Marvel’s “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” misses the mark a lot less than your average Hulk length.
But watching “She-Hulk” is like watching your favorite basketball team overshoot a buzzer beater This is a lot. As soon as you get on the subway, the train doors close. It’s like a dish that would be perfect with a few more grains of salt.
Marvel has a mixed track record with big-budget television forays into Disney+, ranging from downright boring (“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”) to downright wonderful (“Ms. Marvel”). “She-Hulk” (streaming Thursday, ★★½ of four) is very close to being a great show, but it doesn’t fully commit to any of the three or four different shows it’s trying to be. It’s at once a comedy, a legal drama, a superhero show, a romance, a “Fleabag”-style fourth-wall breaker and a hangout sitcom. Oh, and some really confusing, poorly rendered computer graphics trying to bring his big green hero to life.
It’s a lot, but hidden within a tangled mishmash is a very appealing hero (a stunning performance by Emmy-winning “Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslany) and some well-placed humor, and if “She-Hulk” leans to its strengths, it’s Maybe a really unique, fun take on the mania of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But with at least four episodes made available for review, it’s not quite there yet.
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The series, as its title suggests, is about a superhero who also practices law, a new concept for the MCU but part of a long history of comics featuring characters from Captain America and Iron Man to more diverse lives. The series begins with Jane Walters (Maslany) enjoying a road trip with her cousin Bruce Banner aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), when a car accident leads to her getting some Hulk blood into her system. Unlike Bruce, who basically had no control over his Hulk side and spent years dealing with the damage he caused, Jane immediately became sentient when she got all big and green.
Mastering the art of being the Hulk (from his point of view) in record time, Jane returns to her life as a prosecutor in Los Angeles. But a minor hulking-out ruined his career and made him an instant celebrity with the ill-fated “She-Hulk”. Finally, Jane lands on her feet when she’s offered a job in the supernatural law department of a fancy firm, defending the likes of MCU movie character Abomination (Tim Roth, reprising his role as the villain in 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk”) and Wang. . (Benedict Wong). He’s trying app dating, hanging out with his friend and paralegal Nikki (Ginger Gonzaga), and fending off legal and physical attacks from “super-influencer” Titania (Jamila Jamil, “The Good Place”).
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Mostly, I wanted more fourth-wall-breaking asides from Jane while watching “She-Hulk”; Legal comedy promises more; More glimpses into everyday people populating a super-powered world; And even more She-Hulk, with Maslany in particular showing off the amazing acting abilities we know he has. A half-hour series doesn’t seem like enough.
Another problem – which may be overwhelming for some viewers – is the computer-generated imagery. While the effects are better than some early trailers, it’s still a bit confusing when Maslany is in She-Hulk form. Perhaps due to his body shape and impact being more human than Ruffalo’s regular Hulk, He-Hulk lives more in the uncanny valley. It’s never possible to suspend disbelief and fully immerse yourself in She-Hulk’s world, because she never looks real. He’s more like a wobbly video game character than Gollum from “Lord of the Rings.”
Still, there are many redeeming qualities that make me root for it despite its many flaws. Maslany is one of the most magnetic performers around, constantly elevating whatever he’s given. When the series fully acknowledges the silliness of the legal process, featuring shape-shifting elves and hack magicians with the powers of Doctor Strange, it’s funny and engaging. When it closes in many directions, it becomes wobbly.
Jane Walters’ Hulk has a bit more subtlety and Bruce Banner’s “Hulk Smash!” And here could be a great TV show.
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