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Moon Knight: Marvel's First Unreliable Narrator

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  • Posted on 08th Apr, 2022 23:10 PM

Often times the best protagonists are those that are just as clueless as the audience and Moon Knight check all those boxes.

p>It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, a tried and tested tool to turn any story upside down and provide both novels and movies with some of the most shocking narrative plot twists ever, and yet, it’s only 14 years later that Moon Knight sees the MCU finally welcome its first erratic storyteller.

Considering Marvel’s Disney Plus’ have for the most part taken after the idea of drawing inspiration from very specific genres, such as sitcoms with WandaVision, sci-fi with Loki, or even a holiday special in Hawkeye, Oscar Isaac has been handsomely presented with a fantastic opportunity to star in a branch that offers unique potential. In fact, only one actor has portrayed an unreliable narrator in superhero movies, Joaquin Phoenix, and while the very fibers of what makes the MCU tick may exclude Joker’s stellar R-rated writing, the series’ first episode offers a tiny glimpse at what fans will be served over the next five weeks.

RELATED: Moon Knight Episode 1 Easter Eggs

Trust No One, Not Even Thyself

Sure, Arthur Fleck is the most famous comic book character suffering from mental illness, but Joker is far from the only great performance that elevates a condition of this kind. Perhaps one of the more famous examples is Fight Club’s protagonist who both in the book and movie goes simply by “the Narrator” and keeps readers and viewers on their toes during large parts of the story, even until the very original ending author Chuck Palahnuik (and apparently the Chinese Government) conceived.

Memento, The Machinist, Shutter Island, both of Gone Girl’s protagonists, and even in television, Mr. Robot’s Elliot Alderson are all fine examples of characters that challenge the audience's perception of what’s truly going on in the respective stories due to oftentimes not even themselves being able to grasp it. This is exactly Moon Knight’s premise, as Isaac is set to play 4 different characters in Steven Grant, Marc Spector, Moon Knight, and Mr. Knight, definitely no mean task.

Besides a shaky relationship with reality, if there’s one thing all those roles have in common is that they’re all played by immensely talented actors who all received plenty of praise and awards for their performances. Moon Knight is a fantastic opportunity for Isaac to showcase his acting chops, which is not something that’s often said of any superhero production, as these are often somewhat linear characters, just ask The Batman’s Robert Pattinson.

Marvel loves playing misdirection with their fans, yet most of the epic moments, revelations, or plot twists in the MCU can usually be linked to old comic book storylines or an obscure character’s personality. Moon Knight is different, with Steven/Marc misdirection is the name of the game, here every frame opens the doors for Steven to find himself suddenly startled with blood on his hands.

A Family-Friendly Moon Knight

It’s no secret that Moon Knight borrows heavily from Batman, only that contrary to Bruce Wayne, Marc Spector has to contend with juggling four different personalities he truly doesn’t control most of the time. The Caped Crusader is actually in control, so much that at his peaks he can willfully summon Bruce or Batman depending on what the situation merits because he doesn’t suffer from the souped-up comic book version of the Moon Knight’s dissociative identity disorder.

Moon Knight is a somewhat obscure character, but as Marvel’s answer to the original Dark Knight he's also, well dark. Nevertheless, in a world where even Matt Reeves’ The Batman has to adapt to a PG-13 world (which it does wonderfully), the series also must abide by the MCU’s rules. So how does Moon Knight do this? For starts, the show opens up with its most likable personality, Steven Grant.

Although the series is very different from the comic books, Steven is one of the most heavily changed facets as he is no longer a millionaire, quite the opposite, he’s the archetypical regular man, a “nice guy” and actually -for the most part- an absolute pushover. It’s possible this was done to contrast better with the other personalities Isaac plays, yet it also makes him similar to likable unreliable narrators such as Forrest Gump.

Instead of being a dangerous murderer like American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, Steven's incapacity to cope with the actions of his other self make him come out as naive, foolish, and utterly useless to the eyes of the rest of the world. Like the ever-jolly Forrest Gump, Steven is the part of Moon Knight the audience sympathizes with, while the others will surely evoke different feelings.

Marvel’s superheroes may be getting more complex as film and streaming leave more room for them to expose extra layers of their personalities, however, no other character in the MCU can match Moon Knight. The series’ disconnection from the rest of the MCU is the icing on the cake for a show that should not be like the rest, and every startling stare from Isaac is a stark reminder of how special it is.

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