Marvel fans are certainly committed to the cinematic universe but nothing has gotten as much of a vigorous, and sometimes vicious, response than the upcoming She-Hulk: Attorney at Law series (premieres on Disney+ Aug. 18), starring one of Canada’s biggest and favourite actors, Tatiana Maslany.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law introduces us to Jennifer Walters, cousin of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). After the pair get into a car accident, the event leads to her getting his Hulk blood in her system, which now means she can transform into what’s referred to as She-Hulk. Jennifer is an attorney and has every intention of getting back to work after this new She-Hulk-ing ability, turning this into a comedic legal show, where she dives into a different superhero legal case each week.
Most notably, critics came out quickly to respond to the show, even when only the trailer for the series had been released, with specific criticism about the CGI, particularly for Maslany.
“In terms of the CGI being critiqued, I think that has to do with our culture’s belief in its ownership of women’s bodies,” director Kat Coiro said at the show’s Television Critics Association press tour panel, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“I think a lot of the critique comes from feeling like they’re able to tear apart the CGI woman. There’s a lot of talk about her body type, and we based it on Olympian athletes and not bodybuilders. But I think if we had gone the other way, we would be facing the same critique. I think it’s very hard to win when you make women’s bodies.”
'We also talk about what it's like to be critiqued'
For Ginger Gonzaga, who plays Jennifer/She-Hulk’s best friend Nikki, and a paralegal, she points out that while there is so much attention, and criticism, of what fans have been able to see of the show, the series itself reflects that cultural pattern of scrutiny, particularly for women.
“I get fans and people looking at everything with a fine tooth comb and it's just interesting how people will respond,” Gonzaga told Yahoo Canada. “I think it's a very human reaction for people to be like, ‘Hey, I didn't think that it was going to look like that because I had something in my brain.’”
“I think humans are hilarious and I also think that's what we comment on, on our show. We talk about how embarrassing it is to be a person and how funny it is to be a person, and we also talk about what it's like to be critiqued. Marvel is massive, She-Hulk is massive,...she takes up space, she's special, she's flashy, she's sparkly, there are eyes on her… So, ironically, the art imitates life and we show a lot of that on the show.”
Gonzaga adds that the pattern of critique coming out in real-life discourse around the show just amplifies how grounded in reality Jessica Gao’s show actually is.
“It shows how visionary Jessica Gao is because...she sees it in the world, she knows it's going to happen, and so we're commenting on that on the show, and she's not wrong, she's not wrong about how the world works,” Gonzaga said. “You want to discuss the human condition, I think that's kind of the goal of film, whether you're being really funny and there's monsters and magical powers.”
“That's the point, otherwise, why are you watching something?”
Having watched the first four episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, we wouldn't say the CGI is "too distracting," which some fans have been concerned about, but it can look a bit cartoon-ish at times.
'A lot of really funny characters in the superhero world,...they're oftentimes male'
Moving away from the contentious CGI, the crux of the story is this humorous legal show, leaving us in trusted hands with Tatiana Maslany as the lead character, with fourth-wall breaks to guide us through the story.
Ultimately, the show is funny and sarcastic to its core. So if you're more excited about seeing MCU content that is all about the action and more serious dialogue, versus a show where there is a conversation, for example, about Captain America's virginity, this may not be the one for you, but the first four episodes of the series made us interested in this addition to the MCU.
Jennifer/She-Hulk's friend Nikki, as a character, is there to support Jennifer in whatever she needs, whether it’s transitioning jobs or trying to create an online dating profile. She’s kind of the ultimate friend a girl could ask for.
“I've been kind of dying to play a character like Nikki, I like fast and funny,” Ginger Gonzaga said. “I've seen a lot of really funny characters in the superhero world and the Marvel heroes, and they're oftentimes male, so I was just excited to do that as a woman.”
“Nikki is very free, she doesn't have any rules, she's very based in love, the sky's the limit for her and she thinks the same for her friends. I like to be that as a person, I want to be that as a person, so it's always fun when you get to play someone, you almost have further permission to be like, ‘Oh, I wish I was always like that in real life, I wish I called things out all the time if someone's being rude.’”
The dynamic between Gonzaga and Maslany on the show is certainly a highlight amid the ever-changing dynamics of Jennifer turning into She-Hulk, and the changing circumstances of the cases the characters take on.
“We had mutual friends, we kind of both respected each other's work, I met her at a...party right before we got this job and we had said, ‘hopefully we can work on something together,’ and then the next job was this,” Gonzaga said. “So it just worked out and she works in a way that I really liked to work.”
“It's very vulnerable, it's very honest and I trust her, and she trusts me. There was an ease and a breeziness, and when we're improvising, we can ping back and forth. I love Tatiana, as a friend, she's an easy person to love.”
The MCU continues to expand, with feature film and streaming series content in abundance, but from Gonzaga’s perspective, what makes She-Hulk: Attorney at Law stand out is how “self-aware” and “comedic” the story is.
“I feel like Marvel is always making something really new, I thought WandaVision was insanely creative, and I didn't know what the next thing would be, so then when we got She Hulk and I found out how comedic it was going to be, and how self-aware and satirical it was,...I was like, ‘OK, that's it, this is the new thing,’” Gonzaga said.
“It's saying things in a very nuanced way, that's still really fun, and because of the nature of being an attorney for superhumans, we get to pull from superhuman characters in the comic books that haven't yet entered the MCU.”