Film Review: Red Dragon

So for one final time I sat down for a evening in the company of Hannibal Lecter. I must start by admitting that normally I wouldn’t have bothered with Red Dragon. I only have it to watch because the Hannibal Lecter Trilogy box set was better value for money than buying Silence of the Lambs on its own. One of those supermarket type specials: per unit the deal is better but actually you spend money on items you don’t really want or need. But hey, it’s was more films to watch, and as a trilogy makes arguable sense.

However, it’s a strange trilogy because it essentially goes in the wrong order. The books by Thomas Harris on which everything is based are ordered: Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and yet the filmed Red Dragon not first, but rather last. And as a result, you end up with a collection of movies that feel out of place. I think the problem is that I’m not sure it was ever really intended to be a trilogy. I get the sense that the success of Silence of the Lambs and the divisive response to the release of the Hannibal novel drove the production of the second film; but as it was so poor they made the third to attempt to bring life back to the Hannibal Lecter franchise.

The problem for me though, is that it just hasn’t worked. The tone of the movie is just totally wrong. The foundations of the plot the movie is built on is nothing new. In fact they are so close to Silence of the Lambs that you could be forgiven for thinking this wasn’t a separate film but rather a remake. It’s ok to borrow ideas and explanations from time to time, but this just feels like a full blown plagiarism. It is almost as if Silence of the Lambs was so successful and Hannibal such a failure, that as a way of an apology for dropping the ball, they are returning to the formula that worked so well, but they’ve forgotten the joke is only ever funny the first time you hear it.

And that’s such a shame because when the movie first started I was actually quite excited by the prospect of a film closer to Silence of the Lambs. The opening sequences involving the collaboration, the capture and the incarceration of Hannibal Lecter. The return to a central character away from Lecter, the return to the cerebral tricks and twists that made Silence of the Lambs so chilling, Red Dragon looked as though it might be a true return to form, like it really had potential. But then it just ticked along forgetting to bring anything else new. It sets you up, it teases you, and then it slaps you across the face and walks away.

And as if to add insult to injury, because it’s shot out of sequence and time with the events it portrays, it spends far too long introducing characters and ideas that are crucial to tying the trilogy together but completely lost on anybody watching this film before the others. I almost understand what it is trying to do because there are acts and instances from both Silence of the Lamb and Hannibal which Red Dragon attempts to expand on; or rather Red Dragon brought to life on paper before the follow ups made reference to, but when you film things out of order that becomes lost and disjointed. As a result, you end up in a situation whereby it cannot stand on its own two feet. There are too many points at which you need to understand what has gone on before, who the characters are and where they fit into the overall story for large portions of the film to make sense.

And when you add all this up, you just end up with a large mess. On the one hand you’ve got a film that just feels like a rebranding of former glories attempting to expand on the sub plots of it’s younger siblings while the whole time skipping gently along forgetting to draw you in, or develop as a film. Silence of the Lambs set the bar so high that you can understand why it’s so hard to attain, but where Hannibal was just ill thought out and poorly executed, Red Dragon just feels cheap and pointless.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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