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Friday, August 24, 2012

What the Hell?!? Friday - Movie Review Edition

What the hell - why not?

HANNA

This movie is apparently intended to be a genre-bender, with elements of sci-fi, action-adventure, quest, coming of age, revenge, and whatever the Bourne series (which I have never seen) represents.  It also includes some fairy tail tropes - the wicked witch/step mother, orphanhood, being lost in the wilderness - all twisted into a new, and perhaps refreshing shape.

HANNA is a deeply flawed experiment with a lot of good to go with the bad.  You can read about the movie's defects - which are legion - in the many reviews at IMDB.   It's deeply polarizing: people seem to either love or hate it.  I did neither, and find myself largely agreeing with critics in both camps. 


On the one hand, the story makes very little sense.  The story teller has two main tasks; first, to draw the reader or viewer into what John Gardener calls "the fictive dream," a state where belief is suspended and the world of the story seems real and alive; and second, to keep him there.

A writer can get away with just about anything, as long as it is set in an internally consistent world that continues to make sense on its own terms.  HANNA, alas, does not meet that standard.  The IMDB reviews can fill you in on the whole sad litany of plot holes, inconsistencies, and continuity lapses.

On the other hand, though, I'll talk about what I liked.  The acting is terrific.  Saoirse Ronan as the eponym and Cate Blanchette as CIA operative Marissa Wiegler are magnificent.  Eric Bana as Erik Heller, Hanna's surrogate father is good.  Jessica Barden is thoroughly convincing as Sophie, Hanna's first and only friend.   The camera work is spectacular.  I don't have the specific knowledge to say much about it, other than it worked extremely well and even very negative reviewers spoke highly of it.

The story telling technique works well, also. One of the cautions for a story-teller is "resist the urge to explain" - the reasoning behind "show, don't tell."  Of course, showing is inherent to the film story.  In HANNA, the story is revealed in increments, as the characters experience the unfolding events.

As the story opens, Hanna lives with her father in a primitive cabin in Finland, near the Arctic circle.  He has raised her to be a highly effective killing machine.  This, as it turns out, is a vital survival skill for our waif-like protagonist.   When she determines that she is ready, she sets out on her mission - indeed, her sole purpose in life - to kill Marissa Wiegler, then rejoin dad at a pre-selected location.

Along with the killer and survival training, Erik has taught her to speak fluently several of the worlds major languages, and given her an encyclopedic knowledge of geography and several other subjects.  What Hanna lacks, unfortunately, are rudimentary social skills, and any reasonable concept of what life is like outside of the unelectrified northern Finnish woodlands.  But her adventure is fast-paced, exciting and dangerous.  This action can keep the viewer rivited.

But fast pace can be a ruse to cover up horrible plotting and a nonsense story line.  This is what I discovered about Dan Brown's novels.  And it's also true of HANNA.  What should be made clear, but never is, is why Hanna and Marissa have to have this showdown.  Erik knows how to make himself impossible to find.  Why didn't he just move to Duluth, enroll Hanna in Catholic School, and simply ignore Marissa?  We'll never know.  And if she needed to be dead, why didn't he just do it himself?  We'll never know that either.  Another unknown is what becomes of Sophie and her family.  What we do know about Marissa and their circumstances leads to only one outcome, and it isn't pretty.

All of that said, I like this movie quite a bit.  Maybe I have a soft spot for genetically modified female protagonists, outcasts, orphans, and murderous waifs.  The room Hanna occupies in my heart has been prepared by Robert Heinlein's Friday; Paul Muad'dib's sister, St. Alia of the knife; and Arya Stark.

Also, I have a vague notion that there is something operating on a deeper level that I have not grasped.  I'm not sure that it's even hinted at in any coherent way, but the suspicion that it's down there somewhere is nagging at me.

I hesitate to recommend this movie  - it's clearly not for everybody.  But it's not a waste of time, nor a most-stupid movie candidate, as some IMBD reviewers have suggested.   If you're willing to let the action, the highly complementary sound track, and the visuals carry you on this adventure, then it might be a good way to spend 111 minutes.  You'll meet some characters you might want to forget and some you might not be able to.

UPDATE:  As Tux points out in comments, he had a similar [but not identical] reaction last year.



6 comments:

BadTux said...

That was pretty much my review of this movie a year ago. Saoirse Ronan pretty much carried the movie on her narrow shoulders, though she had some good supporting actors around her. But the plotholes were just plain stupid. It's as if the director said "I don't need a plot if I have good enough actors and fancy camerawork." Hrm. Sort of like most later Heinlein novels, now that I think about it (with the exception of Friday, which I suspect was a 1950's juvenile that was never submitted because it was simply too much for the 1950's).

- Badtux the Review Penguin

Jazzbumpa said...

Yeah. It makes me wonder. There is so much here that is good, and so much that isn't. It's a very strange combo.

I watched it again this afternoon, and liked it again. For all it's faults, there's something enticing there.

But I sure don't see FRIDAY as a juvenile. Late Heinlein novels did get pretty loopy. Without his prior reputation, I doubt they could have been published. THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST, even if it is dripping with self parody, is simply ghastly.

Cheers!
JzB

The Arthurian said...

HANNA is on tv now, I came in from mowing the lawn, the wife has it on. Hard to watch a 14 year old girl with all the strength and superpower of Jason Bourne.

Watch Bourne. I'm going back to the mower.

Jazzbumpa said...

She's at least 15 ;-)

I'll try to catch Bourne when it's on some time.

My wife would never watch anything like this.

Cheers!

JzB

Hunter said...

Thanks for the great review, Jazzbumpa! Its been a pretty slow evening here in the DISH call center where I work, so I decided to check out DISHOnline.com to see if there was anything new. I saw Hanna on there and decided to give it a shot. I didn’t watch with an overly critical eye because I was just trying to pass some time. I did notice some of the plot holes you mentioned but overall it was a decent film. Maybe later Ill watch it again when I am able to pay a little more attention.

Jazzbumpa said...

Hunter -

I'm glad you enjoyed the review.

Thanks for the comment.

Cheers!
JzB