Movie Name: Hannibal
Studio: Dino De Laurentiis Company
Release Date(s): February 9, 2001
MPAA Rating: R
After being blamed for a failed sting, Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) finds herself called upon by Mason Verger (Gary Oldman) to help him hunt Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Verger was manipulated into self-mutilation by Lecter and has plans for the good doctor, but with Clarice as his bait, Hannibal might not be able to avoid Verger’s trap. Clarice must choose sides if she hopes to both capture Lecter and save her career…or the “friendship” with Lecter could be her undoing!
Directed by Ridley Scott, Hannibal adapts the 1999 novel by Thomas Harris. A follow-up to The Silence of the Lambs from 1990, the movie faced massive production struggles. The movie received mixed reviews but was a strong box office draw.
The Silence of the Lambs is one of my top movies. It probably doesn’t breach top ten, but top twenty is likely. The film was smart, twisting, and explored extremely dark reaches of humanity…you believed that the characters could exist (and that was terrifying). In Hannibal, horror gives way to almost comedic super-villains that upset the balance of the film.
The movie’s plot is awful, and surprisingly, it did clean up the book which was even worse. The movie meanders for a long time pacing-wise, but that really isn’t the movie’s problem. It decided to take the realism of The Silence of the Lambs and inject it with a goofy supervillain straight out of a comic book wielding a pack of man-eating wild boars. Buffalo Bill was scary…Mason Verger is just stupid. It combines this with gross storytelling and the destruction of a great, strong female character (at least it does get rid of Verger’s mannish sister and the ending which sees Clarice running off with Lecter).
Anthony Hopkins ate up The Silence of the Lambs, but he too has become a cartoon with catch phrases and clever quips. He’s almost a supporting character in The Silence of the Lambs and that works better. Jodie Foster turned down the opportunity to return and the Julianne Moore steps in as Clarice. She’s not awful (she’s not Foster), but the script and the character are wasted. Ray Liotta always plays slimy, but he too is over-the-top. Regardless if his character is weak, I do like Gary Oldman’s unrecognizable portrayal of Mason Verger.
The movie also lacks the grittiness of The Silence of the Lambs. The visuals are flashier and more “blockbuster” than the low key predecessor. Ridley Scott likes to make flash movies, and Hannibal and his compadres worked better without the flash.
Hannibal cannot help but be compared to The Silence of the Lambs, but I think The Silence of the Lambs actually elevated what was a bad movie to an “ok” movie in the eyes of many who liked the original and didn’t want Hannibal to be bad. As a stand-alone movie, Hannibal really looks poor and wouldn’t have led to any sequels I doubt…but fortunately for Hannibal, it wasn’t the first nor the last. Hopkins returned as Hannibal in the prequel (remake) Red Dragon in 2002 which worked better than this film.