After seeing the first four episodes of SHE-HULK: ATTORNEY AT LAW, I fear it is going to be divisive for Marvel fans… mostly because I am conflicted myself about the show. It definitely has bright moments, such as Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) having relatable problems to 30-something women and delving deeper into the (sometimes humorous) impacts of super heroes on the world, with questions like does Hawkeye pick up his spent arrows? I also was entertained by Walters breaking the fourth wall, making jokes about plot points in the series and the MCU writ large. But on the bad side, the CGI is distracting. I was worried this would be a problem after the first trailer, but thought the visual effects must be still in progress and would get better for the final cut. Unfortunately, it did not.
Walters, who is cousins with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), is completely normal until she and her cousin are involved in a car crash and some of his gamma-radiated blood ends up in her system. Due to their similar biology, instead of killing her, the gamma rays turn her into a female version of the Hulk. However, instead of being unable to control her emotions when she is in green form, she is still completely herself… just a lot bigger and stronger. Unlike Banner, Walters would rather use the law degree she worked so hard on to help those in need instead of her newly acquired super powers. But when a villain, Titania (Jameela Jamil), decides to threaten the very courtroom she works in, Walters is forced to show the world her green side, changing every aspect of her life… big time.
The general idea and concept of the She-Hulk character is original and interesting—a person with powers that chooses to forego being a superhero and instead helps people in their own way. And the series really swings for the fences by focusing on big concepts like power dynamics, responsibility, and sexism through the framework of a legal series. More importantly, it shows how Walter’s experience dealing with daily struggles faced by women have enabled her to control her Hulk rage in a way her cousin Bruce never could.
Do I relate to seeing a woman in her thirties struggle with misogyny at work and a horrible dating scene? Absolutely. But in a lot of cases, the displays of misogyny are too pronounced. It would have been even more powerful if instead of featuring the obvious in your face toxicity women deal with every day, it instead showed some of the less obvious misogyny and micro-aggressions, which are the real hurdles currently faced by women in and out of the workplace.
I have loved Tatiana Maslany ever since her top-tier performance playing 17+ characters in ORPHAN BLACK, and I’m glad SHE-HULK will enable more people to see her incredible talent, especially in the more comedic elements of the series. But in what world are we supposed to assume Maslany is having trouble getting dates and needs to get into She-Hulk form to get any matches? I can eventually get acclimated to the CGI, but this is something I cannot stand for.
I know Marvel has been getting a lot of criticism lately for its “bad” CGI, especially in THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Frankly, I didn’t notice anything that glaringly bad… until SHE-HULK. I’m not really sure what could have been done to mitigate the problem of prolonged periods of Walters in She-Hulk form since that is such a key part of the story. I don’t blame the VFX artists, who did the best they could do within the series’ likely smaller budget. But going the CGI route for the character seems doomed from the start and unfortunately I fear there is going to be a lot of negative attention focused on that as opposed to the fun elements of the series itself.
I am interested to see how the remaining episodes in the series play out. I know I will be watching and rooting for it to stick the landing, and am also looking forward to more fun surprises. There is an end credit scene in every episode I screened so far, so make sure you stick around until the end to see each one!