Following the commercial and critical success of The Silence of the Lambs, it is surprising that the sequel Hannibal took a decade to come to the big screen. With original director Jonathan Demme and lead star Jodie Foster both gone, in step Ridley Scott and Julianne Moore, who on paper are more than capable. Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal, on which the film is based was a critical failure of the highest order, which lead to fear that the film version would suffer too. Commercially it was a success returning over $350m from a budget of $87m.
FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) is unfairly blamed for a bungled drugs operation. This failure draws attention to her relationship with cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins). Upon seeing her public disgrace, wealthy billionaire Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), the only man to survive a Hannibal Lector attack, hires her to find the man who disfigured him. He does not reveal that he was disfigured for being a child molestar and that he secretly plots to torture and kill Lector in revenge. A series of clues lead Clarice to Florence, Italy as she gets closer and closer to Lector.
Hannibal, with all its strength in pre-production is a disaster. There is no tension, it replaces thrills with action and most importantly there is no one for the audience to get behind and support. Moore’s character, staggeringly miscast, is the obvious replacement for the impeccable Jodie Foster. A damp squib, offering no real intrigue or level of depth, she should be the ˜hero’ of Hannibal, yet with little to recommend her director Scott switches attention to Hopkins titular character Hannibal Lector.
This is where Hannibal really falls apart. Gone are the short, ultra-intelligent speeches from The Silence of the Lambs character, replaced almost entirely with a ˜normal’ psychopath. Not out of place in any standard horror, Hannibal has lost his verve, his intellect. It’s not necessarily Hopkins’ fault, as the script doesn’t do him any favours, but putting the enigmatic Hannibal front and centre immediately removes any mystery or intrigue.
A complete disaster from opening scene to final credits, Hannibal stays true to its literary roots more than most adaptations, unfortunately the novel was as messy and underwhelming as this disappointing entry in a series that may have been better left with the original film.