Marvel Studios isn’t generally known for super dark content. The reputation when it comes to those properties tends to be more family-oriented. That’s not to say the stories never get dark, however— take a look at Aunt May’s death in Spider-Man: No Way Home or Moon Knight's recent bombshell about Marc Spector and Steven Grant's past. With the studios’ current Disney+ series in particular, the MCU’s storytelling has started veering once again into darker territory.
When people think of a dark Marvel love-action story, many will immediately picture the former Netflix shows. Daredevil dealt with a brutal vigilante taking on a ruthless crime lord, Jessica Jones explored PTSD, and Punisher saw Frank Castle violently slaughter those he thought responsible for the death of his family.
For Moon Knight, it never quite got to those extremes—but they didn’t shy away from sensitive material either. Oftentimes, the writers used the violence seen in the Captain America projects as a barometer for how far they could go. But while crafting the new tale of an Egyptian God’s Avatar, did they ever get too dark?
Did Moon Knight Ever Get Too Dark?
In an exclusive interview, The Direct's Russ Milheim got to sit down with Moon Knight writer and supervising producer Beau DeMayo to discuss the darkness of Moon Knight, and if Marvel Studios ever stepped in to pull them back.
DeMayo compared the darkness present in the Oscar Isaac-led series to that of "the emotional trauma that you see in Avengers: Endgame," and how the key to not going overboard was to keep the characters "always aware of the morality of the actions," and making sure there was always a "moral barometer:"
"When you’re looking at the emotional trauma that you see in Avengers: Endgame, the MCU has also gone to some pretty dark places that pushed the boundaries, I think, of what kids are used to seeing. I think it was always a question of making sure that we were doing it in service of story, and that the story was always aware of the morality of the actions. That if Marc is brutally savaging a group of thugs, that the audience isn’t necessarily thinking it's cool. That you have Steven going, ‘Marc, stop, stop!’ You have a moral barometer kind of guiding the audience so it never feels gratuitous or exploitative."
But did Marvel Studios ever step in and rein them in? The writer confirmed that "they never really got to a place where... [Marvel] went, 'Gah, you guys are getting too dark here:'"
"No, I have to say, Jeremy [Slater] really created and hired a group of writers, who are, still in my estimation, some of the best writers I have ever worked with in the industry. We were kind of already, especially Jeremy himself, were already asking these questions. So we’ve never really got to a place where Grant Curtis, who was the producer on [Moon Knight], and Nick Pepin who was the junior producer helping us, where they went, ‘Gah, you guys are getting too dark here.’"
Marvel Takes it Easy on Moon Knight
Many viewers may still be reeling from the penultimate episode of Moon Knight. In the fifth installment, the tragic past of Marc Spector was explored—revealing that the creation of Steven was a coping mechanism to get away from his abusive mother.
It’s certainly one of the more mature topics found within the core Marvel Studios projects. Though, as DeMayo specifically noted with Avengers: Endgame, the MCU has tackled these darker themes before. The loss of half of all existence is pretty bleak after all.
Another great example would be Captain America: Civil War, which saw Iron Man trying to murder Steve Rogers after finding out he was defending their best friend who had killed Stark’s parents; also a fairly dark topic.
Sure, no one’s head got smashed in by a car door like in Daredevil—but there are plenty of ways to weave a dark tale without hitting that R-Rating, and it seems those behind Oscar Isaac’s series did just that.
Moon Knight is now streaming on Disney+.