At first glance, Amazon's new series, Hanna, seems like a prime candidate for binge-watching. Based on the 2011 film by Joe Wright about a teenage girl raised in the woods who finds out that she's actually the product of a secret super-soldier program, the premise is ripe for exploration in a serial format. But fans of the original film might be left wondering why series creator David Farr, a co-writer of the original screenplay, left out all the good stuff.
The new cast mostly outshines the principal leads of the film. In the titular role, newcomer Esme Creed-Miles, taking over from Saoirse Ronan, gets more time to explore the inner workings of a teenager who's been kept away from modernity for most of her life, inhabiting the role more fully. Joel Kinnaman (The Killing, Altered Carbon) fills in for Eric Bana as Erik Heller, Hanna's foster father who raises her in the woods and seeks to secure her safety by any means necessary. Kinnaman leans into the moral ambiguity of his character, being both villainous and paternal in the same scene. Kinnaman's former co-lead on The Killing, Mireille Enos, steps into the shoes of Cate Blanchett as the main antagonist, Marissa Wiegler, but even though Enos brings a humanity that Blanchett's performance eschewed, she can't make the role her own in the same way that Blanchett did.
Part of the reason that Enos doesn't live up to Blanchett is tied in with the other problems the show exhibits in its interpretation of Hanna. Wright's film was suffused with a fairytale-like otherworldliness. In the world of the film, Marissa is associated with the big, bad wolf or a wicked witch, both thematically and visually. In humanizing the character, the show loses a lot of what made the role memorable. Also gone are references to Hansel and Gretel, the Pied Piper, the Three Little Pigs and more.
The saving grace of the series is the amount of time devoted to Hanna's exploration of the "real world." While on the run, she makes friends with Sophie (Rhianne Barreto), a somewhat self-centered British teen (so just a normal teen, then) on holiday with her family. The two become fast friends, just as in the film, but Hanna is given more time to spend with Sophie and her family, seeing exactly what she's been missing – the good and the bad – by not having a "normal life." If the series is renewed, and it's a safe bet it will be, we expect to see more development of this relationship, and that's a good thing.
Though the series is stripped of several elements that made Hanna fun in the first place, what's left is a pretty decent European espionage chase plot mixed with some solid teen drama, something like The Bourne Identity meets Skins. It does succeed in expanding on the mythology of the show to create a viable future, and it'll be one worth keeping an eye on. But fans of the original are going to be left wondering how good it could have been.