The bottom line on Hannibal to me is, if it wasn't Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, this would just be another run-of-the-mill thriller. The fact that it is the continuation of one of the greatest films of all time certainly lends it a special place in movie history, but standing by itself, it isn't all that wonderful.
Hannibal picks up 10 years after the end of The Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is now living in Italy under an assumed name. Clarice (Julianne Moore in the role originated by Jodie Foster) is still working for the F.B.I. but as the movie starts, she leads a botched raid on a drug dealer that leaves her under a cloud of suspicion. At the same time, Mason Verger (an unrecognizable Gary Oldman), one of Lecter's victims, has been trying to hunt Lecter down himself, to exact revenge on the man who crippled him. Meanwhile in Florence, a local police detective (Giancarlo Giannini), is also trying to nail Lecter, for a $3 million reward. All of these stories intersect at different places, with people dying left and right, and an ending that is as gruesome as any ever seen on film.
Julianne Moore does a credible job filling in for Jodie Foster. Her version of Clarice has less of an accent, but is still the hard nosed agent she was in the original. And personally while I Jodie Foster is easily my favorite actress of all time, I find Moore a lot more attractive. Hannibal on the other hand is much more violent, which is to be expected since he was in jail for most of the last film. Here he does some extremely sick things, that someone with a bloodlust might enjoy (such as myself) but others might find a little too disgusting. I had a couple people in my theater walk out at a couple of scenes, and there were more than a few "ughs" and "eews" during the movie. Gary Oldman does a great job as the facially challenged Verger. He looks and acts exactly like I pictured he would when I read the book.
Speaking of the book, if you've read it, the movie is pretty faithful to the novel. The only differences are a couple characters aren't in the movie (like Verger's sister isn't in it at all), and the relationship between Lecter and Starling is somewhat different. But the scenes from the book are all pretty much in the film. It was hard watching this movie and not thinking of the book, and not thinking of the original film. I personally thought the book was one of the most disappointing things I had ever read. And while the movie turned out better than I expected, since I wasn't expecting a whole lot, that isn't saying much.
The movie jumped around too much. There were too many story lines that kept going back and forth. In the original movie, it was Clarice and Lecter going head to head. They played mind games with each other, they fed off each other. It was exciting just watching them talk. In Hannibal, there was very little interaction between the two. Clarice was either by herself, or fighting her own department. Lecter was over in Italy battling against the police detective. Verger kept popping in and out but didn't play a huge role. The one thing about a book is that you can make it as long as you want. That way you can fully investigate every character and allow the reader to get to know them. In the book there was more about Verger and his obsession with Lecter. There was more about Lecter and his dealings with the police. There was more with Clarice and her fall from grace. In a movie, there are time and story constraints. There's no way they could have made a 4 hour film, so certain things had to go. And in doing so, some of the characters became two dimensional.
I would have preferred to have seen more interaction between Lecter and Clarice. They are the heart and soul of this story and should do more than talk on the phone. If you take out the fact that this is a sequel, and just stick in two other characters, you have a pretty standard movie dealing with the hunt for a serial killer by a disgraced cop. So why not take the goodwill people have towards these two beloved characters and use that to your advantage? The screenwriters for this movie were David Mamet and Steve Zaillian, two of the most highly respected writers in the business. Granted they had to work within the confines of Thomas Harris' novel, but they could have concentrated more on bringing out the characters than giving Lecter deep introspective things to say. Director Ridley Scott takes a different tact with this movie than Jonathan Demme did with the original, choosing to go with violence over psychological thrills. Again, Scott was somewhat tied having to follow the novel, but a director does have some ability to change the feel of the movie and I think Scott probably wasn't the right guy to do this movie. Off the top of my head I think other than Demme coming back I would have liked to have seen Sam Raimi direct.
The Silence of the Lambs is easily one of my personal all time favorites. It was a chilling psychological thriller that had two great actors battling it out on screen using words and thoughts over action. Hannibal has equally great actors, none of whom share the screen as much as they should. There was a lot more violence in this movie, and much of it horrific and just plain nasty. The movie didn't have the same feel or the same edge to it that The Silence of the Lambs had. On it's own, Hannibal was just a so-so film. A movie that had the potential to be a great film, worthy of its status as a sequel to one of the all time great movies. But in the end, it came up short. So overall I think Hannibal is probably worth a see if you're a fan of the original, but don't go in thinking it'll be the same quality because it's not.
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