'She-Hulk: Attorney at Law' review: Self-aware Marvel series challenges gender norms
Courtesy of Marvel Studios/Disney+
There was an outcry when Marvel Studios released the first trailer for “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law'' because of lead actress Tatiana Maslany (aka Jennifer Walters/She Hulk) questionable CGI transformation, which became the bedrock for plenty of memes and deep fake jokes (legitimate questions arose from the whole ordeal too: like why not use the same make-up treatment as, say, Zoe Saldana in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies?). After seeing the first couple episodes, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” won’t quell any criticism of the appearance, but director Kat Coiro finds a solid balance of when we see Walters as the muscular green entity and her regular human form.
This is to say, the CGI isn’t the problem in “She-Hulk;” rather, it’s the generic, blandness that’s plagued the recent string of Marvel entities. The series also laments how it’s not a “superhero show” but a “lawyer show,” which I would buy if not for the basic legal jargon and flimsy courtroom drama molded into the script. At least Walters finds the right steadiness and the cheeky commentary on how male dominated workforces operate is an interesting angle within the Marvel Cinematic Universe framework.
The four episodes provided in advance to reviewers adequately explains the origins of Jennifer Walters and flips the script on gender norms as it relates to the genre. Women have always matured faster than boys, and it’s refreshing (and hilarious) when Jennifer, becoming the She-Hulk after accidently cross-contaminating her blood with her cousin, Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) following a car wreck, doesn’t suffer the same issues that plagued others. Bruce had to undergo serious and intense mental training following his gamma radiation ordeal, configuring his emotional responses so that each time he got angry, he didn’t blow up. This eventually is the reason why Bruce’s personalities are blended into the version we know him as now: “Smart Hulk!” Jennifer, on the other hand, locks down the bodily configuration in a single afternoon and is able to seamlessly morph in and out of She-Hulk form on a dime. Girls rule, boys drool.
Which is good because she’s got clients to represent although her newest gig (after getting fired from a previous employer because of her, well, inner green mantra – which must be some type of HR violation – right?) sees the hot-shot attorney running a superhuman legal division and defending an old foe: The Abomination (Tim Roth – retuning) who we last saw rumble with Bruce in “The Incredible Hulk.” A controversial case that puts an unexpected spotlight on her, Jennifer maneuvers around the double standard and media frenzy which comes with such a high-profile case like a champ. I’m not sure where the series is headed or what the villain situation will inevitably entail, but I enjoyed the initial low-stakes energy of “She-Hulk” because there’s something amusing about the MCU trying its own fantasy take on “Law & Order.” It doesn’t always work, as evident by a case involving a mythical creature impersonating Megan Thee Stallion and defrauding finance bros, but a conversation about the legalities of the mystic arts is an interesting idea even if it’s never fully realized.
For the MCU devotees, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” features plenty of Marvel buzzwords (“vibranium!”) and throwaway conversations as it relates to Jennifer’s journey (Steve Rogers virginity is hotly debated), not to mention various characters (Benedict Wong as Wong from “Doctor Strange”) pop in sporadically. But when it boils down, the series is about finding inner beauty and purpose amid workplace toxicity – plus the occasional butt kicking. Maslany has the spunk and comic timing to keep the show’s breezy lightness afloat (occasional fourth wall breaks in the vein of fellow Marvel compatriot, Deadpool are a welcome, if underutilized trope). There’s not much here that’ll keep non MCU fans enticed, but those who show up might be surprised the series isn’t as superficial as the advertisements would suggest.
SHE-HULK: ATTORNEY AT LAW debuts on Disney+ Thursday, August 18th.