Ten years ago Hannibal the Cannibal left the big screen with the menacing words, "I'm having an old friend for dinner." Ten years ago Silence of the Lambs, the only movie to sweep the Oscars for such prestigious awards as Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapated Screenplay, left the idea of a sequel wide open. And finally, in 2001, Hannibal has returned to the big screen, along with Clarice Starling.
Starling is now a diehard veteran. She knows what she's doing, and she's no longer as hesitant as she was in Lambs. She is also up for review after a bloody shootout. At the same time, millionaire Mason Verger, who's face has been eaten from his face and his body crippled, is still looking for the serial killer that inflicted that pain upon him, and he has just gotten a lead. A detective in Florence has begin to suspect that a man he knows is the legendary Hannibal Lecter. Unfortunately, Hannibal knows that as well...
So is the plot of Hannibal, where the gruesome serial killer is not the villain as much as the bloodthirsty victim, who wants revenge for good reason. Stuck in the middle is Clarice Starling, who is torn in a way, for while she must do her job and wants Hannibal put behind bars once again, she also has an emotional attachment to the man that befriended her and helped thrust her into the spotlight before she was even a full pledged agent.
Director Ridley Scott, who astounded everyone with last year's epic Gladiator, has created a beautiful looking film that is completely different from its predecessor. The scenery of Florence reflects his interest in Italian architecture, and the city also fits the sophisticated character of Hannibal. He follows the book as closely as he can, keeping most of the plot intact.
Unfortunately, he follows the book as closely as he can, keeping most of the plot intact. Anyone who has talked with me in the last couple of days knows that I consider Thomas Harris' third Hannibal novel to be one of the worst books I have ever read. The plot isn't even comparable to that of Lambs, the characters nowhere as elaborate, and the overall feel isn't anything close to as interesting as Lambs was. It's as if Harris, annoyed by the pressure of millions of fan, said "Screw it" and pooped out a hastily done piece of crap.
As mentioned early, the movie keeps mainly in line with the book, which some people will like, but some won't. There were a lot of unhappy people when Hannibal the novel came out, and if they see this movie, which they surely will, they will be disappointed. If you liked the book, you will probably like the movie. The movie is good up until the point where Hannibal leaves Florence, and then it just spirals downhill, just like the book. Hannibal turns into the protagonist as he becomes the victim of Verger's diabolical scheme to feed him to man-eating pigs, and Starling is forced to save him.
For both the book and the movie, I would have liked to have seen Hannibal come out of retirement and play with Starling's mind as she tries to capture him, and maybe tone down Verger's role quite a bit. Maybe Harris's way is a little more original, but original isn't always better.
Although, in a way, Hannibal plays like any other serial killer movie, almost too much. Hannibal doesn't satisfy his appetite once during the film; instead, he kills people through a variety of ways, but never with his teeth (although the nurse-eating scene is shockingly scary).
As acting goes, it is there, but without a good story to back it up, we really can't see how good the performances are. Julianne Moore takes over Jodie Foster's role as Clarice Starling, and she nails the role perfectly, and with a sexier physique (the movie strangely plays off of that, too, especially towards the end). The only downside is that it just isn't the same with Foster there, and it would have been nice to see her expression when she first reunites with her old 'friend.'
Hopkins, who, of course, played Hannibal in Lambs, is just as dark, smart, and crazy as in the original, but this time we know what to expect and the result is that his performance isn't quite as thrilling. Furthermore, the movie only seems to take him half-seriously, playing off his character like a pop-figure (which he is), and filling him with intelligent but equally over-the-top lines that would seem clichéd if they came from any other person. I like him in this movie, but Hopkins' isn't even comparable to what he was like behind the glass.
Now comes the ending. Anyone who has read the book knows that the ending is tragically horrid, and so the movie's ending has been changed. Unfortunately, it is hardly better than the book's conclusion. People reading this review should take this paragraph's beginning as a hint to stop reading to avoid spoilers... The movie's conclusion is grisly to say the least, which pulls a good reaction from the audience (squeamish), but isn't exactly exciting. More stuff needed to come after this scene to make Hannibal a little more thrilling (remember the suspenseful conclusion to Lambs?), but there is none. This movie is about inconclusive as they come, and, honestly, I don't want to see another sequel.
Ridley Scott did the best job he could do with Hannibal, consider the horrible position he was left in with Harris' novel, and I commend him on that. Unfortunately, due to Harris' plot, Hannibal has nothing classic about it, as Silence of the Lambs did. Hannibal plays more like a cheesy horror sequel than a drama, and the result leaves little to be desired for. The film isn't bad considering how bad the novel is, but to make a successful sequel to Lambs, Harris' novel needed to be scrapped altogether.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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