She-Hulk Release Date: Why is the CGI in Marvel’s New Series So Terrible?

DDon’t make him angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry. He’s… very expensive to animate when angry. That’s the old line, right?

Marvel’s She Hulk: Lawyer Premieres on Disney+ this Thursday (August 18). Set in the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe, the nine-episode legal comedy focuses on Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany), cousin of Bruce “The Hulk” Banner (Mark Ruffalo). She is a talented lawyer who is imbued with Hulk-like powers after being accidentally contaminated with some of Banner’s blood. We all know how it works from there: first she gets mean, then she goes green.

Even before the series debuted, she had raised a few eyebrows. The trailer was taken to Twitter’s kangaroo court and sentenced to a week of harsh mockery; Fans were quick to scoff at the seemingly questionable CGI used to portray Maslany as her big, colorful alter ego. Whatever you think of how She-Hulk looks in the final product – personally I’m not sure what kind of photorealism people were expecting in a seven-foot-tall radioactive monster – it’s clear from the start that what you were concerned about was CGI valid. The rock bottom comes late in episode one when the two Hulks begin to battle it out at a remote jungle retreat. Combat quickly degenerates into an ugly blob of weightless, cheap-looking digital effects.

Despite Marvel Studios (a Disney subsidiary) producing the largest and most profitable film franchise in the world, its visual effects have come under increased scrutiny in recent months. Despite all the many millions of dollars that have gone into special effects, all too often the end result looks utterly shoddy. There are exceptions, of course – the vibrant, stylized color palette of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2; some of the sequences in Sam Raimi’s new one Doctor Strange Consequence; parts of WandaVision who have been playing around with various TV-influenced aesthetics. But for the most part, Marvel has become synonymous with some sort of bombastic, charmless VFX mulch. Is it any wonder that the franchise is increasingly seen as cinema’s answer to fast food?

This visual eyesore has become such a feature of Marvel’s oeuvre that even the filmmakers have started calling for it. A few months ago, Taika Waititi made some unkind fun of some of the CGI in his most recent film Thor: Love and Thunder, (although there’s no denying the scene in question looked harrowing and sloppy). Many have rushed to defend the VFX houses that Marvel uses to implement its many special effects; They have argued that the blame lies squarely with Marvel.

“Working on #Marvel shows made me leave the VFX industry,” tweeted Dhruv Govil, an artist who has worked on films, among other things Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy. “You’re a terrible customer, and I’ve seen far too many colleagues collapse from overwork while Marvel tightens their wallets.” Others have made similar claims. Marvel is demanding massive changes in the short term and is reportedly pushing back deadlines without warning. They get the impression that it’s a wonder the special effects are even usable from a distance.

jessica gao, She HulkThe creator of , has spoken about her own departure from the VFX side of things. “The machine just starts rolling,” she said diversity. “You can try to fit in as much as you can, but at a certain point you’re forced to step out of the way.” In the same interview, she admitted that the studio dumped her after initially giving her “carte blanche.” repeatedly asked that scenes involving She-Hulk be cut to reduce the burden on special effects.

The irony, at least with She Hulk, is that this is solely a Marvel issue. While their many TV series cost tens of millions of dollars to produce, their budgets are far lower than the movies — and must be spread over longer runs, seasons typically lasting six or nine episodes. Despite their increasing importance in studio strategy, TV shows still don’t quite get the budgets that Hollywood’s biggest films do, and for good reason: They don’t make that money back. But while traditional pre-streaming TV would find ways to adapt to the medium’s budget constraints — namely, by reducing set pieces, reusing sets and locations, forgoing big-name actors, and using cheaper hands-on effects when needed — She Hulk instead attempts to approximate the production value of Marvel’s blockbuster films. It should come as no surprise that this doesn’t work.

Dangerous Cousins: Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters

(Marvel Studios)

At the end of the day, a few crappy special effects is hardly the end of the world. Audiences were always able to overlook a shoddy graphic or two when they served a well-written, well-acted scene. just look up Buffy the vampire slayer and Doctor Who. But too often, Marvel’s shaky CGI simply reveals the deeper issues with its execution. The fight between Hulk and She-Hulk towards the end She Hulk Episode one is bad not only because of hasty CGI. It’s dramatically sluggish, mindlessly staged and – in the case of Ruffalo – fairly unconvincingly acted. (Bruce Banner’s move to light comedy doesn’t do Ruffalo’s usually robust performance any favors.)

we should, well, Wonder at the spectacle of it all. But in an age where top-of-the-line CGI has more or less mastered the illusion of photorealism, the bar is constantly being raised for what audiences, even unconsciously, are demanding of VFX. Marvel needs to start bulging it — or find a better way to tell its stories.

She-Hulk is now streaming on Disney+ She-Hulk Release Date: Why is the CGI in Marvel’s New Series So Terrible?


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