*Insert Smashing Pun Here*
It's no mystery that Marvel has had a hard go of things in their movies lately, but it has truly been their shows where they've found their new stride. While their movies are being repetitively judged for boring stories and tonal similarities, their Disney Plus productions have found legs as tonally varied productions with compelling characters and unique stories. After Moon Knight's completely isolated adventure and Ms. Marvel's heavily referential but very street level escapades, She-Hulk feels a little bit like coming home to the Avengers franchise that built the MCU from the ground up, featuring a highly powered character in New York and the return of OG Avenger Bruce Banner. However, despite existing in the Avengers bubble, She-Hulk quickly establishes itself as yet another unique and exciting outing. It was a SAVAGELY good start for the series.
Episode one is an origin story done in great haste. We actually open with a post-hulk Jen. As she rehearses her closing statements for an upcoming case, she deals with a male colleague condescending her and mansplaining and generally being a.... dude. He's all chafed because she's good at things, which is going to be a recurring theme in this episode and presumably the show (and definitely many of the super salty boy reviews out there). As her friend mentions that she can always just "hulk out" to earn some points, Jen turns on a heel and kicks in the fourth wall, addressing the audience directly. She then guides us to a flashback of her getting her powers, which I won't dwell on too much, since it's the entire episode. Here's the rundown in possibly the dumbest, most confusing way I could do it:
Overall, this was an incredibly fun first episode. I certainly have some qualms, namely the reason by which Jen gets her powers seems a bit odd. Ultimately, the blood swap just felt very quick and rushed. It felt weirdly "we need to figure this blood thing out and oops we forgot to figure it out and the show launches tomorrow!" See, for those unaware, in the comics Jen gets Bruce-blood from a transfusion after being shot and nearly dying. Sure, Bruce being the only person able to give her a transfusion is a hard nut to crack, especially with Ruffalo's very "afraid to be the Hulk" type of Hulk. I like the "you got red on me" kind of angle, but I just feel like they didn't linger on it enough. She touches him ONCE and then gets enough radiation to Hulk. So, Bruce's blood can dose people with lethal radiation that quickly and easily, but in all the absolutely insane fights Bruce got in as Hulk with the Avengers, he never bled? Didn't Iron Man make him bleed when he used the Hulk buster armor? Like he hits him and hulk wipes blood away and is all:
The chemistry between Tatiana Maslany and Mark Ruffalo is absolutely wonderful. The two do an amazing job working together and feeling like family, even when they are giant green computer monsters. The whole segment provides a lot of depth to Bruce that we were honestly missing, what with him being mostly a side character for much of the MCU. Here we see a Bruce that is a bit more boastful and arrogant, something that has been hinted on in other movies (like the wonderfully cringe selfie moment of Endgame). While I think they held back a bit from making him truly an arrogant butthead, it was a nice compliment to Maslany's Jen who also has her own flavor of arrogance, especially when she's showboating as she out-Hulks Bruce. Personally, I like the angle of She-Hulk being better at certain things than Bruce, I just feel as though the writers set up a slow pitch for the misogynists and silly salt bois to wail on. A female lawyer in a big city would absolutely have taken various fitness classes, self defense courses, done yoga, etc. etc. etc. So, Jen can balance better than Bruce, Jen can fight the Hulk successfully, during which the director did a fun job of showing Jen doing subtle self-defense moves. However, despite my acceptance of these issues, a lack of including them in the story either visually or through dialogue leaves room for the nastier males of the internet to sharpen their pitchforks and start off with all their "it's just not true" or "how unrealistic, chaps" kind of crap. It's sad that we live in this world, but I really need more writers to do better at helping us live in it.
To close out, let's address the giant elephant that an over-worked team of VFX artists were asked to edit into the room on a short deadline: Yes, Bruce and Jen are CGI for most of this. While I certainly don't agree with how Marvel treats their VFX people, and I hope they learn from the recent outcry, the VFX team did an incredible job making two large VFX characters feel natural and be able to hold the attention of a 30 minute episode. Are there uncanny moments? Sure, but that's the way CGI is. We want to pretend like we are, but we are NOT at a "CGI looks exactly like real people" place yet. CGI has improved exponentially over the years, but it is still very subjective. Some people get extremely uncanny valleyed, some don't. Not everyone is going to like how the Hulks look, but it shouldn't take away from the acting, direction, story and overall fun of the episode.
I am very excited for this series. I have been for a while and the first episode really delivered for me. I think Marvel has found their stride with their shows lately, and it's honestly made it easier to be fan after a series of very disappointing cinematic showings. I hope She-Hulk is able to keep up this level of energy and humor throughout, because episode one sonic-clapped its way into my heart.
She-Hulk airs on Disney Plus every Thursday. Look out for episode 2 on August 25th.
Cover B Podcast
Chris & Tee host this weekly comic-focused show, providing insight on new comics, entertainment news and more.