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Moon Knight on Disney+ drops slap bang in the middle of Hollywood furore

Hollywood should have shut down this week, just for little while.

We deserve a break.

A holiday from the kind of turgid celebrity self-importance which resulted in a reprehensible act of violence at the Oscars (and a truly bizarre debate over whether it was justified or not) would have done us, and Tinseltown, a world of good.

But instead of a breather, we got Moon Knight.

Hollywood, sometimes you really do suck.

Moon Knight slaps together precisely what we crave - action, intrigue, humour and violence. Picture: Disney+/Marvel Studios

Moon Knight slaps together precisely what we crave - action, intrigue, humour and violence. Picture: Disney+/Marvel Studios

To be fair, the latest addition to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is mostly innocent, mostly. It's just hard to celebrate a product of the same bloated industry responsible for Will Smith.

Moon Knight, a new superhero series now streaming on Disney+, is part of something called "phase four" of the MCU. Who knows how many more phases are to come, but the fact they're counting them at all should sound alarm bells. Nothing good ever comes from counting: prison terms, hiding, seeking, the lifting of heavy objects, death.

The six-parter starring Oscar Isaac is one of about half a dozen TV shows which branched away from the hugely popular and lucrative Marvel film franchise, drip-feeding us second-rate storylines concerning second-string characters just long enough for us to keep our interest on life support until we get to watch, then quickly forget, another full-blown, big budget movie.

Picture: Disney+/Marvel Studios

Picture: Disney+/Marvel Studios

The process is a bit like how Kevin Spacey tortured that skinny paedophile for a whole year in Seven.

Moon Knight (no relationship to Captain Underpants) made his first comic book appearance back in the '70s. He has a cult following but never advanced to the big leagues, so it's a bit of a gamble for the MCU brains trust to back this veritable unknown to maintain its audience of boys aged 12 to 15 and grown men sneak-streaming in the office.

By day, Oscar Isaac's character is mild-mannered museum gift shop assistant Steven Grant. Picture: Disney+/Marvel Studios

By day, Oscar Isaac's character is mild-mannered museum gift shop assistant Steven Grant. Picture: Disney+/Marvel Studios

In some ways, though, Moon Knight and his many box-ticking facets come almost tailor-made for modernity. For one, he's on a mental health journey - very 2022. He isn't just some rich guy who likes to wear latex and beat people up at night, he's suffering from a "dissociative identity disorder" ie, split personalities, and it's this device which furnishes our hero with intricate matryoshka doll alter-egos. Moon Knight can be a mild-mannered gift store assistant, a deadly mercenary or the vengeful right-hand-man to an Egyptian god.

Just as playing the lead in 1957's The Three Faces of Eve was a dream role for the wonderful Joanne Woodward (who earned an Academy Award for her performance but exercised enough self-control to avoid physically assaulting anyone at the ceremony), Isaac obviously thought the chance to play such a kooky and complex MCU character was an offer too good to refuse, and, other than a naff British accent, he does a great job.

Perhaps doing an even better job is Ethan Hawke, who plays the series' obligatory villain, this time a cult leader, also with ties to Egyptian deities and a penchant for masochism rivalling that of the barbed-wire-entangled pastor he played in Paul Schrader's sublime 2017 film First Reformed.

Ethan Hawke joins a long list of overqualified actors taking supporting roles in MCU projects. Picture: Disney+/Marvel Studios

Ethan Hawke joins a long list of overqualified actors taking supporting roles in MCU projects. Picture: Disney+/Marvel Studios

Adding to this list of talent is F. Murray Abraham, whose booming voice makes moon god Khonshu omniscient, bored and sarcastic all at the same time.

This trouble with Moon Knight, this unfortunate week, at least, is just how very Hollywood the whole thing feels.

Isaac is undeniably talented but, like the Hemsworths, the Cumberbatchs, the Reynolds, the Chastains, the Kidmans or The Rocks (not Chris, the eminently less-slappable Dwayne Johnson), he's absolutely everywhere. This is a great problem to have for a respected performer but not so great for an audience whose suspension of disbelief starts to get the wobbles by around the time the same guy has appeared in his third new release for the month.

You can't channel surf without spotting Issac in one of his high-profile roles. Picture: Disney+/Marvel Studios

You can't channel surf without spotting Issac in one of his high-profile roles. Picture: Disney+/Marvel Studios

Without too much streaming effort this week, you could have stumbled across Isaac starring in the rebooted Star Wars franchise, Hagai Levi's adaptation of Ingar Bergmann's Scenes From A Marriage, Denis Villeneuve's spectacular Dune or even literally slumming it over on free-to-air TV when Inside Llewyn Davis screened on SBS.

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Whereas Ryan Reynolds should face some sort of prosecution for inflicting so much of himself on an innocent film-going public (Netflix's laughably derivative The Adam Project is next-level awful), Isaac can't be held responsible for taking a few high-profile gigs with successful production houses.

And if not a little messy at times, his Moon Knight represents Hollywood at its slickest, a hit machine slapping together precisely what we crave - action, intrigue, humour and violence.

As we were reminded this week: art imitates life.

This story Moon Knight and his many box-ticking facets come almost tailor-made for modernity first appeared on The Canberra Times.