Moon Knight is a series that goes to some rather unfathomable places for a Marvel TV show. It’s darker and more mysterious than perhaps anything since the studio’s Netflix endeavors. It, with rather considerable restraint, chooses not to constantly reference its place in Marvel Cinematic Universe. Perhaps most unfathomable of all, however, is that it asks you to believe that Oscar Isaac can deliver a convincing English accent.
Moon Knight’s premiere episode, “The Goldfish Problem,” largely focuses on introducing us to one of the two distinct personalities Isaac plays in the series: Steven Grant, a mild-mannered, geeky gift store clerk at... well, one of London’s major museums, it’s hard to say which given the show’s grasp of the city’s geography is quite circumspect. That matters less though here. What we’re interested in is not the accuracy of Moon Knight’s location work, but just how convincingly Isaac can pull off a London accent.
As io9's resident speaker of the Queen’s English—aka a bunch of nigh-on incomprehensible nonsense—it falls on me to be judge and jury, for after years of the inverse in the MCU, where British actors like Benedict Cumberbatch, Charlie Cox, and Tom Holland purloin American heroes and their accents like British Imperialism is still alive and well, at last we have a notable instance of someone attempting to purloin one of ours. Coming into the series, I was admittedly hesitant. It didn’t help that Marvel basically shaped most of its Moon Knight marketing out of a single read from Isaac’s Steven, “I can’t tell the difference between my waking life and dreams,” delivered so scenery-chewingly that Dick Van Dyke would go and dig a grave just to go start spinning in it.
Thankfully, in the larger context of the series, Isaac’s accent works rather charmingly, and not just because it’s coming out of Oscar Isaac’s mouth. The exaggeration gives Steven the sort of bumbling persona that transforms the series into something of an oddball buddy comedy where Isaac plays both sides of the duo, a sharp contrast to the little snippets of Marc Spector we get in the first episode. But in spite of that exaggeration, there is something that feels real about Steven’s lilts and twangs. The moments when he litters his dialogue with a casual remark like “laters gators”—which, frankly, I’ve personally never heard anyone say before, but it sounds in the ballpark of the sort of random rhyming slang you’d expect from the English—are lovely. Perhaps most accurately and weirdly the most endearing of it all, is just the sheer amount of casual swearing that Isaac peppers his dialogue with. From an “Oh bollocks!” or “Bloody ‘ell!” here, to calling himself a bit of a knob when dressing for a dinner date there, in a sea of exaggerated Britishism it’s the lackadaisical approach to light cursing that feels most British of all here. You just don’t get that with other Marvel heroes, and frankly, it’ll be a shame to loose some of that whenever Moon Knight does find himself enmeshed more deeply with the wider MCU connective tissue.
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I’m not going to try and make some profound, sweeping statement here, a grandiose attempt to project Isaac’s accent work as particularly incisive or thematically fundamental to Moon Knight’s text. In the end, it’s still quite silly, and that works mostly because, well, have you heard us Brits? We all sound a bit silly. Hearing that reflected back at you by one of the most handsome men on the planet as the latest in Marvel’s ever-growing vanguard of streaming superheroes doesn’t have to be more than that. And that’s good, innit?
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