By Matthew Moorcroft
- Directed by Kat Coiro
- Starring Tatiana Maslany, Jameela Jamil, Ginger Gonzaga, Mark Ruffalo
It’s a little weird that it’s taken this long for another Hulk thing to really get off the ground, huh? Considering Hulk’s status as one of the “founding four” so to speak, his lack of presence outside of team up movies is really baffling even if there is a logistical reason for it. Similar to Spider-Man, Hulk is in the unfournate circumstance of being tied up in legal battles, more specifically with Universal who have a “right of first refusal” on the character and future solo movies.
Time will tell if that will ever change (I’m not holding my breath personally) but using this as an opportunity to introduce She-Hulk, one of comics most popular gender swapped variants, is honestly a smart move in retrospect. A character whose initial gimmick was “the Hulk but now a woman and sexy”, Jennifer Walters evolved over time to become one of the great satirical characters in comics, poking fun at everything from pop culture, politics, gender norms, social relationships, and even comics themselves through a metafictional angle. It’s an easy win for a live action project, and while Deadpool already beat She-Hulk: Attorney at Law to the punch in regards to fourth wall breaking, this is still a damn fine entry regardless.
The show wastes zero time getting to the meat of things here. While other Disney+ shows have kept their origins saved for the back half of the show, She-Hulk just gets it out of the way now and serves as a stellar introduction for the character narratively. Walters is immediately likable from minute one, mainly thanks to Tatiana Maslany’s terrific performance in the lead role. The real magic of the MCU has consistently never been it’s visuals or it’s stories, but it’s casting and characters, and Maslany is one of their best picks in a series of top tier, incredible lineups. Her infectious energy and charisma oozes off the screen, and she manages to keep things light on her feet while also balancing some heavier emotional stuff that’s clearly bottling up in the background. While it remains to be seen just how much the show is going to dive into it narratively, some of the stuff it raises are tantalizing.
What stands out most to me here is the recontextualization of She-Hulk’s control over her powers. It’s a distinctly modern take for sure, but the show goes a step further and really puts us into Walters’ shoes for a little bit as we live being a woman in her field. Dismissed constantly, catcalled, treated like a literal object; if She-Hulk as a show is effective at anything, and it’s effective at quite a bit, it’s being an actual piece of feminist pop art. The MCU has had it’s ups and down with that (Captain Marvel certainly tried to be that and the results were mixed to say the least), but She-Hulk is probably their strongest attempt yet that isn’t Jessica Jones. The 7-to-2 female to male ratio on the show really showcases here and I hope the show continues embracing that going forward.
Sadly much of the discourse around the show up to this point (and likely going forward) is going to be focusing on it’s VFX work, which isn’t surprising. Marvel has been rightfully getting blasted in the media for it’s poor working conditions and bad treatment of VFX workers, and with She-Hulk‘s CGI being as wonky as it was in the trailers it makes sense that people would latch onto it. Suffice to say, the final product is certainly better looking then the trailers, though there are still moments of wonkiness and it’s clear that edits were made in order to keep the budget down. For better and for worse, this looks like a TV show, which in the long term could actually be to it’s benefit as I’ve been pushing these things to embrace the TV medium for a good while.
It’s good to see the series start on a strong note though. The smaller stakes and more low key energy of this much appreciated, especially as the MCU tries to get bigger and bigger. And with the end of Phase 4 on the horizon, She-Hulk is seemingly turning out to be a nice breather before the big blowout finale of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Hyped!