Apr 7, 2011

I Guess... "Hanna"

Ahead of time, I would like to apologize for not doing a column of I Guess last week. My busy schedule thwarted me from getting you some juicy opinions on Source Code, which you should check out either way.

This week, I'm going to take a look at the new movie by director Joe Wright called Hanna. It stars Saorise Ronan as the titular character who is raised by Erik (Eric Bana) in the outskirts of town to be a rough, rogue fighter. The trailer gives me the impression of a younger version of Batman Begins' opening segment between Bruce Wayne and Ra's Al Ghoul.
However, that also didn't stop me from just being overly interested in this movie since I saw the trailer for the first time back in January. Just like when Scott Pilgrim vs. the World trailer hit the web, I saw this and immediately got the impression that it was something different, exciting, and original.
Unlike Scott Pilgrim, I didn't follow it's press, only popping in every few weeks to see if something cool had happened. In truth, it was mostly all in the trailers for me. Unlike with Sucker Punch earlier this year, the trailers kept getting better and I was more excited to see it.

The reasons are quite simple.
The notable one is that over the past few years, I've required myself to watch several movies outside of my personal interest banks. Of them all, they included the Lovely Bones and Atonement. While I have gone on record as hating the former because director Peter Jackson went CGI crazy, choosing to spend most of his money on gazebos instead of plot, there has been one thing that has stood out for me.
Lead actress Saoirse Ronan. While she is fairly young (how is she just 16?), I have admired her screen presence. She may not be on the radar as much as Mia Wasikowska (another young name I'm keeping an eye on), but in her short career, she has gotten an Oscar nomination for her turn in Atonement. I totally agree with that.
From this trailer alone, I'm getting the impression that this will either be her breakout role, or the one that will define the rest of her career to the general public. If she owned the screen playing primmed and proper, imagine this wild beast performance. I am leery to know if she can pull it off, but at 16, I am willing to just commend her on choosing roles that aren't normal, or are reserved for either really terrible conspiracy plots (Salt) or pure sexist psychobabble (Sucker Punch).
There is no doubt people have already compared the manipulated, violent youth concept to the stylized brilliance of Kick-Ass' Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz). It has yet to be seen if she'll do cartwheels to the "Banana in Pajamas" song, but from the looks of it, the characters are nothing alike. I don't think Ronan will be cursing and referencing gun models the whole show, nor do I think there will be as big of daddy issues.
My worry is that in her young career, this could possibly define her the same way Moretz, two movies later, is still Hit Girl, and Ellen Page, four years later, is still Juno MacGuff. While it's an accomplishment to make such a lasting character, it's kind of sad that some people can't accept their later work, like Let Me In or Super.
So, if this turns out to be a success, I'm sure this may pigeonhole her, even though I will continue to love her work for years to come.

Also, the director, Joe Wright, is kind of on my good list. Of all of his work, I have seen the Soloist and Atonement (another good sign, because if Wright can believe in Ronan for another movie, surely she has something to show us). To say the least, I was a sucker for the Soloist in that it created a safe melodrama that embraced everything about the passion for music and not letting mental disorders and poverty conditions in Los Angeles get you down. Maybe I like that movie a little much, but I do believe Jamie Foxx deserved an Oscar nomination.
This is his follow-up to the Soloist, and like every director before, if I enjoyed that one, I'm willing to give the next one a try, no matter how much of a departure it appears to be.

I do feel that this is somewhat of a departure stylistically. True, it's not very stylized looking in terms of violence, but the concept of Wright doing action seems a little far fetched. Even though Atonement was good, I didn't come away from that movie in love with the battle scenes (albeit brief and lacking real need for choreography). I also doubt Pride & Prejudice relied heavily on violence, either. So this feels like new ground.
The one thing that works in all of this is that there is possibly some rich character development that is his strong suit and if the action fails to be inspired, I am willing to assume Hanna's relationship with her father will be deep, and essentially carry this movie to whatever dramatic conclusions it sees fit.
While I am doubting the action sequences will be great, I think the characters will be rich enough to carry whatever peril's impact to heights that a simple knife stab wouldn't. However, I feel that since this is an escape from the C.I.A. story, there will be plenty of action, so I'm thinking there will be muddled results.

This won't be Wright's fault entirely. He just doesn't know how to shoot action sequences. However, I'm sure Ronan will carry herself well enough to make these small flaws somewhat unnoticed. I'm really guessing that's why he hired Ronan in the first place.

Despite all of this interesting story and casting, I think the thing that will stand the biggest test of time is the soundtrack. Not being a die hard Chemical Brothers fan, I was surprised that I took so quickly to their score. I heard it throughout that trailer and checked it out when it came available.
Somehow, the music already works on it's own. It's got this child like sense of instrumentation with violins and typical espionage thrills mixed in. I feel intense just listening to it, and at times it makes me want to party. In my head, I picture the scenes that they will score, though I doubt they will be as good as my head.
But the score is really worth checking out, even if you don't see the movie. I feel that it will surpass Daft Punk's TRON: Legacy and join the ranks of modern iconic scores, such as the Dust Brothers' Fight Club or Johnny Greenwood's There Will Be Blood. It has it's own personality, which has made those other scores so memorable.

I'm thinking that while this movie has a lot of great elements and casting choices, it will not be as great as any of those involved. I am guessing that it will be pretty good, if above average for a movie released in April, but it will not be one of the greatest movies of the year. The Hit Girl comparisons will die down real quick, but this will probably not be seen as more than an entertaining action movie to most.
I personally hope it's as entertaining for me. Even if I don't believe it's as gripping as it should be, I will hope that Ronan does a great job. I believe that the movie doesn't stand a chance without her. This movie will get her higher recognition (though not quite breakout status... just recognition from movie nerds) and two or three movies down the line, she will get that lead actress break she deserves, even if she seems fit to be an independent movie darling.

As for box office? I'm guessing that it will make around it's budget, and possibly a couple million over it, making it a moderate success in the domestic box office. World wide may make it a full success, but few will really like it because it's too different from modern Hollywood.
Critics will be mixed, choosing to either really like it, or kind of hate it because of Wright's inability to do action scenes at a thrilling pace. The soundtrack, however, will be a highlight in all of the reviews.
Those who do like it, and I really think that's movie nerds, will also recognize the movie's successes over it's failures and it will gain some following. True, the accents may be mocked whenever referenced, but if accents is the worst part of the movie, then we're in for a treat. I also believe it may do better on DVD/Blu Ray sales.
And I'm feeling that this role will define Ronan for a few years, just simply because it's a violent youth, and we don't see too many well written versions of them these days. Like Page and Moretz before her, this may not necessarily be her best, but it will open doors.

So, I'm expecting a moderate success, a great lead performance, and a terrific use of a soundtrack, even though it may be lacking true elements to make it a great movie.

Of course, this is just what I guess...

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