Hannibal

“Hannibal,” the much anticipated sequel to Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning “Silence of the lambs,” is a feast for the eyes, not the stomach. What was once taut and terrifying has become mundane. Everything that made the first film so riveting has been tossed out the window. What remains is an exercise in gratuitous violence geared to titillate rather than horrify.


hannibal dvdIt’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since novice FBI agent Clarice Starling first met infamous serial killer Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. Their first encounter, inside a high security prison hidden deep within the bowels of FBI headquarters, was a memorable battle of wills.

Even though they were separated by a thick plate of plexiglass, what made their encounters chilling was Lecter’s ability to still affect Starling. The way he spoke, his deceiving cadence, made me squirm. Lecter made it clear that he didn’t have to physically touch his victims to harm them. He gets inside their minds, forcing them to face the dark side that exists in all of us.

All of that is missing in “Hannibal.” After escaping at the end of “Silence of the Lambs,” Lecter is now a free man. The carnage he creates is much more physical. Instead of mentally incapacitating his victims, he takes the task to hand. That reduces “Hannibal” to the level of common serial killer thrillers. It’s no longer smart. It’s exploitation wrapped up in expensive paper.

Indeed, “Hannibal” is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. Director Ridley Scott is a master of atmosphere, and “Hannibal” has style to spare. Director of Photography John Mathieson bathes every frame with striking shadows and soft hues. “Hannibal” is a handsome, almost pretty film, a contrast to the ugliness it depicts.

Anthony Hopkins returns as Lecter, a role that won him an Academy Award. Hopkins is fine as Lecter, but not nearly as scary. What has become a signature role for the actor has been reduced to a boogeyman. He creeps around in shadows, stalking his victims with all of the malice and forethought of a garden variety serial killer. What’s missing are the intense mind games that made Lecter so powerful.

Scott and writers David Mamet and Steven Zaillian have elevated Lecter to a whole new level, one of mythic stature. He doesn’t just walk the streets of Florence, Italy, he glides down them like Darth Vader, his cape sweeping behind him like a cloud of doom. It’s all very ominous, but not very Lecter. It doesn’t make much sense, but little in “Hannibal” does.

I can understand why Jodie Foster, who also won an Oscar for her portrayal of Starling, would pass on all of this. Starling is relegated to a second banana, someone waiting by the phone hoping that Lecter will call and make her day. Julianne Moore replaces Foster as Starling, and does an admirable job when she’s allowed to.

When we first meet Starling in “Hannibal,” she’s working a dangerous undercover assignment involving drug traffickers. Now a seasoned FBI agent, Starling knows when a situation is heading south, and wants to call off the raid. Her orders are ignored by the local Feds, and the situation goes from bad to worse. Starling is blamed for the fiasco, and finds herself on the outs with the agency.

All of this is set up in a series of painful cliches that demand we not only toss logic out the window, but ignore it all together. To make matters worse, Moore is asked to mimic Foster’s accent so that viewers immediately know that she is the same character. It’s an insult to both actresses, especially since Moore conveniently loses the accent after the connection has been established.

Is it too much to reason that Starling could have lost her accent after ten years on the force? This gimmick betrays Moore’s ability to make the character her own instead of revisiting Foster’s interpretation. It reminded me of the time when George Lazenby replaced Sean Connery as James Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Lazenby’s first close-up was shot so that he resembled Connery. The rest of the film he looked like, well, George Lazenby.

Instead of being Starling’s go-to guy whenever she’s in trouble, Lecter becomes her obsession. He’s the one that got away. They still share a twisted symbiosis, a mutual respect for each other’s work. Lecter is also obsessed with Starling, the one person who proved his equal. She’s unfinished business, a fact that becomes clear as “Hannibal” progresses.

The sequel is about revenge, pure and simple. Lecter finds himself defending his freedom from all sides. Giancarlo Giannini plays a local police detective who hopes to snag glory and a reward for finding the good doctor, but we all know that his greed will be the end of him. Then there’s Mason Verger, the only one of Lecter’s victims to survive. Hideously deformed, Verger uses his vast fortune to draw Lecter out into the open.

That means using Starling as bait, a fact not lost on the FBI agent or her superiors, who all seem to be nincompoops. Their actions set up the inevitable payoff, which features a terrific visual effects gag and not much more. You shake your head in disbelief every time one of Starling’s superiors opens their mouth. Their motives are so extreme and silly you want them to wind up as one of Lecter’s meals.

It’s hard to blame the actors, who do their best to rise above the material, but you really want to bitch slap director Scott for destroying the film. He’s more interested in making a horror film rather than a psychological thriller. He uses symbolism like it’s going out of style, and it doesn’t take long before it becomes weary. A character who is about to spill his guts is disemboweled and then hung by Lecter, allowing the character to literally spill his guts. Please!

Scott revels in the film’s violence, extracting much more gore than is necessary. He paints every violent act in crimson, trying to obscure the fact that hardly any of this is thrilling.

The only truly chilling moment comes when Starling picks up the phone, expecting to hear the voice of the Italian police detective on the other end, and instead getting Lecter. When Lecter greets her with his ominous “Hello, Clarice,” it sent shivers down my spine. Why? Because this scene was the only one that captured Lecter’s ability to affect Starling from a distance. Whether behind a thick plate of glass or thousands of miles away, he was inside her head.

The rest of “Hannibal” is just an excuse to make money off a much better film.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: 20/20

check.gif (406 bytes) 1.85:1 Widescreen

check.gif (406 bytes) 16:9 Enhanced

Breathtaking digital transfer that really holds up when you consider the dark nature of the film. Pristine print allows for a perfectly rendered transfer, filled with warm, solid colors, sharp images, vivid detail and industrial strength blacks that hold up extremely well. Flesh tones are absolutely realistic, while shadows are filled with detail. Depth of field is strong. You won’t find any trace of digital artifacts or noise here. Even edge enhancement is solid. To be honest, the film didn’t look this good at my local theater. The colors never bleed or fade, and whites are clean.

HEARING: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) DTS Digital Sound English

check.gif (406 bytes) 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround in English, French & Spanish

Absolutely stunning DTS soundtrack that is filled with nuance and detail. All sound stages come into play, including stereo surround effects that grab you and never let go. You feel like you’re in the middle of the action, whether it be an intimate conversation in a small room or outside in a large plaza. The front stage is amazing, with perfect left-to-right stereo split, and a dialogue mix that is crystal clear. Basses are powerful when used, and middle and high ends purr. Front-to-back spatial separation sounds accurate, while the rear speakers pump out a variety of effective musical cues and fragile ambient noise. Don’t expect any hum or hiss here. The soundtrack is clean. Even the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack, in a variety of languages, kicks ass. Nice attention to detail.

ORAL: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) Closed Captions in English for the Hard of Hearing

check.gif (406 bytes) Subtitles in French and Spanish

COORDINATION: Excellent

MGM Home Entertainment has gone out of their way to create an extraordinary 2-Disc set that really takes the viewer behind-the-scenes and into the movie.

check.gif (406 bytes) Outstanding, in-depth and informative scene specific audio commentary with director Ridley Scott. As a director who is extensively involved in every aspect of his films, Scott is the perfect choice to clue us in on the ins-and-outs of making “Hannibal.” Scott understands that viewers don’t want to hear him rehash the familiar or obvious, and digs deep to include the sort of information that matters. I appreciate Scott’s candor and ability to entertain and he informs. A lot of commentaries are too jovial or dry, something Scott avoids. He’s a very good speaker and clearly states and defends his reasons and artistic choices.

check.gif (406 bytes) 14 deleted and extended scenes that combined total more than 35 minutes. These include an alternate ending that is less “choppy,” and Ridley Scott provides decisive commentary on why the scenes were cut in the first place. The only thing I didn’t like was that you have to access each of the scenes individually, which is a lot of clicking back and forth. One of the deleted scenes is classic, involving Lecter stalking Starling and leaving his scent on the steering wheel of her car. I’ll say no more. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

check.gif (406 bytes) “Breaking The Silence: The Making of Hannibal,” an extensive, five-part exploration of the filmmaking process. “Development” examines the exhaustive process of taking the novel and turning it into a workable film; “Production” takes us behind the scenes of the actual shoot; “Special Make-Up Effects,” my personal favorite, is an eye-opening look at the film’s most gruesome moments, including how Ray Liotta bared more than his soul in the final frames; “Music,” another visit with composer Hans Zimmer who takes us into the scoring studio to show us how he came up with the film’s sound; and “Reaction,” a self-serving PR piece about how well the film did here and abroad at the box office. Together, the five segments run an hour and fifteen minutes, and include in-depth discussions with the film’s principals and crew, plus exciting on-the-set footage that is candid and occasionally funny. Most of the interviews and behind-the-scenes footage look as if they were shot exclusively for this DVD, and the results are very gratifying. The supplemental footage is sharp and very professional, not something thrown together at the last minute. There’s a wealth of information on display here.

Three multi-angle presentations:

check.gif (406 bytes) “Anatomy of a Shoot Out,” a rare look at how filmmakers capture an action scene with multiple cameras. This multi-angle featurette allows you to jump back and forth between four separate cameras set up to capture the film’s opening shoot out in the marketplace. There’s also an option where you can watch all four camera angles on one screen. Like Artie Johnson used to say on “Laugh-In,” very interesting.

check.gif (406 bytes) “Ridleygrams,” an interview with director Ridley Scott and his sketches for the film’s opening, which you can compare to the actual film. Your basic storyboard-to-film option nicely done.

check.gif (406 bytes) “Title Design,” a neat little multi-angle feature that allows you to tinker with the film’s opening credits and create a whole new experience. You have four video and audio options, including commentaries by Ridley Scott and Production Designer Nick Livesey. Pretty cool for a DVD feature.

check.gif (406 bytes) Marketing Gallery that includes a bevy of P.R. materials, including the film’s original and teaser trailer, a slew of television spots, a stills gallery and a poster gallery that is really cool because you get to see the different concepts the marketing people came up with and then abandoned. You’ll also find the usual cast & crew filmographies, production notes and DVD credits here. Disc 1 features coming attraction trailers for “Silence of the Lambs” and the Nicolas Cage war film “Windtalkers.”

check.gif (406 bytes) A fabulous hidden Easter Egg that combines all of the film’s “Flash Frames,” those little frames after the director calls cut, and sets them to music, a new song called “Clarice.”

check.gif (406 bytes) Haunting main and scene access menus, plus a really freaky main menu on the supplemental disc.

check.gif (406 bytes) An informative booklet.

PROGNOSIS: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) Even though I wasn’t a fan of the theatrical film, the DVD version actually makes more sense. The deleted scenes and extras add up to a whole experience.

VITALS:

check.gif (406 bytes) $24.98/Rated R/131 Minutes/Color/32 Chapter Stops/2-Discs/Keepcase

John Larsen

ATTENDING RESIDENT

© 2001 THE WRITER’S BLOC®

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: HANNIBALhannibal dvd cover.JPG (55604 bytes)

BIRTH DATE: 2001

HMO: MGM Home Entertainment

PATIENT HISTORY:

“Hannibal,” the much anticipated sequel to Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning “Silence of the lambs,” is a feast for the eyes, not the stomach. What was once taut and terrifying has become mundane. Everything that made the first film so riveting has been tossed out the window. What remains is an exercise in gratuitous violence geared to titillate rather than horrify.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since novice FBI agent Clarice Starling first met infamous serial killer Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. Their first encounter, inside a high security prison hidden deep within the bowels of FBI headquarters, was a memorable battle of wills.

Even though they were separated by a thick plate of plexiglass, what made their encounters chilling was Lecter’s ability to still affect Starling. The way he spoke, his deceiving cadence, made me squirm. Lecter made it clear that he didn’t have to physically touch his victims to harm them. He gets inside their minds, forcing them to face the dark side that exists in all of us.

All of that is missing in “Hannibal.” After escaping at the end of “Silence of the Lambs,” Lecter is now a free man. The carnage he creates is much more physical. Instead of mentally incapacitating his victims, he takes the task to hand. That reduces “Hannibal” to the level of common serial killer thrillers. It’s no longer smart. It’s exploitation wrapped up in expensive paper.

Indeed, “Hannibal” is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. Director Ridley Scott is a master of atmosphere, and “Hannibal” has style to spare. Director of Photography John Mathieson bathes every frame with striking shadows and soft hues. “Hannibal” is a handsome, almost pretty film, a contrast to the ugliness it depicts.

Anthony Hopkins returns as Lecter, a role that won him an Academy Award. Hopkins is fine as Lecter, but not nearly as scary. What has become a signature role for the actor has been reduced to a boogeyman. He creeps around in shadows, stalking his victims with all of the malice and forethought of a garden variety serial killer. What’s missing are the intense mind games that made Lecter so powerful.

Scott and writers David Mamet and Steven Zaillian have elevated Lecter to a whole new level, one of mythic stature. He doesn’t just walk the streets of Florence, Italy, he glides down them like Darth Vader, his cape sweeping behind him like a cloud of doom. It’s all very ominous, but not very Lecter. It doesn’t make much sense, but little in “Hannibal” does.

I can understand why Jodie Foster, who also won an Oscar for her portrayal of Starling, would pass on all of this. Starling is relegated to a second banana, someone waiting by the phone hoping that Lecter will call and make her day. Julianne Moore replaces Foster as Starling, and does an admirable job when she’s allowed to.

When we first meet Starling in “Hannibal,” she’s working a dangerous undercover assignment involving drug traffickers. Now a seasoned FBI agent, Starling knows when a situation is heading south, and wants to call off the raid. Her orders are ignored by the local Feds, and the situation goes from bad to worse. Starling is blamed for the fiasco, and finds herself on the outs with the agency.

All of this is set up in a series of painful cliches that demand we not only toss logic out the window, but ignore it all together. To make matters worse, Moore is asked to mimic Foster’s accent so that viewers immediately know that she is the same character. It’s an insult to both actresses, especially since Moore conveniently loses the accent after the connection has been established.

Is it too much to reason that Starling could have lost her accent after ten years on the force? This gimmick betrays Moore’s ability to make the character her own instead of revisiting Foster’s interpretation. It reminded me of the time when George Lazenby replaced Sean Connery as James Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Lazenby’s first close-up was shot so that he resembled Connery. The rest of the film he looked like, well, George Lazenby.

Instead of being Starling’s go-to guy whenever she’s in trouble, Lecter becomes her obsession. He’s the one that got away. They still share a twisted symbiosis, a mutual respect for each other’s work. Lecter is also obsessed with Starling, the one person who proved his equal. She’s unfinished business, a fact that becomes clear as “Hannibal” progresses.

The sequel is about revenge, pure and simple. Lecter finds himself defending his freedom from all sides. Giancarlo Giannini plays a local police detective who hopes to snag glory and a reward for finding the good doctor, but we all know that his greed will be the end of him. Then there’s Mason Verger, the only one of Lecter’s victims to survive. Hideously deformed, Verger uses his vast fortune to draw Lecter out into the open.

That means using Starling as bait, a fact not lost on the FBI agent or her superiors, who all seem to be nincompoops. Their actions set up the inevitable payoff, which features a terrific visual effects gag and not much more. You shake your head in disbelief every time one of Starling’s superiors opens their mouth. Their motives are so extreme and silly you want them to wind up as one of Lecter’s meals.

It’s hard to blame the actors, who do their best to rise above the material, but you really want to bitch slap director Scott for destroying the film. He’s more interested in making a horror film rather than a psychological thriller. He uses symbolism like it’s going out of style, and it doesn’t take long before it becomes weary. A character who is about to spill his guts is disemboweled and then hung by Lecter, allowing the character to literally spill his guts. Please!

Scott revels in the film’s violence, extracting much more gore than is necessary. He paints every violent act in crimson, trying to obscure the fact that hardly any of this is thrilling.

The only truly chilling moment comes when Starling picks up the phone, expecting to hear the voice of the Italian police detective on the other end, and instead getting Lecter. When Lecter greets her with his ominous “Hello, Clarice,” it sent shivers down my spine. Why? Because this scene was the only one that captured Lecter’s ability to affect Starling from a distance. Whether behind a thick plate of glass or thousands of miles away, he was inside her head.

The rest of “Hannibal” is just an excuse to make money off a much better film.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: 20/20

check.gif (406 bytes) 1.85:1 Widescreen

check.gif (406 bytes) 16:9 Enhanced

Breathtaking digital transfer that really holds up when you consider the dark nature of the film. Pristine print allows for a perfectly rendered transfer, filled with warm, solid colors, sharp images, vivid detail and industrial strength blacks that hold up extremely well. Flesh tones are absolutely realistic, while shadows are filled with detail. Depth of field is strong. You won’t find any trace of digital artifacts or noise here. Even edge enhancement is solid. To be honest, the film didn’t look this good at my local theater. The colors never bleed or fade, and whites are clean.

HEARING: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) DTS Digital Sound English

check.gif (406 bytes) 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround in English, French & Spanish

Absolutely stunning DTS soundtrack that is filled with nuance and detail. All sound stages come into play, including stereo surround effects that grab you and never let go. You feel like you’re in the middle of the action, whether it be an intimate conversation in a small room or outside in a large plaza. The front stage is amazing, with perfect left-to-right stereo split, and a dialogue mix that is crystal clear. Basses are powerful when used, and middle and high ends purr. Front-to-back spatial separation sounds accurate, while the rear speakers pump out a variety of effective musical cues and fragile ambient noise. Don’t expect any hum or hiss here. The soundtrack is clean. Even the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack, in a variety of languages, kicks ass. Nice attention to detail.

ORAL: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) Closed Captions in English for the Hard of Hearing

check.gif (406 bytes) Subtitles in French and Spanish

COORDINATION: Excellent

MGM Home Entertainment has gone out of their way to create an extraordinary 2-Disc set that really takes the viewer behind-the-scenes and into the movie.

check.gif (406 bytes) Outstanding, in-depth and informative scene specific audio commentary with director Ridley Scott. As a director who is extensively involved in every aspect of his films, Scott is the perfect choice to clue us in on the ins-and-outs of making “Hannibal.” Scott understands that viewers don’t want to hear him rehash the familiar or obvious, and digs deep to include the sort of information that matters. I appreciate Scott’s candor and ability to entertain and he informs. A lot of commentaries are too jovial or dry, something Scott avoids. He’s a very good speaker and clearly states and defends his reasons and artistic choices.

check.gif (406 bytes) 14 deleted and extended scenes that combined total more than 35 minutes. These include an alternate ending that is less “choppy,” and Ridley Scott provides decisive commentary on why the scenes were cut in the first place. The only thing I didn’t like was that you have to access each of the scenes individually, which is a lot of clicking back and forth. One of the deleted scenes is classic, involving Lecter stalking Starling and leaving his scent on the steering wheel of her car. I’ll say no more. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

check.gif (406 bytes) “Breaking The Silence: The Making of Hannibal,” an extensive, five-part exploration of the filmmaking process. “Development” examines the exhaustive process of taking the novel and turning it into a workable film; “Production” takes us behind the scenes of the actual shoot; “Special Make-Up Effects,” my personal favorite, is an eye-opening look at the film’s most gruesome moments, including how Ray Liotta bared more than his soul in the final frames; “Music,” another visit with composer Hans Zimmer who takes us into the scoring studio to show us how he came up with the film’s sound; and “Reaction,” a self-serving PR piece about how well the film did here and abroad at the box office. Together, the five segments run an hour and fifteen minutes, and include in-depth discussions with the film’s principals and crew, plus exciting on-the-set footage that is candid and occasionally funny. Most of the interviews and behind-the-scenes footage look as if they were shot exclusively for this DVD, and the results are very gratifying. The supplemental footage is sharp and very professional, not something thrown together at the last minute. There’s a wealth of information on display here.

Three multi-angle presentations:

check.gif (406 bytes) “Anatomy of a Shoot Out,” a rare look at how filmmakers capture an action scene with multiple cameras. This multi-angle featurette allows you to jump back and forth between four separate cameras set up to capture the film’s opening shoot out in the marketplace. There’s also an option where you can watch all four camera angles on one screen. Like Artie Johnson used to say on “Laugh-In,” very interesting.

check.gif (406 bytes) “Ridleygrams,” an interview with director Ridley Scott and his sketches for the film’s opening, which you can compare to the actual film. Your basic storyboard-to-film option nicely done.

check.gif (406 bytes) “Title Design,” a neat little multi-angle feature that allows you to tinker with the film’s opening credits and create a whole new experience. You have four video and audio options, including commentaries by Ridley Scott and Production Designer Nick Livesey. Pretty cool for a DVD feature.

check.gif (406 bytes) Marketing Gallery that includes a bevy of P.R. materials, including the film’s original and teaser trailer, a slew of television spots, a stills gallery and a poster gallery that is really cool because you get to see the different concepts the marketing people came up with and then abandoned. You’ll also find the usual cast & crew filmographies, production notes and DVD credits here. Disc 1 features coming attraction trailers for “Silence of the Lambs” and the Nicolas Cage war film “Windtalkers.”

check.gif (406 bytes) A fabulous hidden Easter Egg that combines all of the film’s “Flash Frames,” those little frames after the director calls cut, and sets them to music, a new song called “Clarice.”

check.gif (406 bytes) Haunting main and scene access menus, plus a really freaky main menu on the supplemental disc.

check.gif (406 bytes) An informative booklet.

PROGNOSIS: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) Even though I wasn’t a fan of the theatrical film, the DVD version actually makes more sense. The deleted scenes and extras add up to a whole experience.

VITALS:

check.gif (406 bytes) $24.98/Rated R/131 Minutes/Color/32 Chapter Stops/2-Discs/Keepcase

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: HANNIBAL

BIRTH DATE: 2001

HMO: MGM Home Entertainment



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