We seem to be in a weird era in terms of the depictions of female empowerment. Instead of simply showing strong, secure women who are comfortable in the choices they’ve made for their lives (be they in the business world or as part of a family) the predominant way this idea has been represented in popular culture of late is to show them kicking someone’s butt. This started, in some respect with “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” but even while that show was about doling out the violence it was also about a young woman coming to terms with the responsibilities thrust upon her by life more than her becoming the perfect killing machine.
And that’s exactly what the title character in the new movie Hanna seems to be. Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has been raised in the Finland wilderness by her father Erik (Eric Bana) who’s on the run from his former life in the CIA. Though only in her early teens she’s been honed her entire life by him to become an even more lethal killing machine than he is. Then one day it’s time for her to complete the mission she’s been training for and so is purposely captured by the CIA. With her ultimate goal being reaching Marissa Winger (Cate Blanchett), another CIA agent who has secrets relating to Erik and therefore important to him and Hanna.
The movie’s first poster is raw and more than a little enigmatic, featuring just an image of a young girl’s face that’s largely obscured by the protective clothing she’s wearing. I can’t quite tell whether she’s hiding behind something drawing a bow and arrow, but either way it’s clear this is one intense character. Just how rough and intense she is is emphasized by the “Adapt or die” copy that’s on the one-sheet and which is designed to give the audience an insight into not just the character’s personality but also her surroundings and upbringing.
The poster gives prominent placement not only to director Wright’s name but also to the fact that the soundtrack is coming from The Chemical Brothers so apparently that fact is going to be a big draw for potential audiences.
The second poster takes us out of the arctic setting a bit and instead shows Hanna, still in close-up, as more of a Nikita type of character, with a scratch on her cheek and a gun n her hands. The copy here is meant to play up the contrasts in the character’s appearance and her capabilities. The design comes off a little like a promotional image for a show on The WB but that might actually be what the creators are going for here.
The trailer opens with a father informing a young girl, who’s carving up a deer in the arctic, that she’s dead. We see this is part of the training she’s being put through to become a deadly survivalist. She flips a switch that alerts a government agency of their location and is captured on purpose to try and get to the agent in charge, eventually escaping with that agent and everyone else after her.
It’s a pretty cool trailer that has a lot of mystery to it, laying out something that’s on the one hand a simple chase movie and on the other hand something much weirder. It works because we immediately care about the main character and are therefore invested in all the little twists and turns that the plot seems to take.
As is usual with releases from Focus, the emphasis on the official website is on content. At the top of the page is an invitation to watch the trailer but then things get more substantive.
“Story” has a long and detailed Synopsis of the film’s story that pretty clearly outlines what audiences can expect in the story without, it seems, giving away any potential third act spoilers that are going to make things interesting. “Cast & Crew” gives you more details on the backgrounds of the people involved in making the movie from either side of the camera.
You’ll find the Trailer, a whole bunch of TV spots, some extended Clips and even a couple of Featurettes and behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the movie. There are about 15 stills from the movie and a few from its making in the “Photos” section.
Where things get in-depth is in the “In Depth” area of course. There you can read a bunch of feature-length stories about the movie’s predecessors in the “hinder kicking girls” genre, interviews with the director and more. This level of content creation is really where this studio excels and it’s fun to see what they produce for each movie they put out.
There are also links on the site to download the movie’s soundtrack, get the Hanna iPad app or grab a ringtone that uses one of the soundtrack’s songs.
The movie’s Facebook page has updates on the cast and crew’s promotional activities as well as photos, videos and information on the soundtrack and more.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Plenty of TV advertising was done that emphasized the action aspects of the story since the actual plot is fairly complex and full of actual character motivations that are hard to cram into a 30 second spot. So the spots are full of fast cuts and lots of people being hit in the head very hard by a young girl, with just enough hints of the story to make it seem kind of interesting to those who like more than just violence. There were some that were more cerebral or which de-emphasized the hurting that was inflicted but mostly this is just about showing people being beat up by a little girl.
Media and Publicity
There was surprisingly little press for the movie outside of mentions of the marketing materials and such. A panel promoting the film was held at WonderCon (Hollywood Reporter, 3/31/11), the smaller-scale event that is put on by the same organization that holds Comic-Con, but that was just a week or so before the film’s release and not quite early enough to seriously change minds. The director even took the opportunity presented by his appearance at WonderCon to get in a dig at Sucker Punch, which opened just a couple weeks prior, as being overly objectifying, something that a lot of commentators misread as being feminist or empowering but which Wright just felt was sexist.
Wright was also the focus of this story (New York Times, 4/3/11) about how such an action/adventure type of story is well outside his usual thematic stomping grounds but how it afforded him the opportunity to tell an original story for a change and dabble in some different styles of filmmaking.
It’s not a bad campaign but, as Wright was more or less alluding to at WonderCon, it’s invariably going to be compared to other movies that also featured “female empowerment” themes that were focused around turning them into killing machines. That’s why I’m interested in how even in the pretty basic TV commercials, the focus seemed to be in positioning this movie as more of a thinking-man’s thriller that’s akin in some ways to the Bourne movies than the craptastic visual excesses of something like Sucker Punch.
Of course while I think the campaign is all the more interesting for at least trying to be interesting, it will probably suffer by not consistently playing to the lowest common denominator of the audience. But it works in what I think it’s trying to do and has actually, the more I’ve dug into the marketing, made me more interesting in seeing the flick. So that’s a win, right?
PICKING UP THE SPARE
- 04/22/11 – An artist has posted the poster design concepts he created for the movie but which, obviously, went unused.