Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta
After the success of ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’, it was inevitable that a sequel would follow and continue the story of Hollywood’s most famous cannibal, although I’m rather surprised it took them ten years to cook this one up. But would it be worth the wait? Before I watch a film, I have an annoying habit of seeing how it’s rated on IMDb to get a brief idea of what to expect, and having done so for this film, I was expecting a worthy sequel to the original. Yet in reality, I didn’t enjoy ‘Hannibal’ anywhere near as much as I hoped to.
After living in exile following the events of ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) decides it’s high time that he got back in touch with his favourite FBI agent, Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore). Starling faces a race against time to try and apprehend Lecter before he falls into the hands of Mason Verger (Gary Oldman). Verger has an evil plan to enact revenge upon Lecter, and Clarice must do her best to try and stop Hannibal meeting a grizzly end.
Whilst it’s slightly unfair to compare this to the original, it’s inevitable. This is the second time that Hopkins has portrayed the master-cannibal on screen, and ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’ is our only go-to comparison, and as a result this film feels like little more than a misguided attempt at a tribute to the original. What made that original so encapsulating was the degree to which it managed to shock and chill you, achieved through fantastic characterisation and acting. This film doesn’t come close, which is surprising considering the cast that it boasts. Hopkins is just as calculating as ever, but doesn’t have the same wow factor that he delivered first time round. He lacks that on screen authority that was so powerful. We don’t get anywhere near as much access into the mind of Lecter, and as a result, in this instance, he’s not the same psychopath that terrified audiences in 1991.
Julianne Moore was the performance that annoyed me the most out of the big names. I much preferred Jodie Foster’s portrayal of the same character. There was an imbalance on Moore’s part, of trying to assert herself as the leading, empowered lady, whilst exhibiting a soft spot for Lecter, and as a result the character is a bit all over the place. Maybe that’s just the effect that Hannibal Lecter has upon you? Gary Oldman gives a reasonable performance, or at least I assume it was Gary Oldman under that mask and costume. Oldman’s character, Mason Verger, certainly fills the quota for a repulsive aesthetic this time around, but again, in comparison Ted Levine’s performance as Buffalo Bill in the original, this attempt at being a secondary antagonist was flawed overall.
I appreciate that they tried to distance themselves from Hannibal’s previous cinematic outing; the story begins in Italy and tries to steer clear of that dark suburban environment from the predecessor. The vast majority of the film is set in huge, luxurious mansions and beautiful Italian buildings, and that’s probably why I felt like it didn’t have that disturbing and dark edge that I was looking for. The narrative is also somewhat jumbled and at times a little bit difficult to follow. The film also loses that sense of terrifying believability, and there were certain times in the film that I found myself chuckling at something that I’m sure wasn’t there for my amusement.
As a crime-thriller, ‘Hannibal’ is decent enough. As a stand-alone film, it’s probably decent enough as well. But when a film is released as a sequel to one of the most critically and publically celebrated films of all time, you have to expect some comparison, and quite frankly, this film didn’t live up to the billing.