Hannibal (2001)

8 May

Hannibal

Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

You know that old saying, “Less is more?” That was certainly true of “The Silence of the Lambs,” which implied heavy violence while actually showing the aftermath so that we, as an audience, can picture what it must have been like. It maintained a terrific amount of psychological tension that way. It would be a mistake to show in graphic blood-and-gore details and lose the psychological terror of the situations. I say this because 10 years after “The Silence of the Lambs” was released, “Hannibal” would come around and also turn things around. It shows more; it delivers more blood and gore. It seems as if a majority of the film’s budget went into how the filmmakers were going to gross people out. So much for psychological terror.

“Hannibal” is the sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs,” both films based on novels by Thomas Harris. Director Jonathan Demme has not returned this time around, and instead has been replaced by Ridley Scott. And also, Jodie Foster, whose portrayal of heroine Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs” won her a richly-deserved Academy Award, has decided not to return to the role this time. Instead, she’s replaced with Julianne Moore. But we still have Anthony Hopkins back in the iconic villainous role of cannibalistic serial killer/former psychiatrist Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. But even his psychotic charisma isn’t enough to save “Hannibal,” which is a big step down from what made “The Silence of the Lambs” special.

This is not the gripping psychological thriller it would like us to believe. We see everything that would have been implied in the original film in graphic detail, just because Scott feels the need to shock his audience. We have a man cutting off his face (and then feeding it to his dogs); we have men being eaten alive by numerous boars; and there’s also a scene in which a man has his skull cut open, exposing his brain and having Lecter cut out a part of it, sauté it, and then feed it to the man, who is still alive.

While Clarice Starling was a complex center of the original story, Clarice this time around is hardly anything more than a plot device. She is brushed aside to make room for running time with Lecter, who is really the center of “Hannibal” (going by the title, that should be obvious). The intricate characterization of Clarice Starling is practically nonexistent here. The relationship between Lecter and Clarice (the most captivating part of the original film) is barely here, as the two only have a few scenes together. And even then, when they have their final encounter in the climax, it’s more disappointing than it is compelling. I give Julianne Moore credit for doing what she can with the role, but she’s given much of interest to do. (Besides, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Jodie Foster in the role anyway.)

Hopkins’ creepiness factor that came with the character of Hannibal Lecter has been toned down for “Hannibal,” which also seems like a disadvantage. While it does make Lecter more of an anti-hero than a full-fledged villain this time around, it’s not exactly what we like to see from the character. Oh, he still commits horrible crimes in this one, but there’s never a sense that we wish he would get caught, which itself makes it kind of sick in a way.

And here’s a question—even though Lecter’s disappearance and the search for him has become so notorious that his stuff is selling on eBay, Lecter has somehow managed to create a false identity among society in Florence; how is it that only one person seems to notice who he is?

Other characters include—hateful politician Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta) who is constantly on Clarice’s case; Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) is that aforementioned person to see through Lecter’s phony identity, as he attempts to capture him for the reward money; and there’s also one of Lecter’s previous victims, an attorney named Mason Verger (Gary Oldman, uncredited) whose face is horribly disfigured since his encounter with Lecter and is more ruthless than Clarice suspected when he put her on the case for a new lead in the search for Lecter. Neither one of these characters reach three-dimensionality; though to be fair, Merger comes somewhat close, but not quite enough.

But what about Scott? How does he fare as the director this time around? Well, being a Ridley Scott film, “Hannibal” is laced with atmosphere and inventive shots, and I suppose I can give him credit for being able to pull off what probably couldn’t have been filmed by many other filmmakers (the brain-eating scene, for example). One thing “Hannibal” that is undeniable is that it’s stylistic.

“Hannibal” is clumsy, ordinary, unnecessary, and worst of all, it’s anticlimactic. After so much buildup waiting for Lecter and Clarice to square down, we’re subjected to a “climax” (if you would even call it that) that is so disappointing that it’s hardly worth talking about. Something terrific could have been made here; as it is, it’s pretty much disposable.

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