Budget or Beauty Standards- What is to blame for She-Hulk’s disappointing CGI?

Marvel has recently released a TV series revolving around the often unmentioned She-Hulk. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law features Jennifer Walters navigating how to balance her career with her newly found ability to transform into She-Hulk.

The show relies almost entirely on technology, as there are two characters that are created using CGI that have numerous interactions with each other. As trailers and clips from the show began to circulate, viewers and the internet expressed their disappointment in the quality of this production.

Though, it wasn’t Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk that was getting criticized. The smoothness of She-Hulk’s face made her character look “fake” and granted the VFX team a lot of criticism. Marvel blamed this on the fact that the file size was reduced for the trailer on YouTube, which erased some of the detail seen when viewing the trailer on the Disney+ platform. When the show aired, it became clear that the trailer was an accurate depiction of the lackluster CGI we would be seeing, but what is to blame; an unfit budget, or the beauty standards set for women?

Marvel shows are given significantly smaller budgets compared to the blockbuster movies we know and love. Why? TV shows can’t make movie profits. To limit the cost of TV shows, producers cut back on high quality effects, but the premise of this show did not allow for that. Marvel tried to make a movie-grade topic on a TV series scale and has clearly failed. The writer of She-Hulk, Jessica Gao, envisioned Jennifer being in her She-Hulk form much more often than we end up seeing in the final show.

When interviewed by Variety, Jessica said, “once we got into pre-production and production itself, once somebody had to sit down and start figuring out the cost of everything, it was like every week, I was told, ‘Can you cut more She-Hulk scenes?’…There were a lot of things that then had to be changed at the last minute to go from She-Hulk to Jen”. And with multiple She-Hulk scenes cut, one would think that the VFX team could then spend more time on details that really sold us on the realness of the character, but Marvel did not grant its VFX team the time to produce such high-quality content.

The Guardian

The show’s first episode includes a terrible fight scene between the two Hulks that The Independent describes as an “ugly blur of weightless, cheap-looking digital effects”. This scene was supposed to be worked on for longer, as it was not supposed to be in the first, but the eighth episode of the series. In her Variety interview Gao says, “Most of the pilot that you see was actually Episode 8…Switching that up, I’m sure, made people scramble. The VFX artists just must do an impossible task in general. You know, like, this is such a massive undertaking, and they’re already under such a time crunch”.

Unfortunately, this show is not the only Marvel production that has pushed its VFX workers to the limits. Dhruv Govil, who has worked as an artist on Marvel films in the past tweeted, “Working on Marvel shows is what pushed me to leave the VFX industry…They’re a horrible client, and I’ve seen way too many colleagues break down after being overworked, while Marvel tightens the purse strings”. Perhaps more time and more money would solve the CGI and VFX issues we have seen, but even with the right resources, would She-Hulk herself still not look real?

When viewing the show, there is clearly some nice shadowing and work done on She-Hulk’s face, and yet she still doesn’t have the “authentic” look of her counterpart, Hulk. Ruffalo’s character has features like stubble and wrinkles around his eyes and on his forehead that humanize him and make him look genuine to the viewer.

Though in Hollywood, unlike men, women aren’t allowed to age. Wren Weichman, an artist that has worked on video games like Resident Evil said, “Typically, in pop culture, women’s faces are very smooth. Comparing her to Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk), there’s so much detail there that we can see…”. She-Hulk’s face in the show was virtually flawless. Almost any woman in any production is edited to be free of “imperfections” that come with being human. Marvel had to work in reverse, starting with someone that didn’t look human and then going back and adding in detail that aided the realness of the look, only there wasn’t much to add back because even green monsters must be warped to look impeccably beautiful as long as they are women.

So, what’s really unrealistic, the CGI or our expectations of women?