Moon Knight Reminds Us Of The Mummy 1999 (In The Best Possible Way)
"Moon Knight" follows Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac), a lovable doofus with a funny little British accent who works as a gift shopper in a London museum. This is a guy obsessed with ancient Egyptian history and mythology, who is genuinely shocked to find out he has a date with a co-worker, and who knows his anime, but has absolutely no desire or skill to get in a fight. The thing is, Steven also shares a body with Marc Spector, an American mercenary with brutal fighting skills and a knack for bloody violence. Making things worse, Marc is also an avatar for a vengeful jerk of a god, named Khonshu, which grants him a healing suit that helps Marc in his blood-thirsty fights.
It is clear "Moon Knight" is not like any kind of story Marvel has done before, especially when it comes to tone. The show has explored multiple genres in a way no other Marvel Cinematic Universe project has done before. The show has moved away from the "Batman"-like focus on vigilantism and gothic tone of the original comic and experimented a lot more with genre and tone, whether it's horror or mystery. Now, episode three moves into another territory, one that best fits this story, swashbuckling adventures a la "The Mummy" — the 1999 "Mummy," to be clear (sorry, Tom Cruise).
A Swashbuckling Treasure Hunt
With introductions already out of the way and the stakes clearly presented, the third episode of "Moon Knight" leaves the mystery behind in favor of a classic treasure hunt. Now that Steven/Marc are in Egypt, they have to find the tomb of Ammit before the bad guys awaken the ancient god and bring doom to mankind. Essentially, this is Brendan Fraser's Rick O'Connell racing to find the Book of Amun-Ra and getting to Hamunaptra to stop Imhotep the Mummy before he brings his long-lost love back to life and unleashes flesh-eating scarabs on all of humanity.
Of course, what is a swashbuckling adventure movie without good old-fashioned puzzle-solving? This episode lets Steven shine by putting his museum-worker skills to use, as he helps translate ancient texts, deciphering the instructions to find the tomb of Ammit, and bringing the team one step closer to stopping Ethan Hawke's villain Arthur Harrow. Seeing Steven suggest you have to fold a thousand-year-old piece of papyrus like origami is just the kind of ridiculous yet fun puzzle you could find in the Stephen Sommers-directed film.
And yet, there are key differences. "Moon Knight" does one very cool and distinct thing, in that the episode avoids the trope of having to recreate the impossible circumstances in which the treasure map was made. There is no "this happens to be the one day of the decade in which the moon is in the right position," as Steven explains that the map was made 2000 years earlier and stars have moved and changed position over time. Sure, they fix it by having Khonshu literally move the sky, but that's a story for another time.
Like "The Mummy," Marvel's "Moon Knight" boasts a protagonist that is equal parts charming, capable in a fight, and also lovably dumb. Separately, Steven and Marc stand no chance to stop Harrow, but together, they have all the ingredients of a winning Brendan Fraser hero. Steven is the innocent, bright-eyed, wide-smiling lovable idiot who excels and physical comedy, channeling what made Rick O'Connell stand out among so many Indiana Jones wannabes. Marc, on the other hand, is the capable fighter, the stone-cold, no-nonsense vigilante that gives Steven an edge and makes him even funnier by comparison.
Seeing the two struggle for control of their body in the first half of the episode, with Marc confused as to how Steven resolved a fight without him, is straight out of "The Mummy," with Rick often getting out of situations by absolute happenstance. Indeed, this focus on situational and physical comedy stands apart from the one-liner and quip-heavy comedic tone of most MCU projects, but it helps make "Moon Knight" a delight to watch.
What's An Adventure Without Some Romance?
What made "The Mummy" so special, aside from the mix of comedy and action, is its romance. Though "Moon Knight" hasn't dived that deeply into its central romance, it did show a lot more of it in this episode, and it was all the better because of it. Marc may be a great fighter, and Steven is quite smart, but they would be nowhere without May Calamawy's Layla.
Layla is far from just another Marvel love interest. She is not here to just help Marc — she supports him because she knows what is at stake, but she knows better than to blindly trust him. She is also just as capable of solving puzzles and of standing up for herself as either Steven or Marc. She is essentially an analog to Rachel Weisz's Evie Carnahan, complete with a similar backstory as the daughter of a famous adventurer/archeologist. She is funny, with a fighting spirit, and great on-screen (and even off-screen) chemistry with the male lead. The only thing we're missing is Layla's idiotic thief of a brother that can rival Jonathan Carnahan from the 1999 movie.
Just as "The Mummy" was just as much Evie's story as it was Rick's, we can hope "Moon Knight" realizes Layla is the key to elevating this swashbuckling adventure to the next level.
"Moon Knight" premieres new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.
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