Fifteen minutes into director Joe Wright's new film, Hanna, I was thinking about last year's superhero comedy Kick-Ass, fairy tales, philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's theories of education and child-development explored in Emile, or On Education, and mythologist Joseph Campbell's outline of the 'hero's journey.' Heady stuff considering Hanna is an action film about a teenage assassin.
2010's film Kick-Ass was perfect summer fare. Based on the comic book of the same name, the main character is a normal teenager who dons a costume and mask and attempts to become a superhero. As his alter ego 'Kick-Ass' he meets up with a masked 11-year-old named 'Hit-Girl' who shows him the ways of street fighting sans superpowers.
Hanna has been raised in isolation in a remote forest by her assassin father, Erik. He sees to her combat training, reads to her from the encyclopedia and drills her in multiple languages. Her mother was killed when she was still a toddler and the threat looms large that the killers will find them soon. Hanna is still young, but insists she is ready to see the world despite her father's warning of imminent danger.
When Erik and Hanna part ways, she is pursued relentlessly by Erik's former colleague, the ruthless and cunning Marissa. While on the run, Hanna meets Sophie, a teen traveling with her Bohemian parents who accept her as a typical scruffy hitchhiker; over time she reveals she is so much more.
In fairy tales, the hero or heroine is often without one or both of their parents. This not only allows for certain adventurous freedom, but a character that has endured hardship instills immediate sympathy and support. Joseph Campbell identified the pattern that exists in myth and storytelling with regard to the archetypal 'hero' noting: the call to adventure, the meeting with the mentor, the crossing of the threshold, the tests and challenges, the ordeal, the reward and the road back. You can easily see the template fit a broad range of characters from Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, to Bruce Wayne in Batman, to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars and now with fewer bells and whistles, Hanna.
Hanna avoids the trappings of adolescent fare: this is not a coming of age story, or budding first love and there is no video game tie-in. But there is still much to see and mull over.