Amazon’s new action thriller Hanna doesn’t officially premiere until March, but the streaming service made the pilot episode available for 24 hours after the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it especially thrilling, but maybe it needs a few more episodes to warm up.
A remake/spinoff of the 2011 Joe Wright film starring Saoirse Ronan, the TV version was created by that movie’s co-screenwriter, David Farr. In many ways, it feels like the work of a writer who was disappointed that his original concept got altered or condensed too much the first time around and desperately wanted to put every word on screen. To be fair, that worked out pretty well for Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in the day. In this case, however, I’m left questioning the need for a second attempt or the point of it.
The premiere episode is essentially a straight remake of the beginning of the film – all the backstory about the young girl of the title being raised in the woods by a very paranoid former government assassin. We get a little bit more elaboration, in that the episode opens with Erik Heller (Joel Kinnaman this time) breaking into a Romanian hospital to steal a newborn baby, only to be chased by agents who seem much more intent on killing him than on saving the child. As Heller and a woman we presume to be his wife make their escape, a helicopter opens fire on their car and kills the woman. Heller gets away with the baby, which stays remarkably chill through all this and barely cries at all.
We jump forward 15 years. That baby is now a teenage girl named Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles), raised by Heller as his daughter. They live in a remote wooded area in Poland, many miles from civilization. Heller has instilled in the girl a deep distrust of all humanity, and has trained her relentlessly with the fighting and survival skills she’ll need for the inevitable day when the bad people who killed her mother come for them. Moreover, he’s prepared her to kill Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos, Killaman’s co-star from The Killing), the woman in charge of the operation after them.
Like any teenager, Hanna grows a little rebellious. She defies her father’s orders and sneaks out past the limits where she’s allowed to roam. A few miles away, she encounters a boy roughly her own age chainsawing wood. He introduces her to the joys of a Snickers bar and takes her to go stargazing on top of a satellite dish. While doing the latter, regrettably, he trips a silent alarm, calling soldiers to come arrest them. Hanna runs back to her father, but it’s already too late. Word of the incident quickly makes its way to Marissa, who (with little description and not so much as a photograph) instinctively knows that the girl is the long-missing baby.
In no time at all, attack helicopters are inbound and soldiers scour the woods. Erik and Hanna run. Hanna murders a soldier without hesitation. Father and daughter split up with instructions to rendezvous at a safe location in Paris. However, when Hanna spots a sniper about to shoot her father, she surrenders in order to distract attention away from him. The premiere ends with Erik on the run alone and Hanna being choppered to a black ops site for interrogation.
Episode Verdict / Grade: B-
To be honest, I’m not sure why Hanna was chosen for a TV spinoff. The film was only a modest box office hit in its day and hasn’t had much cultural awareness or staying power in the meantime. While I enjoyed the movie well enough, it didn’t have the most original premise or script in the world. What made it notable was Saoirse Ronan (clearly a breakout star) in the lead, a fun villain turn by Cate Blanchett, and some hyper-stylized direction from Joe Wright, who pulled every camera and editing trick in the filmmakers’ handbook to grab and hold a viewer’s attention.
The TV version has none of that. It’s perfectly competent with adequate performances from the cast, but lacks any spark to set it apart from dozens of similar projects. The pilot episode holds no surprises for anyone who’s seen the movie. If anything, it actually makes some of the far-fetched plotting seem even more ludicrous.
All the same, I’ll still likely give the show another chance when more episodes become available. Once Hanna gets out into the world, there’s potential for the series to diverge from the film and do something interesting. I’ll be very disappointed if the whole season winds up simply rehashing plot points from the movie but dragging them out to eight episodes.