Why Moon Knight Was Marvel's Biggest Miss So Far
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has come a long way since the release of its film, "Iron Man," in 2008. Now Marvel Studios and Disney tower high above the entire film and television world. It's a stunning come-up that began with the rights to just a handful of B-list comics and today features 28 films (and counting), including some of the biggest box-office hits of all time.
Marvel Studios wants to take over our television sets as well. They released four live-action shows in 2021 and have four more set to debut in 2022. Marvel's "Moon Knight," starring Oscar Isaac as the title character alongside four-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke, proved to be the buzziest of them all.
It also proved to be the biggest disappointment of them all — a rare and epic failure from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here's why "Moon Knight" proved to be such a disappointment after some backstory on the character and lead-up to the show itself.
Moon Knight: The Fist of Khonshu
Marc Spector was a CIA operative turned mercenary with a moral compass and multiple personality disorder who joins a mercenary company that takes a job in the Sudan.
When Spector witnesses a fellow mercenary, Raoul Bushman, murder Dr. Peter Alraune, Spector saves his daughter, Marlene, and fights Bushman but is defeated and beaten within an inch of his life.
Pulled into a temple for shelter by Marlene and his best friend and fellow mercenary Frenchie Duchamp, Spector's body is placed in front of a statue of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu, who resurrects Spector. He becomes Moon Knight, or "The Fist of Khonshu," takes the silver cloak from Khonshu's statue, defeats Bushman and returns to the United States to fight crime.
Other than the ability to heal and sustain torture and injury, Moon Knight's powers are mostly Spector's — athletic ability, technology and fighting skill — and he adds a white and silver kevlar bodysuit and mask to Khonshu's cloak.
Who Created Moon Knight?
Moon Knight was created by writer Doug Moench and artist Don Perlin in the mid-1970s.
Moon Knight was the most famous character created by Moench, but he also created several notable villains in Deathlok and Black Mask. He also was a screenwriter who wrote the original screenplay for the "Red Sonja" movie in 1985.
Perlin was the main artist on "Werewolf by Night" when he teamed up with Moench to create "Moon Knight," then became the main artist for "Ghost Rider," "The Defenders" and "Transformers" before he became the head of art direction for Marvel in the late 1980s.
Moon Knight 's Comic Debut: 'Werewolf by Night No. 32'
Moon Knight originally appeared in "Werewolf by Night No. 32" in 1975. Ironically, both Moon Knight and Werewolf by Night have Disney+ shows from Marvel Studios in the works, although the "Werewolf by Night" show is being created as a Halloween special.
While the television version of Werewolf by Night will be the second incarnation of the character, Jake Gomez, Moon Knight made his comic debut with the original version of Werewolf by Night, Jack Russell.
It doesn't take a genius to see the crossover opportunity between the two shows, and another top-notch actor has been cast as Jake Gomez with Gael Garcia Bernal ("Star Wars: Rogue One").
Moon Knight's Solo Debut
Moon Knight got his own comic book when "Moon Knight No. 1" debuted in November 1980, some five years after he made his comic book debut in "Werewolf by Night."
Moon Knight's first run lasted until July 1984. He returned from June-December 1985, then didn't come back until 1989, a run that lasted until 1994.
Moon Knight took a 12-year break and came back in June 2006 for a three-and-a-half year run that lasted until December 2009 and overlapped with "Vengeance of Moon Knight" beginning in November 2009 and lasting until September 2010.
Brief runs in 2011 and 2014 began and ended quickly, and Moon Knight hasn't had his own comic since August 2015.
Who Are Moon Knight's Allies?
Moon Knight's two main allies are Marlene Alraune, who gets saved when he's still Marc Spector and is there to witness his first resurrection as Moon Knight, and Frenchie Duchamp, a helicopter pilot and his best friend.
On the hero tip, Moon Knight is probably closest with Spider-Man and The Thing, from the Fantastic Four, but is probably most closely associated with the Avengers, Defenders, Secret Avengers and West Coast Avengers.
Fanboy opinion? Marvel is probably setting up a Marvel Knights team in the distant future with Moon Knight, Daredevil, Blade and, hopefully, Punisher.
Who Is in Moon Knight’s Rogue’s Gallery?
Every great comic book character needs a stocked full rogues' gallery — a group of enemies they fight on a rotating basis.
For Moon Knight, the most notable of those is Raoul Bushman, aka Bushman. Marc Spector worked with him before becoming Moon Knight. And it's actually Bushman who triggers this whole plot, having beat Spector to within an inch of his life before the spirit of the Moon God, Khonshu, enters Spector's body and turns him into Moon Knight for the first time.
Moon Knight thanks Knoshu by killing Bushman, then carving off his face, although when Bushman is brought back to life and fights Moon Knight again, he refrains from killing him.
Is Moon Knight a Bootleg Batman?
The biggest criticism of Moon Knight over the years has been that he is pretty much a bootleg version of D.C. headliner Batman. Which is pretty fair.
The similarities between the two are hard to look past. Both Marc Spector and Bruce Wayne derive their powers from their own athletic skills and fighting abilities along with a large dose of technology.
The big difference is with the origin story. Moon Knight is brought back to life by an Egyptian god. For Batman, that's essentially the Lazarus Pit.
Moon Knight Has Been in Cartoons
True comic book nerds have seen Moon Knight on television many times before, although always in cartoon form.
Moon Knight has been featured on three animated series, all on Disney XD — "Ultimate Spider-Man vs. Sinister Six," "Avengers Assemble" and "Spider-Man."
In total, Moon Knight is in just four episodes between the three shows, and if you're in the holiday spirit, probably the most expansive use of Moon Knight was on "Ultimate Spider-Man vs. Sinister Six" in "The Moon Knight Before Christmas" in which Moon Knight and Spider-Man fight, make up, team up to fight Mysterio, then end up all having Christmas dinner together with Aunt May.
Moon Knight Has Been in Video Games
If you're a Moon Knight fan, he's been much more accessible as a character through video games. He's been a featured player, sometimes playable and sometimes not, in 14 different video games.
Moon Knight didn't even start popping up on video games until the mid-late 2000s (that we can track down), first appearing on "Marvel: Ultimate Alliance" in 2006, followed by "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows" in 2008 and then "Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom" as a member of the West Coast Avengers.
Why Hasn’t There Been a Live-Action Moon Knight?
Sorry, Moon Knight fans (that includes us), but the reason Moon Knight has never seen his way into a live-action film or television series is mostly because he's just not a very popular comic book. He's a niche character, and the criticism of him being a Batman knockoff has lingered for a long time.
Another reason is probably because of how complicated it would be to get Moon Knight into live-action form. Technology now allows us to be able to create a more accurate version of what Moon Knight should look like, whereas anything in the last 10-20 years may have come off looking super fake in the hands of the wrong FX technicians.
The closest we've come was a planned inclusion of Moon Knight in the second season of the short-lived "Blade" television series in the mid-2000s, but the show was canceled after its first season.
Disney+ Was the Game-Changer
When Disney+ debuted in the final part of 2019, it was a game-changer. We knew it would eventually be the home to all of the Star Wars, Marvel and Disney content from their archives and would get the films from those franchises moving forward, but we didn't anticipate their ability to make new content.
We can credit one show for paving the way for all this great new Marvel Studios content, and it has nothing to do with the MCU. The first live-action show from Disney+ became a pop culture phenomenon thanks to the inclusion of one very, very, very cute little guy named Baby Yoda, aka Grogu, aka The Cutest Thing We've Ever Seen.
About Those Marvel Shows on Netflix ...
In the early years of Marvel Studios — the late 2000s/early 2010s — the powers that be were already trying to stretch their tendrils into television but didn't have an exclusive streaming service to do. So they just kind of did it all over the place.
Most notably, Marvel set up shop at Netflix, where it did five solo shows — "Daredevil," "Jessica Jones," "Luke Cage," "Iron Fist" and "Punisher" — before bringing them all together for a team-up show, "The Defenders."
While Marvel Studios has now officially disavowed all of these shows as canon, despite many of them taking the backdrop of the original "Avengers" movie as their premise, we might still see several of these actors reprising these roles in the future. Just not Iron Fist.
When Kevin Feige Talks, People Listen
Marvel fans (and movie fans) know that when Marvel Studios honcho Kevin Feige speaks, it's to be taken as gospel.
That's why the buzz for "Moon Knight" started in August 2019, when Feige announced an upcoming slate of Marvel movies and television shows that would encompass Phase Four and included Moon Knight among those offerings.
In February 2021 at the D23 Conference, Feige said shows like "Moon Knight" and "She-Hulk" were being developed to facilitate more than one season, opposed to shows like "WandaVision," which was essentially a miniseries that will bleed into the "Doctor Strange" film sequel.
Moon Knight Finds Show Runner, Director
Feige's first hire on "Moon Knight" was writer/producer Jeremy Slater as showrunner and lead writer. Slater has some serious bona fides. He's the force behind shows like "The Exorcist" and the critically acclaimed "The Umbrella Academy" on Netflix, another graphic novel/comic adaptation.
Slater also wrote the 2015 film version of "The Fantastic Four," although it's widely accepted most of his screenplay was scrapped during the filming process.
For its main director, "Moon Knight" hired the talented Mohamed Diab, an Egyptian director behind the critically acclaimed "Cairo 678" and the "El Gezeira" (The Island) franchise, which are among some of the highest-grossing Egyptian films of all time.
One Whale of a Casting Rumor
There was one casting rumor about "Moon Knight" that had fans buzzing from the start and showed what the intentions were of Kevin Feige as far as what he thought the show could become.
The name that jumped to the forefront of actors in line to play Moon Knight/Marc Spector following Feige's announcement of the show in August 2019 was none other than "The Matrix" and "John Wick" star Keanu Reeves.
Marvel-heads jumped on it and even began to make fan art of Reeves in the title role.
Oscar Isaac: Meet the Man Behind Moon Knight
Oscar Isaac is the man Marvel Studios chose to portray Moon Knight/Marc Spector, and with Isaac, they get one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood over the last decade.
Isaac, 42, spent a decade as a bit player in films until he got some notice with a role in "Drive" alongside Ryan Gosling, then shot to fame with a breakthrough role in "Inside Llewyn Davis" from directors Joel and Ethan Coen in 2012.
Since then, it's been easy to track Isaac's career through a series of high-profile roles in "Ex Machina," as Poe Dameron in the new "Star Wars" trilogy, "X-Men:Apocalypse" and "Dune."
On the TV side, he's been busy as well with a pair of critically acclaimed HBO series, "Show Me a Hero" and "Scenes From a Marriage."
Oh, They Got Ethan Hawke?
It speaks to the kind of money Marvel Studios has to throw around that they were able to secure four-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke as the villain for the "Moon Knight" television series — an undisclosed character Hawke described as "inspired by cult leader David Koresh" and may or may not be Moon Knight's main foe, Bushman.
This is Hawke's first foray into comic-book movies and a somewhat rare foray into big-budget material. Hawke is no stranger to prestige television. He starred in Showtime's "The Good Lord Bird" in 2020 and received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor in a Limited Series or Television Film.
Where Does Moon Knight Fit in MCU Phase Four?
The MCU, for all of the imagination and creativeness it encompasses, doesn't leave much to the imagination as far as the format of the movies and the schedule upon which they're released.
In this case, that means conveniently labeled "phases" for each set of movies and now, with Phase Four, for the first time a full mix of movies and television shows all somehow interconnecting with each other. Moon Knight will be one of the television shows in the MCU Phase Four.
Phase One, Phase Two and Phase Three are now known as "The Infinity Saga" and encompassed 23 films, beginning with "Iron Man" in 2008 and ending with "Spider-Man: Far From Home" in 2019.
MCU Phase Four: TV Shows
Here is a list of the live-action television shows that are scheduled to be a part of MCU Phase Four and their release dates, as of November 2021:
-WandaVision (Jan. 15, 2021)
-The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (March 19, 2021)
-Loki (June 9, 2021)
-Hawkeye (Nov. 24, 2021)
-Moon Knight (TBD, 2022)
-She-Hulk (TBD, 2022)
-Secret Invasion (TBD, 2022)
-Ms. Marvel (TBD, 2022)
-Armor Wars (TBD)
-Untitled Wakanda Series (TBD)
MCU Phase Four: Movies
Here is a list of the movies that are scheduled to be a part of MCU Phase Four and their release dates as of November 2021:
-Black Widow (July 9, 2021)
-Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Sept. 3, 2021)
-Eternals (Nov. 5, 2021)
-Spider-Man: No Way Home (Dec. 17, 2021)
-Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 6, 2022)
-Thor: Love and Thunder (July 8, 2022)
-Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Nov. 11, 2022)
-The Marvels (Feb. 17, 2023)
-Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (May 5, 2023)
-Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (July 28, 2023)
-Fantastic Four (TBD)
Moon Knight Gets Some Help From the Spice?
No one has done a better job of helping keep "Moon Knight" in the public consciousness than its star, Oscar Isaac, and simply for the fact that the man just does not stop working.
Since Kevin Feige announced "Moon Knight" had the green light in August 2019, Isaac has starred in six feature films, one short film and the critically acclaimed HBO series "Scenes From a Marriage."
None of those roles created as much buzz as Isaac's bearded turn as Duke Leto Atreides in the big-budget sci-fi blockbuster "Dune," which was released in October 2021 and promises to not only be one of the highest-grossing films of the year but a contender come awards season as well.
What Happened on Disney+ Day?
The fan buzz on social media was palpable leading up to Disney+ Day on Nov. 12, 2021, when the network gave a look at its future offerings, including announcing a slate of television shows.
The biggest buzz was around "Moon Knight," which was a trending topic on Twitter leading up to Disney+ Day, with the biggest hope being that fans would get a full-length trailer.
What we got was pretty close.
Finally Getting a Glimpse
The Marvel portion of Disney+ Day included a 14-minute highlight reel of sorts — showcasing the past successes of what's been on the streaming service and a brief look ahead at what was coming up, including mini-sizzle reels for "Ms. Marvel," "She-Hulk" and, thank goodness, "Moon Knight."
The footage was only about 30 seconds, total, and gave us a voiceover from Isaac (in several different voices), along with a shot of Moon Knight from behind, pummeling someone or something in a bathroom, a shot of Moon Knight from a distance, running over rooftops and jumping between buildings, and a shot of Moon Knight's hand and arm coming down to the ground in what appears to be the classic superhero pose.
How Fans Reacted
Fan reaction to the "Moon Knight" trailer was pretty exuberant, even if it was just only 30 seconds of footage and no clear full-body shots of the man himself.
The part of the trailer that probably got the most buzz going was the different voiceovers in the trailer — all seemingly Oscar Isaac's voice but as different people, which falls in line with Marc Spector's multiple personality disorder.
When Did Moon Knight Debut?
After the release of "Spider-Man: No Way Home" in December 2021, there wasn't another MCU release scheduled until "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" in May 2022 — "Moon Knight" filled that void when it debuted on Disney+ on
How Many Episodes Did We Get?
The first season of "Moon Knight" was six episodes long — the same length as "Loki" and "Falcon and the Winter Soldier."
Only the first MCU show on Disney+, "WandaVision," ran more than six episodes. That was nine episodes, but they varied in length, with some of the first ones in the 30-minute range, which was part of a plot device that had episodes set up like sitcoms from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
OK, So What Went Wrong With Moon Knight?
It's hard to undersell the sheer disappointment that came with the release of the"Moon Knight" television series. The failure was a letdown for longtime Moon Knight fans (like myself) who never thought we'd even get to see the character in live-action.
There was an interesting tiff in fandom with the release of "Moon Knight" when The Ringer podcast host Charles Holmes — one-quarter of The Midnight Boys — revealed in a podcast going over the first episode that he'd seen the first four episodes via screeners, and he disclosed that they sucked.
Was Holmes wrong for saying what he said and basically being a wet blanket for MCU and Moon Knight fans? Yes. Was he wrong? No. But hey, at least he got this take off.
Skipping the Backstory Was a Mistake
There's this thing going on with comic-book movies that seems like a backlash against backstories — and that's understandable when it comes to Batman, Superman and Spider-Man, most notably. We've seen Martha Wayne's pearls drop on the pavement. We've seen Uncle Ben die in Peter Parker's arms. We've seen Krypton explode.
But here's the thing: Moon Knight was a new look for a lot of comic-book movie fans. We needed a backstory that we only got in bits and pieces and mostly through the characters just telling us what happened.
That Moon Knight's creators didn't have the sense to do a Point A to Point B story was pretty difficult to comprehend.
Picking the Worst Villain Possible
Moon Knight has a pretty incredible villain to jack right into the MCU — Raoul Bushman, the man who unwittingly turns Marc Spector into Moon Knight in the first place.
From what we could tell, we never even got a glimpse of Bushman in the television series. Instead we got Ethan Hawke as cult leader Arthur Harrow, which is a villain best reserved for a secondary role or maybe a Season 2 role. Hawke did the best he could, but this just wasn't the move.
So, two big missteps. No backstory and no Bushman.
Why Did 'Moon Knight' Not Have More Moon Knight?
The biggest critique of this show we can throw out there is that it was lacking the title character for most of its six episodes. We get about 10 seconds of Moon Knight at the end of the first episode, and then, for all intents and purposes, the character in his transformed, classic form largely goes missing, save for the season finale.
In fact, the penultimate episode doesn't have Moon Knight in it at all. Literally — you guys made a Moon Knight series without really putting Moon Knight in it.
Here's something to consider. The character of Mr. Knight, who didn't even debut until 2014, got almost as much time as Moon Knight himself.
Is This the MCU's First Legit Cold Streak?
Don't look now, but after 14 years of putting out movies and television shows, the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be on its first legitimate cold streak.
Not counting "Spider-Man: No Way Home," which was co-produced and co-financed with Sony, the MCU has been falling flat lately. Three consecutive films — "Black Widow," "Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings" and "Eternals" — all were hits in their own right, but they all failed to connect with moviegoers on the level the MCU is used to.
The MCU's first 2022 theatrical release, "Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness," had a big box office but pretty tepid reviews as well. Toss a high-profile failure like "Moon Knight" in there, and that's a cold streak.
Things could turn around pretty quickly, however. Disney+ series "Ms. Marvel" got a lot of positive buzz ahead of hits release in June 2022, and the fourth film featuring Thor — "Thor: Love and Thunder" — should also be a big hit as well.
What's in Moon Knight's Future?
Marvel Studios and Disney seem to have a long-term commitment to "Moon Knight." Along with the show, we've also been told by Kevin Feige that it's setting up for multiple seasons, and Moon Knight will also be featured in films.
The original thought was Moon Knight would play prominently in any new-style Avengers projects or, most likely, alongside Spider-Man in future films. But we don't anticipate that so much now.
It would be a huge surprise if we got another season of Moon Knight, and we believe the character's best possible outcome is a future in secondary roles in MCU shows and films — akin to what Hulk has done with Mark Ruffalo over the last decade.