When Amazon announced plans to turn Joe Wright’s 2011 film Hanna into a television series, there were many reasons to be skeptical. Though it amassed a terrific cast, reuniting The Killing stars Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman — in the roles originally played by Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana — and relative newcomer Esme Creed-Miles as the title character Hanna (who was originally played by future Academy Award winner Saoirse Ronan), it was unclear what, exactly, series creator David Farr (co-writer on the original film) had in mind when it came to porting the property from stylized action-thriller blockbuster to high-end streaming Peak TV entry. First, and perhaps most importantly, would it be a continuation of the original film or would viewers be treated to a rehash of that story, stretched out over eight hour-long episodes?
That question was more or less answered when Amazon offered the series premiere early to Prime Video subscribers (for 24 hours only, mind you) following Super Bowl LIII. The premiere hewed extremely close to the original film, switching up a few details here and there, mostly to afford the series a chance to explore more of the connection between Kinnaman’s Erik and Creed-Miles’s Hanna, a father-daughter relationship that’s tested by the latter’s increasing curiosity about the world beyond the forrest in which she lives and her burgeoning sense of teenage rebellion.
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Although the decision to stick close to the original film is understandable in terms of establishing the characters and the stakes of the story, turning the initial episodes into a retelling of the first half of the film ultimately does the series a disservice, forcing an unfair comparison between film and television show, while not offering enough immediate differences to make the series stand out, much less stand on its own.
There are some highlights, to be sure. Kinnaman continues to be the best thing in a television series that doesn’t quite do enough to deserve him. Like Altered Carbon or even The Killing before this, Kinnaman shows an impressive emotional range, switching from hardened mentor and cold-hearted instructor to caring and concerned father in the blink of an eye. He’s also one of the best unsung action heroes on television today, using his impressive and intimidating stature as a weapon unto itself. About midway through the first season, Hanna aims to take advantage of Kinnaman’s action-hero bona fides, giving him (and the series) an opportunity to shine in the action arena by delivering a few gripping set pieces. Enos, meanwhile, is entrusted with imbuing Marissa with enough venom to be a threat to both Erik and Hanna, but to also show a glimmer of humanity — one hinted at through a mysterious past she shares with her adversary — that places her more firmly in the same moral gray area as the characters she’s pursuing.
As compelling as both Kinnaman and Enos are, this is ultimately Creed-Miles’s show. Unfortunately, Hanna is a complete (and deliberate) blank slate, a killing machine who’s loaded with factual information but no real personality or sense of self-awareness. She has no immediate wants other than to react to the situation in which she finds herself, which is to kill anyone standing in her way until she can rendezvous with her father. The character’s naiveté played well into the dreamlike storybook component Wright built into the film’s narrative. But Hanna the series doesn’t incorporate the same visual aesthetic or thematic element to its main character’s journey, and the result finds the teenaged living weapon at an even greater emotional distance from the more fleshed out characters who surround her.
Farr takes steps to counter this, but mostly with familiar scenarios from the film. Case in point, after escaping from the desert compound she was taken to in the aftermath of the raid on her and Erik’s home, Hanna meets up with a British family vacationing in Morocco. Hanna makes the acquaintance of Sophie (Rhianne Barreto) and her parents and younger brother. Perhaps inadvertently, the family’s problems (Sophie’s parents are on the verge of a divorce) almost completely overshadow Hanna’s plight, largely because the characters, even though they were just introduced, feel more like real people — actual lived-in characters — especially when compared to the young woman experiencing the world for the first time.
While the crux of Hanna’s journey is that the audience gets to accompany her as she steps free from the isolation of her childhood, learns to make her own decisions (and mistakes), and, naturally, puts all those ass-kicking skills to good use, an eight-hour television series isn’t able to sustain interest in a character like that in the same way a two-hour film can. As a result, Hanna must fall back on its supporting characters at a certain point, focusing more of its attention on Erik and Marissa, as they work to protect or apprehend the exceptional young woman. This works in the show’s favor, as Hanna’s origins and unique DNA are part of a larger mystery and growing conspiracy that will reshape the way the audience sees both Erik and Marissa, and, perhaps, even Hanna herself.
Where the show most frequently runs into trouble, though, is in figuring out how to balance the drama, character development, action, and mystery in a way that will not only keep audiences watching, but also distinguish the show in a memorable way. At the end of season 1, the series never quite manages to infuse itself with the sort of new ideas that would more readily warrant its transition from feature film to (potentially) ongoing television series.
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Hanna season 1 premieres Friday, March 29 on Amazon Prime Video.