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She-Hulk: Attorney at Law Review: A surprise entry from Marvel with more hits than misses- Cinema express

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law Review: A surprise entry from Marvel with more hits than misses

Almost all the series from this franchise has often been praised for sticking to the superheros' personal issues and She-Hulk happens to be the epitome of that template

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Published: 15th October 2022

Given how Marvel films have gotten 'complicated' over the years with the latest phase trying to push the multiverse concept, it's a pity to see some of their films going out of their way to meticulously connect themselves with the previous films like pieces out of a jigsaw puzzle. Marvel's latest special, Werewolf by Night felt like a breath of fresh air, given how grounded it was. Similarly, Marvel's latest series, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, despite being connected to many other Marvel properties' plot lines, still manages to come out on top with its originality, humour and groundedness that makes it easier to look past its obvious flaws. 

Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Mark Ruffalo, Tim Roth, Ginger Gonzaga, Benedict Wong 
Creator: Jessica Gao
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

If Ms Marvel brought an extra dose of fun to the MCU, She-Hulk takes it up a notch. The titular character (played by a lovely Tatiana Maslany), is loyal to its comic-book counterpart and is a fun-loving, empathetic, yet still feisty woman who can Hulk-smash her way through opponents. Similar to Deadpool, she often breaks the fourth wall and interestingly, this self-awareness makes it the most meta show in MCU. Ironically, thanks to the characterisation, the fourth wall breaking reminds us more of Fleabag than our merc with the mouth. Almost all the series from this franchise has often been praised for sticking to the superheros' personal issues and their battle with their inner demons and She-Hulk happens to be the epitome of that template. 

The series wastes no time in giving Jennifer Walters her superhero powers - courtesy of her cousin Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, who leaves us wishing he had more screen space) - as this happens in the very first episode. The remaining eight episodes dwell deep into Walters coming to terms with a power she never asked for, figuring out the way to control it, understanding the boon and bane of the powers, dealing with her world's reaction to her transformation and how it makes her relationship with everyone, especially the ones she's romantically inclined towards difficult. Maslany aces the role of the titular character who is socially awkward and has a hard time making her stand apart - right from her workplace to dating apps. 

A jarring issue with this series is how it takes its time to find its footing and it's surprising for a 9-episode series to not let the audience know where the story is heading until the end of episode 8. Until then, the series feels more like an open-world video game where the protagonist gets to walk around the town, converse with random characters and carry out missions that are in no way connected to their actual journey. Because of this, we don't get a strong antagonist who could match the prowess of She-Hulk. We see Walters trying to win cases for some of the comic book's long-lost characters but for a series that's promoted as a legal drama, we don't really get many courtroom scenes. But the series makes up for it with some intriguing cameos that include Bruce Banner, Emil Blonsky/Abomination (Tim Roth), Wong (Benedict Wong) and last but certainly not least, Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox). While the series wastes the talent that Roth is, we are thankfully saved by a decent dose of Daredevil. While the internet is divided about how things have taken a romantic turn with him and She-Hulk, I'm glad that we finally get to see more of him after his cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home. 

The best part about the series is how self-aware it is. Walters finds the name She-Hulk to be derivative of Hulk and even initially hates the moniker. In one of her fourth-wall-breaking scenes, she even acknowledges the cameos that frequent the show. There's a commentary on how existing superheroes are given a female version instead of introducing superheroes of other genders. She even makes fun of the genre by stating how "superheroism is for billionaires, narcissistics and adult orphans". When was the last time a superhero took a dig at her peers from both Marvel and the DC? 

The fans of the franchise are in for a treat as the series is packed with easter eggs and references. The biggest one must be the homage to the hallway fights of Daredevil. Speaking about fighting Abomination, the Smart Hulk says, "The fight was so many years ago. I'm a completely different person now," denoting how the Hulk that fought the villain in The Incredible Hulk (2008) was actually the actor Edward Norton and not Mark Ruffalo. Walters' room has several posters and two of them that caught my attention were Legally Blonde and Erin Brockovich which happen to be legal dramas. While Moon Knight had a QR code appear somewhere in the background in many of its episodes, She-Hulk too has one in the finale and it also gets forwarded to the character's comic book page. There are quite a few callbacks to Wolverine and given the recent developments with regard to the new Deadpool film, X-Men will probably be seen sooner in the MCU than we earlier expected. The last episode is also She-Hulk's best as it's inspired straight from the comic book pages when the character, unsure about how her story is unfolding, ends up breaking the fourth wall, literally, to talk to the story writers about the developments. Without spoiling the surprise, let me just say that we finally get to see Marvel's head honcho Kevin Feige, albeit in a form we didn't expect. The finale even pays tribute to The Incredible Hulk tv series from the 70s by replicating its opening titles. 

My biggest grouse with this series has to be with its distracting visual effects. Like many aspects of the series, the lead character even talks about the mediocre VFX but the acknowledgement doesn't help in softening the blow. The series suffers from pacing issues, many side characters that could have been written off and some of them actually having better character arcs than our titular hero herself. But the softer tone and a relatable lead make it a much-needed break from grand and complex plots that have become synonymous with the franchise. Despite the flaws, they don't really take away the fact that She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has a distinctive style that really grows on you. 
 

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