Film Review: Hannibal

A few weeks ago I watched and reviewed The Silence of the Lambs, and having purchased “the trilogy” box set, thought it was about time that I reacquainted myself with Hannibal Lecter and so, tonight saw me settle in to watch “Hannibal“.

Silence of the Lambs introduced us to Lecter and his genius but he was always used as the mystery, the enigma. Part of the almost charm, of Silence of the Lambs, the reason it psychologically messes with you as much as it does is that it brilliantly lets Lecter infiltrate your mind and uses him to lead you through the film in the direction it wants you to go. And so, a sequel aimed more toward Lecter makes perfect sense – Silence of the Lambs left you wanting to know more and Hannibal was created to answer those questions.

And yet somehow they have managed to just completely miss the target totally. Hannibal shouldn’t have been the difficult second album as the subject matter, in theory and as a point to start with, was so good, but they just mess it all up. It’s almost as if they forgot that Silence of the Lambs had ever existed. Now I understand that they want this film to stand on its own two feet. You don’t appeal to the widest possible audience by forcing them to watch a previous movie to understand what’s going on – in fact, I saw Hannibal before I ever saw Silence of the Lambs – but they have almost gone too far, Hannibal Lecter just doesn’t even remotely feel like the same character.

In Hannibal he doesn’t come across as the genius he’s meant to be. He just appears and acts as nothing more than a violent nutter. For want of a more eloquent turn of phrase. Gone are the games, gone is the sense of cerebral warfare and manipulation that made Lecter such a scary character and in its place we get left with 2 hours of a man charging around the world killing people.

They have forgotten Lecter doesn’t kill you. He doesn’t just walk up to you in the street and rip your genitals off, he messes with your mind, he twists you view on the world, he makes you believe his logic emphatically. And then tells you to rip your genitals off. And, there is 1 fleeting moment within the film when they remember this, and it’s arguably the moment of clarity this film deserved more of.

The other major problem with this film is it’s direction. Ridley Scott has shot it in a style that seems to jump styles regularly. Long, slow panning shots are followed by staccato style cuts that jump across a scene. It’s just never fits together. It never feels connected and you almost start to wonder whether two different people have put it together. The film also cramped. It feels like that they’ve tried to fit so much into the plot and pace the film at such a speed that you never truly get to stop and take stock of anything. The film isn’t fast, there is just too much going on. Whether it’s trying to be too true to Thomas Harris’ novel I don’t know, but there are parts of the film that you feel could easily be cut and replaced with a more in depth look into the characters. You long for the film to give you that chance to let Lecter into your mind and it sadly, never does. It goes to the Opera instead.

And you cannot talk about Hannibal without mentioning the violence. It’s an 18 for a reason, but it’s also violent on occasions purely for the sake of being violent. I actually wonder whether they made a conscious decision that in Hannibal they wouldn’t play with you mentally instead aiming to just shock you through gratuitous gore? After all, it is widely reported that Jodie Foster refused to reprise her role as Clarice Starling (for which she won an Academy Award) because of the amount of violence – need I say more.

There is no question, that if you’ve never met Hannibal Lecter, and you want a gory, violent horror film Hannibal is capable of standing on its own without problem and will leave you entertained. But, if you’ve ever seen Silence of the Lambs, you’ll quickly realise that Hannibal is nothing more than a poor imitation of former glories.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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