Maybe you saw the big Super Bowl ad, maybe you cashed in on Amazon's free preview, or maybe you've just seen the trailer, but Amazon really wants you know that it has a new show called Hanna coming out. Is it worth the watch? How about I give it a cautiously optimistic yes!
Hanna is based on the 2011 film of the same name, which continued the it-will-never-get-old cinematic tradition of young girls kicking copious amounts of ass. Let the Right One In, Kick-Ass and Logan all thrived on visceral action coming from the most unexpected and adorable place, and Hanna (the movie) was arguably better than all of them.
If you've seen the movie (and please do if you haven't, it's fantastic; it's streaming via Syfy), Hanna the series sticks closely to the plot of the film: Teenager Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles, Saoirse Ronan in the film) has been tutored for years in the arts of throwing down by her CIA operative dad Erik (Joel Kinnaman, Eric "Dirty John" Bana in the film) in a remote European forest to prepare her for the really crappy life she's destined for. See, Hanna is wanted alive by the CIA for, well, we won't spoil it here, and her dad, who took her from the CIA when she was a wee little lass, is wanted dead for interfering with a project the CIA is testing out.
The big question when the TV adaptation was announced was whether or not it could hold up to the intensity of such a compact film. Though it runs at full-speed and rarely takes a breath to slow down, the film is actually very simple. Hanna's biggest threat is a CIA officer named Marissa (Mireille Enos in the series, Cate Blanchett in the film), and the film is little more than Marissa hunting her down and ends immediately after their fight is over. That gives the TV adaptation plenty of room to work with when turning a 111-minute film into a full-blown TV series. There's a lot of backstory to play with, there's space to expand the CIA's pursuit and, if the show wants to go on for 17 seasons, there's everything that happens to Hanna after her big encounter with Marissa.
It's hard to tell where the series will go relative to the movie — the 45-minute first episode only covers the first 20 minutes of the film by padding out more of Hanna's time in the forest and flashing back to her dad — but there's the expected effort to give more depth to the characters. That's unavoidable, but I do wonder if that's going to be a good thing; part of what made Hanna so great was that it didn't require a lot of character work beyond what Ronan, Bana and Blanchett already delivered with their sheer presence, so director Joe Wright could concentrate on making a stylish indie action flick. The film was wonderfully bare of anything extraneous. TV doesn't have that luxury.
But some of the changes are welcome. The premiere episode opens with a flashback of Erik taking young Hanna out of the CIA building, and it's a reminder that the film never went that deep into the CIA's program that Hanna was a part of. That could make for a decent chunk of TV, right? There's also an early twist in how Hanna comes to live alone with Erik that appears ripe for blowing out their relationship into something much more complicated than it was in the film. Of course, that would require some serious changes to what went down with Erik in the film, which we should expect with Kinnaman on board.
Then there's the big deal we need to talk about. There's no denying that part of what made Hanna so great was the casting of a then-mostly-unknown Ronan, who's now a big-time movie star with Lady Bird, a Saturday Night Live hosting gig and the upcoming Little Women on her resumé. Creed-Miles, the daughter of Samantha Morton and looking every bit like it, doesn't immediately have the same magnetic presence as Ronan, unfortunately. But who does? It's probably an unfair comparison to make, as few young actresses have the innate star power of Ronan, but it's noticeable. Still, Creed-Miles is excellent when she does get good material to work with, and she nails the action sequences. No worries there.
Speaking of those action sequences, they're top-notch, and Amazon is making a name for itself in the genre (Jack Ryan was mostly a bore, but its action scenes were dope). The highlights are clearly any time Hanna gets to scrap (as said above, little girls kicking ass can do no wrong), but Kinnaman, fresh off Altered Carbon, is quickly turning into an action star. The only complaint? There's less action than there is in the movie. Again, that's going to be a series' biggest concern when any adored cult film is remade for television. To be honest, it's simply far too early to tell if it will work because the show, after one episode, lines up very closely with the film and hasn't shown us how an adaptation will work.
But what we do have is a show about a girl trained to be an assassin bringing the same unforgiving tone as the film it's based on, and that's good enough so far. We'll have to wait to see if it can live up to the lofty standards of the film.
The full season will arrive March 29 on Amazon. The film is streaming on the Syfy app and Syfy.com.