After seeing the fantastic footage from Green Lantern and Cowboys and Aliens earlier today and yesterday, I was afraid that all the other presentations at WonderCon would pale in comparison. However, when I sat down for the Hanna panel, I found out I was dead wrong. Hit the jump for my thoughts on the footage and panel from the Hanna presentation.
It seemed a bit odd that director Joe Wright’s Hanna would be making an appearance at WonderCon merely a week before its release. But after seeing the footage from the film, I realized that we were given quite a treat. The panel consisted of Wright and star Saoirse Ronan, both of whom were delightfully charming and brutally honest.
The presentation kicked off with the theatrical trailer that began the marketing campaign for the film. Now I had heard that Hanna was a special sort of flick, and the marketing wasn’t telling the full story. I understood this once we got our first look at a full scene. In the short scene, we see Hanna escaping the facility she’s being held captive in. The score from The Chemical Brothers is pulsing and we see Hanna, gun in hand, staring down a scientist in her way. The scientist acquiesces to her unspoken command to place himself into a locker, then we see Hanna pull the trigger on the gun. Without seeing the victim, we cut to a splash of blood on Hanna’s cold, stoic face as she makes her way forward.
We then see another scientist being thrown against the wall by something offscreen, before Hanna walks through the door and stares back at the stunned, and wounded, scientist. All of this footage was beautifully shot, with Wright taking an interesting and wholly original approach on shooting the action. There are some great long takes and surprising camera placements that give the audience a feeling of uncertainty and uneasiness.
The next scene we saw was a prolonged chase scene through a shipyard full of cargo crates. Ronan is being chased by two thugs and one of the film’s main antagonists, played by Tom Hollander. Wright pulls off a fantastic long-take using a steadicam, wherein we follow Hollander making his way through the crates below, with the camera periodically tilting upward at the precise moment to see Ronan’s character jumping across the current set of cargo crates. It really is a beautiful sequence, which culminates in a hand-to-hand combat scene between Hanna and two thugs, wherein she brutally dispatches them right in front of her dumbfounded travel companion she met on the road, a 16-year-old girl named Sophie played by Jessica Barden.
The panel that intersected and followed these two scenes was immensely insightful. Wright said that he came aboard the project after it was offered to Ronan and she insisted that he direct. Once he signed on, the film evolved into a “dark fairy tale” with European sensibilities that doesn’t quite take place in reality, but in a plane just above reality. He mentioned that the French New Wave and Italian cinema of the 70’s were large influences on the film, as well as Paul Greengrass’ Bourne films (though he noted that they purposefully tried not to imitate Greengrass’ style on Bourne, for fear of becoming another Bourne copycat film that didn’t stack up).
The central theme of the film, Wright noted, is innocence itself trying to survive in a harsher world. Hanna has been brought up completely cut off from society, so she’s void of any contamination from outside influences. Ronan commented that hearing music for the first time is a big deal for Hanna.
Wright said that he wanted the film to be layered, in that it can be enjoyed as an action/thriller, but also comments on social and gender issues, as well as metaphysical themes. It’s here that it seems the crux of the film lies. Wright commented on how modern feminism has been contaminated with filth. Reminiscing on the Spice Girls, Wright said he remembers hearing them proclaim “Girl Power” and thinking “that’s bullshit.” He gave a not-so-subtle nod to a certain film now in theaters that features posters with girls “kicking ass” while being sexualized and wearing bikinis. “And pigtails!” Ronan interjected. “Female empowerment is not about sex,” Wright proclaimed, and it’s clear that Hanna deals with these themes heavily.
Ronan said she hopes for more roles like Hanna that feature “interesting young women who leave an impression and force people to talk about these issues.” The character of Hanna encounters young Sophie in the film, whose mother is a “lost feminist.” Sophie is very much a “celebrity worshipping 16-year-old” and Wright’s idea was to put her and Hanna together and “confront these two worlds.”
While I was already sold on the premise and behind-the-scenes talent of the film, the Hanna presentation today only made me more excited to see it when it hits theaters. The footage looked great, with Wright making some very interesting directorial choices, specifically in regards to how he shot the film and staged the scenes. The music by The Chemical Brothers was also fantastic. Wright noted that they wrote some of the music before filming started, so they were actually playing the songs that end up in the finished film on-set while shooting some of the action sequences. Overall, I’d say Wright has a highly intriguing film on his hands, which seems to confront issues larger than “look at these explosions and gunfights.” I’m quite eager to check it out, and hope to see more movies made with this kind of passion and big ideas more often.
Hanna stars Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng. The film hits theaters April 8th.