Oscar Isaac Is The Best New Marvel Lead In Years

One of the strongest elements of Marvel Studios is their casting. From the very start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the studio has been finding fun and charismatic actors to lead their projects, to the point where many of the new interpretations of the characters have become canon for the comics and the actors have become intrinsically linked to the characters. There is no Tony Stark except for Robert Downey Jr., no Steve Rogers but Chris Evans.

Yet, despite their excellent track record with casting, the writing for the main Marvel leads has been a bit less consistent. Many of the characters have just slight variation of the same personality, mostly Tony Stark. Remember when Thor was just space Iron Man? Or when most of the "Doctor Strange" movie was just "Iron Man," but with magic?

Of course, things are changing, and we've seen a larger variety of characters in recent years, from the enthusiastic and go-get-'em Kate Bishop to the entire "Eternals" family. But now, Marvel has found their best new lead in years: Oscar Isaac in "Moon Knight."

A fish out of water

From the moment we meet him, Isaac's Steven Grant is unlike any other Marvel leads while still being recognizable and familiar as part of the MCU. Rather than the Bruce Wayne-like playboy of the comics, Steven is a lovable, clumsy and mild-mannered dweeb who works at a museum gift shop, speaks with a wonky British accent, and showcases an absolute lack of social skills. He's the kind of guy who comments on the "Is 'The Last Airbender' anime?" debate as a defense mechanism when confronted with a villain, but absolutely panics at the most minor hint of actual superhero business.

Steven is as funny as Tony or Thor without the snark of the former or the goofiness of the latter, the kind of funny you can only be when you don't realize you're funny. More than even the most inexperienced of MCU heroes, Steven feels the most out of place in an action set piece, like he just wandered on set that day. 

To add another layer to the comedy, Marvel didn't cast a shy, lovable yet goofy actor to play the role. No, sir. Instead, it is Oscar Isaac, who has the looks, the gravitas, and the charisma to surprise anyone that meets him when he starts acting like Steven. This is one of our most dashing actors working today, and the fact that he's a convincing dweeb is a full-on magic trick.

Two leads for the price of one

Except there's a method to the madness, because Isaac also plays Marc Spector, the more Oscar Isaac-like protagonist of "Moon Knight." As an alternate personality of Steven, Marc is everything you'd normally associate with a superhero show leading man. He's daring, smooth, very capable during action scenes, fearless, and more what Oscar Isaac looks and sounds like. 

What little we see of Marc in the first episode of "Moon Knight" is like a better version of "Uncharted," only compressed into around seven minutes. Gone are the "bruvs" and "innits" of Steven's hilarious accent, and in is the gravitas and confidence of a seasoned Avenger. 

And yet, knowing about Marc's existence is utterly terrifying for Steven, and Isaac effortlessly portrays that terror to the audience to the point where we don't know whether to be excited or scared when Marc "shows up" near the end of the first episode. Here we have a duality we haven't seen in a Marvel before, and likely won't now that Hulk is seemingly gone and turned into Professor Hulk —  a character that's equal parts the reluctant hero without a single clue what to do in dangerous situations, and also a daring adventurer who spits in the face of danger and faces off against monsters without breaking a sweat.

It's why the car chase in the middle of the premiere episode works so well — we don't see the cool and brave Marc beating up bad guys, we see the result. We know he's badass, but all we see is a terrified Steven shocked to find himself capable of killing people, even more so because he has no idea he did it.

It would be quite easy for an actor to exaggerate the personality of these two characters for comedy, to give us "Shazam!"-like wish-fulfillment of a regular guy who loves being able to turn into a superhero when he falls asleep. But that's not why Marvel hired Oscar Isaac. He does not go for a noble or myth-making performance that is tailor-made for tentpole blockbuster vanity. This is not a character who can stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Instead, we get a gritty, nuanced performance by an actor finding the challenge in a superhero role, and actor turning even the most superficial joke into something that informs the character on a deeper level.

Steven Grant may not feel like a hero, but in one episode, "Moon Knight" already gave us the best new Marvel lead in years.