The Marvel Problem: Making Movies For Little Kids

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about a recurring issue/concern I am having with the MCU, though it can apply to other franchises also owned by Disney, and that is being a slave to the family friendly audience, being too afraid to have morally complex heroes or God forbid anti-heroes.

A lot of these feelings were stirred up within me by two things firstly the experience of watching Moon Knight the TV show versus reading Moon Knight in the comics, and also the recent Star Wars debacle that is The Book Of Boba Fett. In both examples the titular leads are toned down and in some areas entirely different from previous portrayals, rather than being the cold, tactical bounty hunter that we have seen in other Star Wars projects including The Mandalorian Boba is all soft and fluffy in his own show, hugging animals and having other people doing his killing. This is also seen in Moon Knight where the character is much less violent and far more incompetent, this is done to fit the tone and the comedy of the MCU.

However, the way Moon Knight has been presented on screen leaves me with a problem, if Moon Knight is not allowed to be gory or more mature then how the hell are characters like Deadpool, Punisher and Ghost Rider going to be done justice; the Ghost Rider of Agents Of Shield was an awful take on the character. Kevin Feige said that Moon Knight as a show wouldn’t pull back it would show us the finishing blow, however in practice this simply isn’t true. We have seen a bit of blood on  the characters hands and have seen some people die, but most of the time this has been cut away from or outrightly ignored, which becomes a turn off after a while.

Though in almost every other way the DCEU is worse than the MCU, the one thing I will give them credit for is that they are not afraid to be more mature and adult with their content, instead of pumping out CGI trash for little kids. Think about Peacemaker earlier this year a series that did well and became beloved whilst also dealing with adult themes and violence, can you ever imagine something like that existing within the MCU? No, no it would not and that is the problem. Disney and Marvel want to have their films appeal to as many different markets and demographics as possible so why not try appealing to adults. I understand that Disney is a family company but that doesn’t mean all their content has to be made for little children. Things like the Mandalorian give me hope that maybe Disney can get away from this bloodless family friendly approach but I am not too optimistic.  

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Moon Knight: The Tomb

2/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Moon Knight, played by Oscar Isaac rushes to find Ammit’s tomb before Harrow, played by Ethan Hawke, in an effort to save the world.

I am quickly starting to lose interest in this show. The promise of really delivering a true depiction of this character is not coming to pass at all, very much like with Boba Fett in his show, the character has been toned down too much. The Steven persona is too silly and weak, and though he is supposed to be the more human side to the character he often just gets in the way.

I think there are so many better ways this show could have gone than the Indiana Jones knockoff it has become. I think tone is a big issue for this show because even in the final moments of the episode wherein the various Moon Knight personas meet another Egyptian God it is not treated with any pomp or seriousness but is instead served up as yet another joke, which hurts the show.

Another thing that is starting to irritate me is the constant baiting of the third persona Jake Lockley, the first tease was exciting, the second was okay we are almost there and then the third was like really are we still doing this. Bear in mind the character has been teased far more than 3 times on the show thus far.

The only redeemable aspects of this episode was the killing of the lead that felt gutsy, even if it did lead to the incredibly predictable mental institution sequence, and the continued greatness of Ethan Hawke and May Calamawy.

Overall, episode 5 needs to be pretty stellar to win me back, I’m fading off fast.

Pros.

Hawke

Calamawy

Cons.

The constant teasing of the third persona

The obvious mental institution twist

Steven’s weakness is starting to become annoying

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Moon Knight: The Friendly Type

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Moon Knight, played by Oscar Isaac, travels to Egypt to stop Arthur Harrow’s evil plan but loses the favour of the Gods.

So for the most part I thought this was a good episode, however I did have one major issue with the episode, but first to the good.

I really enjoyed the ending of this episode wherein Khonsu, voiced by F. Murray Abraham, gave Stephen the power to turn back the night sky, I thought it was visually very interesting and also that it sets up a lot of tantalising possibilities for both the Moon Knight show as well as work the wider MCU.

I also thought the big battle sequence was really well done. I liked seeing Mr Knight make another appearance even if it was only brief and I applaud the show for once again pushing the violence and the gore. It is still for the most part fairly family friendly but it is on track to break bad if it keeps this tone, maybe other darker shows like a Punisher or a Ghost Rider would be able to take things even further.

However, my big negative for this episode was the court room scene wherein the various different Egyptian gods spoke to Marc. My main issues was that this scene which should have been very big and vey epic felt small and underwhelming, when they started talking about mental illness and safe spaces I really rolled my eyes, it didn’t feel like a meeting of the Gods but rather a counselling session.

Overall a weaker episode to the ones before it but still fairly good, hopefully the show will actually give us Jake Lockley in the next episode and stop teasing us constantly.

Pros.

Mr Knight

The violence

The ending

Cons.

The constant teasing for Lockley

The courtroom scene didn’t feel very epic at all

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Moon Knight: Summon The Suit

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Steven Grant, played by Oscar Isaac continues to learn about his other persona Marc Spectre, also played by Isaac, as well as their commitment to Khonshu, voiced by F. Murray Abraham.

This episode was a lot slower than the first, which was a negative for me but not hugely so. Mainly, the purpose of this episode is to set the stage and explain the series exposition for those unfamiliar, as such we learn of Steven/Marc’s death and rebirth at the hands of Khonshu, we learn about Marc’s wife Layla, played by May Calamawy, and about Arthur Harrow’s, played by Ethan Hawke, ultimate goal.

I think the highlight of this episode was the Steven/ Arthur conversation wherein Harrow can accurately guess what Khonshu is saying throughout and it is revealed that he used to be Khonshu’s avatar before Marc/Steven. I thought this whole sequence was both fun and also surprisingly tense, Hawke is really doing a good job in the villain role.

The introduction of Mr Knight, one of the various different persona’s of Moon Knight, was a mixed bag. On the one hand the look was fairly comics accurate and I like that he has been included, however, I don’t like how inept and jokey he is presented as being, as this is a far cry from the comics, though I will not judge the depiction just yet as it might get better as the series goes on.

Overall, a necessary episode to set up the world and things to come, if not the most exciting.

Pros.

Hawke

Isaac

More Khonshu

The comic accurate look of Mr Knight

Cons.

The slow pace

Making Mr Knight into somewhat of a joke

A lot of exposition

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Moon Knight: The Goldfish Problem

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Moon Knight, played by Oscar Isaac, makes his MCU debut.

I will preface this by saying comics-wise I am a huge Moon Knight fan, the Warren Ellis run on the character from a few years ago was fantastic, as such I have been very excited for this series. The first episode met my expectations for it, but struggled to exceed them as like many others have said this first episode was a lot of fun but it wasn’t perfect.

I enjoyed the fact that this episode felt like it had a different age rating from the rest of the MCU in that it actually allowed things to be gory or frightening and didn’t have to make everything so that it would appeal to audiences of all ages, this gave me some hope for characters like Ghost Rider and Punisher in the MCU.

Moreover, of what we have seen so far I appreciated Isaac’s performance, I know for some this accent is a little fake or grating, personally, though it may be a little confused, I didn’t find it off putting. Furthermore, I thought Isaac was good in his role as Stephen Grant, even though it is not comics accurate.

My one criticism of the episode would be that despite the mature tone of other parts of it the episode still forced in some of the MCU’s brand of ‘humour’ which didn’t land for me and instead often took me out of it. I hope as things get more serious we get less of it, but I know I am probably just wasting my breath.

Overall, a very promising start that looks set to make up for the short comings of other Disney + shows like Hawkeye.

Pros.

The blood and gore

Isaac

A fresh story in the MCU

It feels like how I would imagine Moon Knight from the comics

Cons.

Less humour please

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Peacemaker: It’s Cow Or Never

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The season finale sees Peacemaker, played by John Cena, and the gang go on one final do or die mission to defeat the butterflies.

This may have been one of the strongest seasons of TV I have seen in a long time, for the most part the series was pretty great, there were a couple of mistakes and slips here or there but widely it was near perfect, this is quite rare.

I thought the finale was able to deliver on everything it was setting up, it gave us crazy action and sweet character moments in just the right amount, whilst also teasing out some unresolved issues for season 2, I am glad the show is giving itself a reason to keep Robert Patrick around.

My one downside would be that the episode feels a little rushed and could have done with being about half an hour longer, I just feel like if it had some extra time could have really nailed every single emotional moment and given us more time during the big fight scene.

Overall, a damn near perfect season finale, season 2 has big shoes to fill.  

Pros.

Cena

The emotions

The battle

The use of the theme song

The set up

Cons.

It could have done with more time

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Peacemaker: Stop Dragon My Heart Around

5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

With enemies closing in, the team must decide who they are fighting for and unite in order to defeat the butterflies.

I think this episode was perfect, it was clearly everything the series has been building towards, even the stuff I didn’t like and criticised at the time. All of the emotional through lines converge here and we finally get to see Peacemaker, played by John Cena, and his dad, played by Robert Patrick, come to blows with it being an emotionally charged scene nailed perfectly by Cena.

Moreover, we also get to see Harcourt, played by Jennifer Holland, become team leader in a magnificent slow motion sequence. I think this is well deserved and is the culmination of Harcourt’s arc as she finally feels part of the team, in terms of emotional pay offs this one certainly feels satisfying.

I appreciate that this show is able to balance both really silly and crass moments with emotional intensity and never have the two negatively impact each other, it is a sure sign of good writing. I thought in this regard the Peacemaker flashback was particularly effecting.

All of this sets up one hell of a finale in the next episode,  I really hope Gunn can nail the landing.

Overall, easily the best episode of the show yet.

Pros.

Harcourt finally getting what she deserves

Peacemakers’ childhood flashback

The emotion

Cena

What it sets up for next time

Cons.

None

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Peacemaker: Murn After Reading

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The police circle in on Peacemaker, played by John Cena.

I found this episode to be frustrating, not so much in what was happening as in how they got there. I found the planting of the diary in the last episode suspect, as in I don’t think the character would have done it, but I also found the fact that a secret government agency was unable to stop a determined detective equally baffling and poorly thought through. Clearly these things happen for story reasons rather than anything resembling logic or consistency.

However, that said the show is still very good and even this episode manages to have a number of standout moments. Chief among these is the slow breakdown of Peacemaker himself, as he is starting to come undone at the seams, this has been brewing over the course of the season but it is really starting to come into it’s own in this episode. Cena does a good job nailing the emotional beats.

Moreover, I think the possessed Song’s, played by Annie Chang, police takeover scene might be one of the best moments of the entire series, it perfectly establishes the threat and is also incredibly cool visually.

Also things are moving forward with the White Dragon, played by Robert Patrick, plotline which promises interesting developments in the next episode.

Overall, a weaker and more frustrating episode on the whole, but it still has some fun moments.

Pros.

Cena nailing the emotion

The Song takeover scene

Teases for things to come

Cons.

It feels a little contrived narratively

Some of the character decisions don’t make sense for them    

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Peacemaker: Monkey Dory

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Peacemaker, played by John Cena, and co hit a bufferfly processing plant and Murn, played by Chukwudi Iwuji, has his secret further exposed.

I thought this was a decent episode yet probably the weakest yet. Mainly this comes down to the betrayal at the end of the episode that just doesn’t land. Adebayo, played by Danielle Brooks, was tasked with betraying the team from the start of the series and finally does here, however it doesn’t stick the emotional impact and instead just feels done for plot reasons. This episode goes out of its way to suggest that Adebayo is getting sick of Peacemaker and so is ready to betray him, yet this just doesn’t track at all based on the other episodes.

I also don’t really find the investigation into Peacemaker all that interesting. I thought there were so many better things they could have done with the Robert Patrick White Dragon character other than have him be a rat against his own son. Also we all know that the investigation into our leads will go nowhere as they are working for the government so the detectives will just be shut down and it makes no ends who they ask for help.

The ending leaves the series in an interesting place and I am keen to see where the next episode goes, hopefully it will pay off more of the set up here.

Overall, a weaker episode that doesn’t quite nail the humour or the emotion.

Pros.

Cena

The gore

A few sweet moments

Cons.

The betrayal feels hollow

The police investigation side plot

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Peacemaker: The Choad Less Traveled

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Peacemaker’s dad, played by Robert Patrick, turns rat so Vigilante, played by Freddie Stroma must get himself sent to prison in order to take care of the problem.

I thought this was probably the best episode of Peacemaker yet, it was certainly the most emotionally raw and I appreciated the show for going there. Though the show might seem crass and silly on the surface underneath there is a lot of depth. I think Vigilante’s breakdown when he realises he’s made the situation worse for his friend, and Peacemaker’s, played by John Cena, dance at the end of the episode where he relives his childhood trauma were both moving and depressing in equal measures.

I thought the prison fight scene wherein Vigilante tries to get the racist gang members to each say something that they are thankful for that a black person has contributed to America before proceeding to beat them up when they don’t was so in keeping with the show. This scene really proves to be a great encapsulation of the show, if you like the sound of it and think it would be funny then you will like it, if it sounds annoying then you won’t. Personally I thought it was great.

My two little issues with this episode, and the things that stop it from getting top marks, are the final twist reveal which shows that Murn, played by Chukwudi Iwuji, has been a butterfly along and the continued waste of Judomaster, played by Nhut Le. In the case of the Murn reveal I found it to just come out of nowhere, there was little to no set up for it and it just feels like a twist for the sake of it, and with Judomaster the character continues to be underused to a point of annoyance.

Overall, an incredibly strong episode only let down by a few strange choices

Pros.

The emotion

The prison fight scene

Vigilante

Cena

The jokes

Cons.

Judomaster

The twist ending

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