There’s no reason to beat around the bush: the first episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is bad. Very bad. The fun thing about seeing an MCU-related title is that you never know what to expect until you sit in front of a screen and watch it. Unfortunately, early reactions are usually hyperbolic and full of people saying it’s the best title since the last one. But since there were no reactions when I watched the first episode, I could go into the series completely blind, only knowing that it was billed as a half-hour legal comedy. Fully realizing that it was going to embrace the meta-nature of the comics (with Tatiana Maslany’s Jennifer Walters breaking the fourth wall a few times) and focus on a “case of the week,” I was ready to see what Marvel’s latest effort of veering off the traditional MCU formula was going to be. However, I wasn’t impressed by its childish humor and Uncanny Valley-level CGI-driven action setpieces.
Now the CGI on She-Hulk herself doesn’t look as bad as the first trailer made it out to be. It’s more fluid and looks less like a Grand Theft Auto V screensaver than it was initially promoted. The problem is how the CGI environments look and hinder most action sequences. Every action scene is horrendously shot and edited as if it was plucked out of a superhero film made in the early 2000s, save for one briefly enjoyable fight scene in the episode’s latter half. But most of the action doesn’t feel natural or have any sense of movement within the frame. The camera never blocks itself properly during a CGI shot, which makes the whole thing more closely resemble The Mummy Returns’ Scorpion King scenes than anything else. Everything looks and feels unnatural, which ultimately took me out of any scene with a somewhat exciting ounce of emotional pull (there aren’t many, but some of them happen early on).
Some will defend the “campiness” of the aesthetic. Still, there’s nothing campy about horribly rendered and barely finished CGI backgrounds that overworked (and underpaid) VFX artists at Marvel designed to get the show released as quickly as possible. The cracks are starting to show, especially when you market She-Hulk as a “movie-level” production designed for Disney+. Yes, Smart Hulk does look like his movie counterpart from Avengers: Endgame and She-Hulk definitely looks better than whatever the hell was in that first trailer, but everything else looks fake and clearly unfinished. It’s a shame because, with ample time (and better working conditions for its VFX artists), the action setpieces could’ve been something special. Unfortunately, most of them are baffling and defy all sense of logic, even by Marvel’s standards.
It also doesn’t help that most of the jokes aren’t funny. With the show being a full-fledged comedy, being unfunny is not a good sign because the rest of the episodes may have the same style of childish or cringeworthy humor that younger teens may enjoy but everyone else will find awkward. Without spoiling anything, there’s more body humor in a single episode of She-Hulk than in any other MCU title (which is the lowest form of comedy you could possibly think of). It’s painfully embarrassing to see two highly talented actors like Tatiana Maslany and Mark Ruffalo humiliate themselves through lowbrow comedy instead of doing something wholly off-the-walls and fun! Part of the charm of the She-Hulk comic wasn’t solely its metafictional humor and consistent fourth-wall breaks, but the vibe of them was fun. It was smartly written and made Jennifer Walters one of the most energetic (and hilarious) characters in the Marvel universe. Unfortunately, the first episode doesn’t do that and establishes Walters (and her alter-ego) as an immature and juvenile character. And to have someone of the caliber of Tatiana Maslany play her and not exploit her comedic talents feels criminal.
That being said, Maslany is terrific as Walters. The chemistry she shares with Ruffalo is palpable enough for us to believe they’re cousins, and I hope future episodes will establish that bond further. And there were a few scenes with them that worked well, especially when Banner explained how her transformation works to Jennifer. In addition, the comedic timing was pretty good, and both performances somewhat elevated the material.
However, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed at what the first episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law establishes. The meta-humor is undoubtedly fun, but everything else falls flat (save for an impeccable joke about a specific Marvel character). Its over-reliance on childish humor doesn’t bode well for the rest of the series, and its unfinished visual effects start to stick out like a sore thumb. Maybe the next few episodes, where Walters will take on “cases of the week,” may be more interesting than whatever the hell the pilot episode was, but I can’t say I look forward to watching this show every week if my first impression is negative. Still, the show has eight more weeks to change its course, and I’m willing to give it as many second chances as it needs, going into every episode with the most open mind possible. Who knows? It may surprise me, just like the first half of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s first season was abysmal until it started to tell some of the MCU’s best storylines and character arcs.
The first episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law will be available to stream on Disney+ on August 18.