Who needs multiverse madness when you have “Moon Knight”?
Marvel Studios’ latest miniseries for Disney+ has enough multiple personalities and crazy visions to satisfy any superhero fan’s need for twisted reality. Based on the white-suited character of the same name, who has gone through several incarnations since his comic book debut in 1975, the series stars Oscar Isaac in (at least) four different roles. Its sleep-deprived head is filled with disembodied voices, and then – just as the central story about ancient Egyptian deities, their avatars and their religious zealots begins to make sense – the six-episode series abruptly turns around halfway through.
Starring Steven Grant, the mild-mannered English museum nerd of Isaac, the mysterious American mercenary Marc Spector, the spectral Moon Knight and the more sophisticated alter ego Mr. Knight, the show features Ethan Hawke as the head of the sect. Arthur Harrow and Palestinian Egyptian actress May Calamawy (“Ramy”) as Layla, Marc’s ex-wife and an accomplished grave robber herself.
“It just seemed like there was a real opportunity to do something completely different in there, especially in (the Marvel Cinematic Universe),” said Isaac, who has previously stood out with gender roles. in “Star Wars”, “Dune” and “X-Men: Apocalypse”, during an online press conference. “Using Egyptian iconography, the superhero genre and this language to talk about this real internal fight what that person is going through.”
When we first meet the multi-faceted character of Isaac, Egyptology expert Steven initially doesn’t understand that he shares his body with Marc and that they are both avatars of the moon god/revenge at the Khonshu bird skull. This leads to savage clashes in Egypt, London and Switzerland (mostly filmed in Hungary, with desert locations filmed in Jordan) against Harrow and his followers, who worship the rival Egyptian deity Ammit, who dispenses justice.
But “Moon Knight” is really a story about people and their problems, the talent insisted. Mohamed Diab, whose incredible 2016 feature ‘Clash’ captured the civil unrest in his native Egypt from the confines of a police van, served as one of the executive producers of ‘Moon Knight’ and directed four episodes.
“Not because it’s Egyptian — and that’s something important to express, of course — but I felt like it was an extension of my films,” Diab told The Chronicle in a separate video interview. “You take out all the action and all the glamor on the show, and I love the drama between Marc and Steven. I love the love triangle between Marc and Steven and Layla. find out more about his identity and discover all these secrets.
Steven and Marc constantly fight for control of their bodies and argue whenever the Strange Man appears in a mirror, polished knife blade, or other reflective surface. Diab reported that Isaac felt he could only play one character a day for the first two weeks of filming, but then began jumping between Marc and Steven. The actor’s brother, Michael Hernandez, filled in for the other role during the gnarly interactions.
It was very helpful to have someone who is not just a great actor but shares my DNA to play with,” Isaac noted. “What I didn’t plan on was how technically demanding it was going to be. Having to decide which character I was going to play first, then trying to block that, giving my brother notes, then doing the scene , change characters and understand.
Isaac’s catchy personalities left Hawke with a conundrum: how to play the show’s deranged antagonist when the hero clearly suffers from dissociative identity disorder.
“Normally the bad guy is the crazy guy who jumps around,” Hawke told The Chronicle in another video interview. “I realized that I had to be the voice of mental health or, in a way, its doctor. And what could be scarier than a doctor? Doctors and priests scare me! So I tried to find a character who is both a monk – with those robes, gentle and kind – and a doctor who studies him, perhaps, with malicious intent.
Hawke may have angered fans a few years ago when he rightly pointed out that superhero movies weren’t in the same ballpark like the works of Ingmar Bergman. But his first experience with Marvel satisfied his artistic soul.
“In my experience, the bigger the budget, the more fear there is in the room, and the less they cultivate a sense of creativity,” Hawke said. “But Marvel is really the opposite. As long as you color their lines, they give you a really long leash. They let Oscar and me play and gave Mohamed a lot of freedom, and we did our best to blaze a new trail here for “Moon Knight.” I was surprised at this.
Diab agreed that working with Marvel was marked by mutual creative respect. A big part of that was showing Cairo as he knew it.
“Egyptians always see themselves portrayed in an Orientalist way that makes us seem exotic,” said Diab, who recently criticized the way her homeland was featured in “Wonder Woman 1984”. “It was very important to turn it around and show Egypt as real as it is. May’s character wasn’t Egyptian at first. Then we pushed and May was there to develop it and make absolutely Egyptian.
“Cairo is very primitive; we see the pyramids in every movie,” Diab added. “It’s one of the largest cities in the world, 20 million inhabitants! Very urban, skyscraper. It was important to show normal Egypt, just like the rest of the world.
It doesn’t sound crazy at all.
“Knight of the Moon” (TV-14) will air Wednesday, March 30 on Disney+. The following episodes are released from Wednesday to May 4.