An overstuffed but promising start.
When the She-Hulk trailer was released earlier this year, fans were divided. What was up with the CGI? What was the purpose of introducing a second Hulk? With her astute self-awareness and desire to not become a superhero, it’s been clear from the outset that She-Hulk is unlike any protagonists we’ve seen in the MCU thus far. But does this blending of millennial woman feminism with the classic Marvel tropes pay off? Partly, yes.
There’s certainly a lot packed into the first half-hour episode of the season that can make the pacing of it feel a little uneven at times. Not only does this episode have a whole origin story to blitz through, but it’s also clearly been chosen as a vessel to retcon and explain the menagerie of unanswered questions that have been plaguing Bruce Banner since before Phase 4 even started.
The result is an episode where every throwaway comment and scene is a fairly-major Easter egg or MCU plot point, making it less of a relaxing viewing experience and more like you’re cramming for a last-minute MCU exam.
Before I go any further, we all know there’s a green, CGI-shaped elephant in the room. So, let’s get that out of the way. now. You’ll be pleased to know that, compared to the trailer, the CGI is definitely a lot better.
The only problem is that, from what I can see, the CGI for Professor Hulk/Bruce seems a lot more detailed and carefully done, whereas the CGI for She-Hulk verges is just a bit too smooth, with the hair especially making her look slightly cartoony.
You get used to it, and it doesn’t hugely detract from the rest of the series because the CGI for She-Hulk is okay, but the problem is that the CGI for Bruce is undeniably a lot better. So, pairing the two characters in so many scenes only makes that difference more stark (no pun intended).
However, while the visual pairing might look a bit strange, Ruffalo and Maslaney’s on-screen chemistry makes the mostly-two-hander episode an entertaining watch, with the pair sparring and bouncing off each other like you’d expect two close relatives to.
Family banter: Best family movies
While Bruce acts as Jennifer’s ally in a lot of ways, he is also smartly positioned as a foil to her. They might be going through a lot of the same experiences (with writer Jessica Gao smartly weaving in Bruce’s trauma without overshadowing his cousin), but they’re fundamentally different people.
Jennifer might be a Hulk now, but that doesn’t mean the story of Bruce Banner has to be rehashed a second time. As Jen herself rightfully points out, being overwhelmed with anger and fear are the “baseline emotions for any woman.”
Women experience the world and are perceived in an entirely different way to men. While Jennifer might not have to grapple with taming the monster inside herself, she does have to navigate things like workplace misogyny, sexism, walking home alone at night, and having to be nice to creepy men at the bar in case they turn violent.
With a woman-heavy writing and production team, these issues are presented with a relatable nuance that definitely helps give the series a distinct edge compared to the other Marvel series we’ve seen so far.
Superpowered folk are so often written with that “great power comes great responsibility” mindset, the silent obligation that comes with having power is never critically questioned — so the fact Jennifer questions these expectations is another way that her character continually hooks you in.
Her fourth-wall breaks along with the show’s feminist themes may lead to some comparing her to Fleabag, but it’s a lot more than just a clever storytelling trick.
*Looks at camera* Does She-Hulk break the fourth wall?
As well as honouring the comic book version of Jennifer Walters (who frequently breaks the fourth wall), it also allows the writers to connect with the audience on a new level.
For example, the fourth-wall breaks are used to pre-emptively answer questions the audience might have about the series which, along with subtly-weaved references about Bruce’s relationship with the other Avengers, shows us that the writers are just as big a fan of Marvel as we are.
Ultimately, while it isn’t the best debut of a Marvel episode I’ve ever watched, with the fight and action sequences few and far in between long-winded dialogue-based exposition, it does the job of being a workable foundation for the series to build upon.