‘She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’ a campy and straightforward entertaining entry in the Marvel saga
She-Hulk’s look adds to the campy fun of this borderline silly but always entertaining chapter in the never-ending Marvel saga.
From that wacky title to the dicey special effects to the breezy tone to the occasionally cheesy dialogue to the breaking of the fourth wall, the Disney+ series “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” plays like a 21st century take on a 1980s TV show, and I mean that as a compliment. With each episode clocking in at about 30 minutes, the latest entry in Phase Four of the MCU is played almost exclusively for comedy, and why not.
As showrunner Jessica Gao has confirmed in recent interviews, “She-Hulk” takes place a relatively short amount of time after “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” which means we’re also past the events of “Avengers: Endgame.” This series is filled with MCU callbacks and Easter Eggs and cameos, but even if you don’t have a doctorate in all things Marvel, the writers do a splendid job of telling this particular story in a straightforward and relatively simple fashion, making it easy to digest. We even have Tatiana Maslany’s Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk turning to the camera from time to time to explain what’s happening or offer wry commentary on the latest developments.
A nine-episode series premiering Thursday on Disney+, with a new episode streaming each Thursday through Oct. 13.
Maslany is a marvel — sorry for the pun but it’s in keeping with the tone of the series — as Jennifer, who is practicing her closing remarks for a case when she turns to us and says, “Yeah, about that. It’s true, I am a Hulk. And I’m guessing you’re not going to be able to focus on this fun lawyer show until you know all about that, so, let me get you to speed.”
Flashback to a few months earlier, with Jennifer on a road trip with her cousin Bruce Banner aka the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), during which they discuss Captain America’s backstory and engage in other geeky banter — until a spaceship appears out of nowhere and causes an accident, and Bruce’s blood mixes with Jennifer’s, and oh boy, you know what that means?
Yep, Jennifer starts to Hulk up, and there’s little she can do about it. Jennifer and Bruce hole up in Bruce’s secret getaway in Mexico, which includes an elaborate lab in the basement so “Smart Hulk” can do his thing.
“Tony [Stark] built this for me a few years ago,” says Smart Hulk, who adds, “This is where I spent The Blip.” Ah, so that’s where the big guy was hanging out!
In a sequence straight out of “The Karate Kid,” Bruce becomes Jennifer’s mentor in the way of all things Hulk. (When he says Jennifer’s triggers are “anger and fear,” she quips, “Those are like the baseline of any woman just existing.”) Whereas it took Bruce years to master the art of merging his two personalities so that he has control over Hulk’s actions, Jennifer pulls it off almost instantly. “This is incredible!” exclaims Bruce. “You don’t have an alter ego!”
Like “Hawkeye” and “Ms. Marvel,” the series spends a good deal of time focusing on the life of a superhero in down time, with the world aware of their existence and treating them like celebrities. “Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walters has been identified as the She-Hulk!” comes the breathless report on the TV news. (There’s a lot of media spoofing in the series.) When the D.A.’s office lets Jennifer go because she’s just too much of a distraction, she finds work with the firm of GLK&H, which specializes in superhero law. Her first client: none other than Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky/Abomination, whose “Hulk” history dates back to the 2008 movie with Edward Norton as the big green fella.
Meanwhile, Jennifer’s best friend, the cheeky paralegal Nikki Ramos (a terrific Ginger Gonzaga) has been doing some research on Benedict Wong’s Wong, who becomes an integral figure in Abomination’s upcoming parole hearing. “Wong, just Wong, and his Internet presence is chaotic,” says Nikki. “He’s either a sorcerer who lives in New York, or a librarian who lives in Nepal.” Shortly thereafter, Jennifer breaks the fourth wall again and says, “I know you can’t wait to see Wong, I get it. I just want to make sure that you don’t think this is one of those ‘cameo every week’ type of shows.”
Actually, it DOES feel like one of those “cameo every week” kind of shows, with gratuitous but entertaining fight sequences sprinkled in between the courtroom antics and the comedic byplay.
Much has been made of the admittedly questionable effects in “She-Hulk.” Whereas Ruffalo’s Hulk looks like a melding of CGI and practical effects, She-Hulk often looks like she’s been made up by the same team that did Lou Ferrigno’s work back in the day.
‘Ah, but so what? If anything, She-Hulk’s look adds to the campy fun of this borderline silly but always entertaining chapter in the never-ending Marvel saga.