Moon Knight trailer reveals an overdue change coming to the MCU

Moon Knight is doing “dark superheroes” on Disney+. Will more dark material from Marvel follow in its footsteps?

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Marvel Entertainment

When Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ended with Avengers: Endgame in 2019, there was an implicit understanding that the MCU as we knew it would change. The studio’s new foray into streaming TV on Disney+ heralded new possibilities for the ever-expanding universe.

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But with Moon Knight, a new Marvel series that will introduce one of the most enigmatic anti-heroes from Marvel’s comic book canon, it seems Phase 4 is willing to go where the MCU hasn’t (officially) gone before: Dark. Like, really dark. And if it does well, it’s a sure bet Marvel won’t be discouraged from doing more dark superheroes on Disney+.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Marvel aired the first full trailer for Moon Knight, which is scheduled to begin streaming on Disney+ on March 30.

The show stars Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector, a mercenary with dissociative identity disorder who lives different identities while unsure which is real. Marc gets his powers from the Egyptian moon god Khonshu, who gifts (or curses) Marc with superpowers. Opposing Spector is Ethan Hawke as a cult leader named Arthur Harrow.

Based on what we see in the trailer, from terrifying visions to Marc’s Moon Knight — a cross between a pale white ghost and a mummy — who beats bad guys to a pulp, Moon Knight is Marvel testing the limits of what’s possible on the family-friendly Disney+ platform.

Moon Knight will stream on Disney+. But with dark subject matter and horror-inspired imagery, how much is the show pushing the MCU’s boundaries on a family-centric streaming service?

Marvel Entertainment

Darkness Reigns — There are already “dark” shows on Disney+. Internationally, services like Star provide R-rated movies and adult-skewing shows, like The Walking Dead, on Disney+. But as far as content made for Disney+? That’s more complicated. Both of the new live-action Star Wars shows, The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, cater to an adult audience, though with the exception of cleverly-edited extreme brutality, not much is actually inappropriate for children. It also hasn’t stopped oodles of Baby Yoda merchandise from being made for kids.

The Marvel TV shows on Disney+ also skew older, as shows like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Hawkeye have instances of profanity and bloodshed. But there’s still nothing so “adult” that they would warrant an “R” rating if they were theatrical movies.

But that’s exactly how Moon Knight could take things a step further. While the show may still be mostly appropriate for children, its darker horror-esque imagery and the design of the Moon Knight costume itself are testing just how “family-friendly” Disney+ is supposed to be. That the show is also about a mental illness — one that has a history of problematic depictions in popular media, like in M. Night Shyamalan’s 2017 horror film Split — casts the show in a darker light than typical Marvel programming.

The things we’ve seen so far on Moon Knight could give children nightmares, and it’s streaming alongside Winnie the Pooh. This also puts Moon Knight in a perfect position to influence how the MCU evolves on Disney+.

Oscar Isaac stars in Moon Knight, which begins streaming on Disney+ on March 30.

Marvel Entertainment

Under a Half Moon — After Moon Knight, there won’t be any immediate changes to the MCU. There will still be plenty of family-friendly programming, such as the upcoming Ms. Marvel series that centers on a teenage fangirl of the Avengers.

But all it takes is one incredible release for Marvel to change its mind about its audience. That’s how Hollywood has always operated, and the MCU is no exception. In 2018, Kevin Feige told Entertainment Weekly that the studio had alternate plans if movies in its earlier years “failed.”

“God forbid those films had [flopped]” Feige said about early MCU movies like Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor. “I think the marketing probably would have been different [for Avengers] and maybe the way the film was cut together or recut with additional scenes would have been different, but it was all-in on that one.”

Marvel makes plans based on what does well, and what might not. If Moon Knight is as good as it looks, it’s not impossible to imagine Marvel adding a little more spice to Secret Invasion, an upcoming Marvel show inspired by conspiracy thrillers, and House of Harkness, the WandaVision spin-off centered on dark witch Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn). We don’t have to think about the multiverse when the universe we live in has so many possibilities.

Moon Knight will begin streaming on Disney+ on March 30.

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