My first impression of Hanna was that it was a modestly interesting re-skinning of the basic run-shoot-fight formula that we’ve seen done pretty well recently in The Bourne Identity and Haywire. I didn’t really find it all that thrilling or interesting, and I wasn’t going to comment on it at all, except that, at the 11th hour, someone asked me about how it interacted with my description of “Magic Realism”.
As you’ll recall from my introduction to Blancanieves, I think about magic realism as a kind of over-formalisation of story formula. I mean, the formula determines all aspects of the story, and that formula is lifted in part or whole from a fairy story. The lack of requirement for magic is a problem, because it means that “magic realism” is identical to “science realism” or, more pertinently, “detective realism”. After all, haven’t I spent a huge amount of time describing how all events inside a detective fiction are determined by the formula instead of “natural” forces?
As we’ve also discussed, a lot of so-called detective fiction borrows the iconography of detection, without the formula. My go-to example for this is still Bladerunner – Rachel is the “femme fatale” because of her look, not because of her story function. Deckard does precious little actual detecting. And so on. I expect that the same is true of “Science Realism” or “Magic Realism”. In particular, there is an awful lot of “Science Fiction” about that has little to do with any kind of speculation.
Which leads me to Hanna, a fun little exercise in a highly skilled sociopath killing numbers of less skilled sociopaths, all kind of at the beck and call of better paid sociopaths. Everything that happens in the film is in line with the pattern we can see in the genre generally. There are moments where it looks like it might break pattern – but it’s strictly by-the-numbers.
How, then, am I being asked about the interaction with my definition of magic realism – what’s the allegory? In this case, it’s the iconography generating the question, something usually a little outside my formalist interests. You see, Hanna is a charming princess, her father the rugged woodsman-cum-king, and she is sought by the Evil Stepmother. If we try and think about it in magic realism terms, we will be finding Hanna’s strengths as the inverse of the usual helplessness of the female “protagonist”. Which makes it rather a version of “Buffy Realism” than straight forward “magic realism”.
All of which makes Hanna a modestly interesting action thriller.