Hannibal

Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta, Giancarlo Giannini, Frankie Faison.
MPAA Rating: R for strong gruesome violence, some nudity and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
February 10, 2001

The folks at MGM don't have a lot going for themselves right now. Their profitability these days depends on the thriving James Bond series, while most of their other product loses money. Now, they have resurrected a franchise that started exactly ten years ago -- with the release of The Silence of the Lambs -- by releasing a sure-fire hit sequel. The original film won all five top Academy Awards, but only star Anthony Hopkins among the winners has returned for Hannibal. Ridley Scott is the new director, Dino and Martha De Laurentiis are now producing, and Julianne Moore has taken the role that Jodie Foster refused to reprise. Thomas Harris' novel (the third in the series which started with Red Dragon -- which was filmed in 1986 as Manhunter) was adapted by David Mamet, and the screenplay was re-written by Steven Zaillian. Certainly no lesser talents than before, but somehow Hannibal has managed to go completely wrong.

Ten years after he escaped, Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter (Hopkins) is still on the loose. He's living in cognito in Florence, where he can take in the occasional opera without getting recognized. Back in America, Agent Clarice Starling (Moore) is still serving the FBI, but her career hit a snag after gunning down a woman that was carrying a baby. Never mind that the woman shot her and was involved in a major drug ring -- the Bureau can't take the negative public relations.

Her new assignment coincides with Lecter's re-entry into the Ten Most-Wanted Fugitives list. She interviews Mason Verger (Gary Oldman, who appears unbilled), a wealthy former patient of Dr. Lecter. Instead of counseling him for his pedophilia, Lecter charmed him into peeling his own face off with the shard of a broken mirror. Now, Verger wants revenge, and is offering a $3 million reward for Lecter's capture. In Florence, Detective Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) finally figures out the true identity of his friend "Dr. Fell", and decides to go for the money instead of assisting Agent Starling, who wants to bring him back to federal prison unharmed.

Aw, isn't she a sweetheart? In fact, it was this softened attitude of Starling toward Lecter that turned Foster away from Hannibal. I'm able to buy that aspect of the story, but a better reason for avoiding this sequel is that it's not any good. The heart of Silence lied in the conversations between the two characters, who don't even come face-to-face until the end of Hannibal. Before that point, the story is dull. After that point, it becomes disgusting.

I won't give away the ending, but I will say that it involved blood-thirsty boars and pan-fried human brains. My suggestion, if you must follow the crowds to this film, is to make sure you finish all of your refreshments before the two-hour mark. That is, if you're still awake at that point. Despite all the talent, Hannibal never gets off the ground and only punishes you with memories of the vastly superior predecessor.

Did Scott intentionally make this a bad film? Did he look at everything that was positive about Silence and make sure to exclude it? The quality of the film is sub-Roger Corman, even though it was incredibly expensive. It will make money, of course (I'm not about to underestimate its potential as I did with Scott's Gladiator), but I can't imagine that the millions who are going to flock to Hannibal are going to enjoy it. Even the ass-kissing Hollywood crowd at the premiere met it with puzzlement. It may end up being hugely profitable, but I feel confident in predicting that it's not going to sweep the Oscars next year.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Hannibal (2001)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Hannibal (2001) -- VHS
Hannibal (2001) -- DVD
Hannibal, a novel by Thomas Harris -- Hardcover
Hannibal, a novel by Thomas Harris -- Paperback
Hannibal, a novel by Thomas Harris -- Audio CD (abridged, read by the author)
Hannibal, a novel by Thomas Harris -- Audio Cassette (unabridged, read by Daniel Gerroll)
Hannibal: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack -- Compact Disc


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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan