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“Hanna” Movie Review

My apologies for skipping Monday – I’ve had a nasty head cold and work life has been a bit insane. So the only thing I want to do in the evenings lately is curl up with Dan, the pugs and watch episodes of Fringe. I’m feeling somewhat better. So here ya go – long overdue Hanna review.

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Hanna Movie PosterSucker Punch is getting crap right now for being a lot of pretty lights, colors and sounds but lacking a whole wealth of substance. Red Riding Hood is getting a lot of crap for just being plain bad.

So – how does Hanna, another fairy tale inspired film also starring a kick-ass ethereal young blonde woman stack up against the most current flicks in it’s genre? Not too shabby. It’s blessed with an amazing cast, a director (Joe Wright) who is stepping far outside the bounds of his previous films Atonement and Pride and Prejudice (both of which I own and love) to bring us an action spy thriller/young woman growing up and finding herself story. And the soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers was pretty awesome as well!

What then, is holding me back from declaring this film a masterpiece? Probably the rather shaky and thin script. While Wright imbues every scene with depth and immense feeling, as do the principal leads; Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana…it doesn’t feel like the story or script itself really measure up to all the talent built around it.

There were some captivating moments – Hanna’s first escape, her father’s fight in Germany, watching her innocent wonder as she explores a world and human relationships she has never encountered before. It was also quite hilarious at times as we follow her escapades with the British family on holiday, and then sometimes it was frightening, jarring, shocking, soft, calm – man, there was so much going on here.

But I kept coming back to the weight of the story not really holding those pieces together well enough to make this what it should be – a masterpiece in film making.

To watch an engrossing and moving film like this and to come away feeling empty and melancholy by the end is terribly sad. Perhaps, the film did it’s job so well that I came away from the film with exactly the message it intended – hopeless emptiness. I dunno.

In Atonement and Pride and Prejudice the theme and message of the films were present and easy to pick up on. The material was so sharply focused that the delicious wandering eye of the camera that seems to be Joe Wright’s trademark didn’t detract but rather augmented and breathed new life into what was already there.

Here – the material was so frenetic and chaotic, that the wandering camera and it’s fun tricks either stood out too much or blended into the background to add extra confusion.

Dan commented, “I wonder why, out of all the scripts he probably has access to, he chose this one?” Perhaps because he saw the beauty, emotion and humanity he could draw out of it. But it still only feels like the outline of a story – and that the depth he created was not enough to make a lasting impression.

This is by far the best film we’ve watched in the 2011 year. But I can’t really say that it’s my favorite film we’ve watched so far in 2011. Perhaps a second viewing would do it more justice. Out of all the films we’ve watched, I would absolutely be the most inclined to watch this again.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR THE LADIES?

We are front and center – kicking ass and taking names. But are we liking and respecting each-other? Not so much. We are certainly talking and interacting with one another and not all of our dialogue is related to men…but the bonding and comraderie that I praised in Sucker Punch is noticeably lacking, replaced by hostility and rage towards fellow women. There’s a whole strange subtext of Cate Blanchett’s character seemingly coveting Hanna as if she were her own child, though at the same time wanting to kill her. It’s creepy in a way that female sexuality as displayed in Sucker Punch was not so creepy.

And unlike Sucker Punch, there was some distinct girl on girl action. Though it was just the innocent kiss of two young female friends exchanging BFF vows under the covers. You would have thought a bomb had gone off in our theatre – it was so damned quiet. I was gloating and enjoying every minute of the completely awkward response by the audience. The scene itself conveyed nothing sexual whatsoever. Intimate, yes. Hushed whispers, covers over their head, warm glowing tones, very intense close-ups…but there was nothing sexualized about the scene.

Except for how the audience was perceiving it.

Hanna was as sexless and deadly as Hit Girl from Kick Ass, but somehow I don’t think anyone is going to get up in arms about violence against young women as they did around this time last year. It makes me wonder what the difference is between Hit Girl and Hanna – by all intents and purposes two strong girls who are both innocent and lethal, raised by their fathers to extract vengeance against their mothers killers.

Perhaps because Cate Blanchett is the bad guy in this version? Female violence is approved as long as it’s woman on woman crime. It supports the construct that women are in competition with one another (Cate Blanchett w/ Hanna’s mother – Hanna with Cate Blanchett) and that internalizing violence against one another is socially acceptable, whereas violence against men or in response to a male driven act…is not socially acceptable.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like there’s a clear message here. Granted, Hanna is of a higher caliber of film making and source material, but it seems important to note that her reception will be much better than Hit Girl’s. Or any of the ladies of Sucker Punch.

Hanna is a sadder, though more fleshed-out version of Hit Girl. She has no normalcy, no regular school, no bowling and pizza with her dad, no sense of how the real world works. She is merely a device honed for her father to seek revenge on the woman who killed his woman. She is an agent of male design. If this script and movie and story wanted to be REALLY subversive, why not have the father figure be a mother? Why not do away with the father completely? Then it’s not a sad story about the death of a mother.

Who here gets tired of sad stories about the death of a mother?

And though she is clearly being used by her father (as was the argument regarding Hit Girl) many ladies will claim, because she is devoid of breasts or hips or female features and is not scantily clad – that she is a better female heroine than many currently on the market.

I can’t say that I would 100% agree or support that line of thinking.

Hanna has clearly been manipulated all her life and is doing only what she has been taught. Whereas the ladies from Sucker Punch hatch plans of their own designs to thwart and escape their male captors under the watchful and helpful eye of their female dance instructor. They are agents of their own design – down to their weapons and costumes and somewhat distinct personalities. Oppressed in a way that many more women can respond to – on a level of gender and sexuality.

Hanna could have been a boy and it would have changed very little in the script. The gender of Sucker Punch made all the difference to the plot, motives, etc.

OVERALL

The Sucker Punch comparisons are only coming because of the proximity in release dates – not because the films are closely related in content. If folks really wanted to compare/contrast, they would stack this up against The Professional or Kick Ass, both with similar themes. Comparing Sucker Punch and Hanna is a stretch – because they both have female leads? Come on, you can do better than that.

They will tell you Hanna gives ladies a better shake. And in some ways, it does. And in some ways, it doesn’t. But regardless of the flaws of both films – some major and some minor – I’m going to appreciate the direction Hollywood is moving by releasing films like these. It’s a slow changing, beastly institution, but it’s fumbling towards getting it right. Whether or not that can be done in a society that is still full of sexist bullshit is beyond me.

At least it’s trying. A+ for effort.

Bechdel Test: Hanna features more than two female characters with names and DOES PASS the women test, DOES NOT PASS the men test (two men are featured but do not talk about anything but the ladies) and features more than two minority characters who DO NOT have names  (or speak to one another) so it DOES NOT PASS the race test.

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

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