An isolated teenaged girl genetically engineered to be an assassin must elude rogue CIA agents intent on terminating her in Hanna, Amazon's adaption of the 2011 film of the same name. It's a gritty, competent thriller, with strong performances from a talented cast, and has already been renewed for a second season. The problem is that no matter how much one tries to separate the series from the film, comparisons are inevitable. And in almost all respects, the TV adaptation comes up short.
(Some spoilers for the series and the 2011 film below.)
Not everyone was a fan of Director Joe Wright's original film, with its strange mix of espionage and dark coming-of-age fairytale. But it's one of my recent favorites for precisely those elements, driven by an exquisitely unsettling performance by Saoirse Ronan in the titular role. Ronan had this otherworldly presence of untouched innocence, combined with a ruthless hunter's instinct, as we saw in the very first scene when she kills and dresses a deer with just a bow and arrow and a hunting knife.
In the film, Hanna is raised in the wilderness by her father, Erik Heller (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA operative who trains her in all the skills she needs to survive—not just in their winter fairyland, but in the brutal world outside. We eventually find out that she was part of a government program to genetically engineer children as trained assassins. When the project went south, the children were all killed—except for Hanna, because Erik rescued her. Now the teenaged Hanna is ready to leave the nest. Her mission: to take out Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), the woman who ran the secret project that produced Hanna, who will most certainly have her killed if she finds out Hannah is alive.
What was missing from the early teasers for the series was anything resembling that other-worldly cautionary fairytale quality that made the original Hanna so evocative and memorable (even if those elements weren't to everybody's taste). It's missing from the full series, too, even though it recreates several key scenes, most notably Hanna's first encounter with a woman pretending to be Marissa and subsequent escape from the military enclave where she's being held. It's a pale reflection of the original. All the same beats are in place, but the sequence feels flat, lacking the same heart-pounding energy.