I Am Groot just arrived on Disney Plus this week, and I for one entered it with expectations set to "low." But by the time I finished the very-brief 20 minute run of animated shorts, I was more excited for She-Hulk's August 18 debut than ever.
Admittedly, I should note, I'm a less less excited after the news regarding the impending Disney Plus price hike. But that's a story for another time.
As you may know, She-Hulk occupies an interesting space in the slate of upcoming Marvel shows and movies. The nine-episode series is the first Marvel 'comedy series' to air on Disney Plus, and it arrives with much scrutiny, especially for its CGI.
After watching I Am Groot though, I feel more confident than ever about Marvel Studios as a TV company. And that's partially to do with the fact that there's not much to this newly debuted series of shorts.
I Am Groot is meaningless fun — and that's great
I'm not saying I want She-Hulk to be disposable or anything, but there's a brilliance to I Am Groot. Its five shorts — don't call them episodes — break new ground in the Marvel Studios world. Existing in a very small window, right between the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and one of its post-credits scenes, I Am Groot is all about a small window of maturation where Baby Groot gets slightly older.
In the first short, "Groot's First Steps" the tiny sapling takes a while to break free from his teeny little pot. Then, in "The Little Guy," he happens upon a race of even smaller aliens. And so on and so forth. Each short is a micro-story, but filled with gorgeous animation, and that includes short 3's Iwua, a shape-shifting alien that mimicks Groot.
I Am Groot didn't really need to be created with this much care, except that its writer and director Kirsten Lepore comes with the experience of being an animation director on the fantastic Marcel the Shell with Shoes on.
And this excellent execution and care of such a small project — I Am Groot's MCU status is debatable, as a Disney exec basically says yes and James Gunn isn't as strong — got me thinking about the next Marvel Disney Plus show.
Let She-Hulk do its own thing
So, if Marvel's going to let I Am Groot be a fun little standalone thing (coming off of Ms. Marvel, which let Kamala Khan be a kid and not suffer from too much MCU tie-ins) I'm starting to think She-Hulk might be allowed to break new MCU ground.
But that's because I'm OK with it only being a comedy series. I'm not sure how much the public is aware of that framing, which means a backlash may be inevitable, but that's a story for another day. Unconvinced? Watch this recent trailer where Hulk/Bruce Banner is trying to train his cousin Jennifer Walter to be She-Hulk (a name she's not fond of).
The series, from this trailer, looks unlike anything Marvel shows have done so far. This time when She-Hulk breaks the fourth wall, it's apparently done without a plot that makes it make sense — you know, like when Wanda Maximoff was doing Modern Family-like confessionals in WandaVision.
And the idea of a comedic Marvel show that focuses on comedy is exactly what the MCU needs. Marvel fatigue, at least as I see it, is based in dread derived from watching too many similar projects.
Outlook: Marvel knows She-Hulk has higher stakes, too
Half-hour comedy or not, She-Hulk also has greater importance in the over-arching MCU. As you saw in the above trailer, this is where Charlie Cox is making his next appearance as Daredevil in the MCU.
She-Hulk can tie into so many Marvel Studios movies and shows, as she's leading a division of legal representation related to super-powered individuals. And, since Marvel is using it to introduce and re-introduce characters, I'd bet they know She-Hulk needs to be done right — at least nailing the character beats and the comedy — so that characters aren't tainted out of the gates.