Moon Knight series: The start of the Midnight Sons?

When the Moon Knight series was first announced by Kevin Fiege in 2019, I bet even the most ardent MCU fan would have gone “What, who?”. Maybe that was just my reaction to it.

To put it simply, the series revolves around Marc Spector, a mercenary with Dissociative Identity Disorder (“DID”). Throw in the Ennead and other Egyptian Gods peppered with some Marvel-esque flavour to it and you get Moon Knight. A quick wikipedia search will list Steven Grant as one of the personalities of Marc Spector. Well….watch out for the post credit scene at the end for a sweet surprise.

The series is loosely based on the 2016 comic book series of Moon Knight, written by Lemire. A few scenes particularly the one in the mental institution and the “Duat” (realm of the dead based on ancient Egyptian mythology) do seem like inspirations taken right out of the 2016 series. One of the smartest moves by Marvel was the recasting of Marlene, Marc’s love interest in the comics to Layla El Faouly. It followed the same formula by Marvel to put their own twist to a comic book character. Although Taskmaster in Black Widow was a major let down in my opinion, this switch in particular, worked wonders.

The series starts off by being one of the best, if not THE best start to a Marvel series since Daredevil. It perfectly set up the episodes that follow. Whilst some episodes felt like slow burners, in entirety, the series ends up being one of the best in the Marvel library.

There were times as I watched the series, my mind did question what was real and what was not. I half expected the writers to conclude everything that happened as merely fantasies playing out in Marc’s mind. Kudos to the writers and the director, Mohamed Diab for staying true to the spirit of the comics and sticking the landing of the finale. This is exactly how one should feel when experiencing Moon Knight, whether be it through the comics or a live action series.

Strengths

The entire cast

The casting choices made by Marvel was a real win. I could not have imagined a better Marc Spector or Steven Grant than Oscar Isaac. He was the MVP of the series and his acting abilities throughout were on display. His portrayal of Steven Grant/Marc Spector in the penultimate episode was simply amazing and his transitions from one character to the next was unreal. You feel his pain and at some point you shed a tear or two. Special mention to Ethan Hawke and May El Calamawy as Arthur Harrow and Layla. Solid potrayals by both of them.

Action sequences

For an origin story, you have to expect less glitzy superhero stuff and more character building. Thank god you get that with the series however whenever action set pieces were involved, it was well thought out and intentional. Look out for the car chase scene in the first episode and the last 15 minutes of the finale. These sequences are what you call peak Marvel.

Music Composer

The music composer for this, Hesham Nazih may be less known to the masses, even I’ve not heard of him but from what I read, he is quite a prominent Egyptian composer. His rendition of the Moon Knight theme music was intense and appropriate for such a disturbed character.

A good background score is always one that you can and will always remember (cue the Avengers theme). This certainly delivers in that respect.

Weaknesses

Comic accuracy

I was hoping for certain characters like Crawley, DuChamp and Bushman to get more prominence in the series. Apart from a couple of scenes or occasional mentions, these characters were pretty much non-existent.

I understand that certain creative liberties may have been taken by Marvel when depicting the Ennead and it’s composition but as someone that read part of the comics or at least with some knowledge of the Ennead, I was hoping that they would bring in Anubis or Ra into the fold. Having said that, I would like to think that Marvel has some plans to introduce them in later seasons, if any.

Jake Lockley’s appearance

Again, as I’m familiar with the comics, I wished that Jake was featured more prominently. He is one of the 3 personalities of Marc and it would have been such a joy watching Oscar Isaac kill it with his take on this character. You get the sense that Jake was responsible for many fatalities and intense fight sequences in the series but it seems like the writers made a conscious choice to focus entirely on Steven Grant and Marc Spector. I guess it was designed in such a way that the pay-off for the viewer would come in the post credit scene.

Verdict

As the series came to an epic conclusion yesterday, I do wonder if true to word, Marvel would treat the series as a standalone, separate from the MCU timeline. Well, the geek in me hopes that at some point they would take the opportunity to introduce the Midnight Sons with Blade, Daredevil and Ghost Rider.

Regardless of that though, this was by far the best introduction to a character. It delivers on intensity, it’s emotionally driven and has all the ingredients of a typical Marvel show.

Mr Knight deserves a 2nd season.

4.5/5 stars

Dr Strange 2: A Marvel adventure that subverts all your expectations

“Who are you in this vast Multiverse, Mr Strange”

In 2016, we were introduced to a rather obscure Marvel character and what a trip that was. The first Dr Strange outing was trippy and fresh in it’s concept and approach. It set up the concept of the multiverse and made sure that a clear path was formed in the years to come.

Fast forward 6 years, this rather obscure character has now solidified his place in MCU lore and his second outing has its fair share of weaknesses.

Strengths

Elizabeth Olsen and Benedict Cumberbatch

Both these MCU titans shine throughout the movie. The character arc for both Wanda and Dr Strange are one of the highlights of the movie. However, Wanda had the benefit of her own series which helped set up her emotional journey and make us sympathise with her pain. In some way, the movie feels like a Wanda Vision continuation.

We see and feel the pain in the choices these characters make. Dr Strange has come a long way since the first movie and his maturity shines throughout. I can’t wait to see how Marvel handles these 2 characters moving forward.

Sam Raimi

He is the master of horror and boy does he deliver. For fans expecting a typical Marvel action adventure, beware. This is everything a Marvel movie is not and should not be. It’s a horror fest with plenty of jump scares that one would typically associate with a Raimi adventure.

It subverts all expectations and I love it.

Storyline…for the first 1 hour 30 minutes

The movie jumps out of the blocks from the get go and never lets up…at least up to the halfway mark. There are moments where I wished there was adequate room for the storyline to breathe but its bam bam boom all throughout. It’s not a weakness for sure.

Visual Effects

I am no expert in visual effects. Some comments from earlier viewers highlighted the campy visual effects. Yes, they are right but that does not make this bad. Not even close.

It’s fresh and interesting and something I’ve been longing since Spiderman 1 and 2. The colours pop and the characters look fantastic as ever. Marvel and most importantly, comic book movies have come a long way since the early 2000s but just like Venom, this is pure fun.

Don’t expect Oscar winning effects and for that it’s a breath of fresh air.

Action sequences

The movie has some amazing action sequences. The best takes place in the first 20 minutes with Dr Strange and Gargantos. The action between Wanda and Dr Strange are interesting and some of the action interplay between the cameos and Wanda in the middle are quite fun and intense.

Weaknesses

Cameos

This is a rather spoiler free review but let’s just say despite the amazing cameos, yes some of them will make you squeal with excitement, its underwhelming in how they were handled. I know they are called cameos for a reason but I wish they went down the No Way Home route in allowing some character development and screen time.

Having said that, I do think these ‘characters’ will have more to offer in the future of the MCU as compared to No Way Home, which relied on the last 20 years of Spiderman nostalgia.

Post credit scenes

Apart from a small cameo which would appease comic book fans of Dr Strange like me, both the mid credit and post credit scenes are the worst in MCU history in my opinion. I do wonder how bad the quality of these post credit scenes have become lately.

I guess most of us have the Disney Plus series to allow characters to develop and provide continuity. For those viewers that rely on just the cinematic experience, it provides nothing whatsoever.

The title

It does say Multiverse of Madness. There was not much madness apart from one scene where both Dr Strange and America Chavez traverse through the multiverse. That was just for 10-20 seconds. A better title would have been Dr Strange vs Scarlet Witch.

Storyline…last 20 minutes

Whilst the pacing was one of the highlights of the movie, it stops right after the halfway point. The last 20 minutes feel very rushed and disjointed. The choices the characters make and the way it ends, underwhelming to say the least. It’s obvious the movie was meant to be 3 hours but a lot was left off the table. Bad choice Kevin Feige and Marvel.

On the balance, I would say this movie has far more positive things going its way that would make any fan or moviegoer happy and satisfied. Yes, I am slightly underwhelmed by this Marvel entry but that just speaks of the high standards that the MCU has set for me personally. Even with that, I love how Sam Raimi has completely subverted my expectations and made his own Dr Strange movie rather than my version of what a Dr Strange movie should be. Massive respect for Marvel in allowing this creative freedom.

For the masses, this is a horror filled, campy yet fun action adventure that will make your 2 hours worth the time. Most importantly, I think the movie sets up the future of the MCU in a weird yet interesting way. Bring on Phase 5?

P.S: please don’t bring your kids thinking this is a fun adventure like Iron Man and/or Avengers. It’s a Sam Raimi horror adventure. I have warned you!

3.90/5 stars