films. And now that Charlie Cox has recently come back to the MCU, the two – originator and innovator – could even cross paths. Now wouldn’t that be something?
For more on the MCU’s future, check out our guides to Marvel Phase 4 and new Marvel TV shows.