Perhaps the only fault of “Hannibal” is that it simply isn’t “Silence of the Lambs.” Anthony Hopkin’s first portrayal of Hannibal was thrilling and nightmare inducing. So the second time he donned the iconic bite mask came with some unfairly high (possibly unreachable) expectations. But taken on its own terms, the Ridley Scott-directed sequel is exactly what it should be– a dramatic, sadistic and worthy continuation of the Hannibal Lecter saga.
“Hannibal” follows the novel of the same name, taking place ten years after “The Silence of the Lambs.” FBI agent Starling (now Julianne Moore instead of Jodie Foster) attempts to apprehend Hannibal Lecter before his only surviving victim, Mason (Gary Oldman), captures, tortures and murders Lecter out of revenge. Initially, Hannibal only makes contact with Starling through letters and short phone calls– allowing their relationship to continue developing from a distance.
While this sequel lacks the repartee between Starling and Hannibal that made the original so titillating, their relationship develops in an almost romantic manner. The two complete each other in a Batman-Joker sort of way. On the DVD “making of” feature, Scott explains that affection is an underlying emotion of “Hannibal.” He’s humanized more this time, which makes this sequel more dramatically engaging than genuinely scary like “Silence of the Lambs.”
Your job is to craft my doom, so I am not sure how well I should wish you.
But I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun.
Anthony Hopkins gives an unsurprisingly terrific performance once more, despite playing opposite Julianne Moore, who never really quite fills the shoes of Jodie Foster. Hopkins’ calmness makes his cannibalistic urges exponentially more unsettling. The character that Stephen King dubbed “the greatest character in 20th-century horror fiction” feels like he was written specifically for Hopkins.
Starling and Hannibal’s relationship is strange and engrossing. Hannibal seems attracted to Starling’s resilience with everything that happened to her in “Silence of the Lambs.” She’s strong, determined and capable. But she’s also haunted by her mistakes and fatigued by failure. In the chaos that wages between Hannibal and Mason, Starling remains focused on justice– which, as “Hannibal” suggests, is complicated.
Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the child molester Mason is appropriately disturbing. He serves as the film’s secondary villain. Having been left horribly disfigured by Hannibal, Mason dedicates his life to revenge. He bred several boars purposefully to feed on human flesh– with intentions of having them devour Hannibal. Mason (who also plays a major role in the NBC series) is wealthy and politically connected, which gives him an edge in tracking down Hannibal.
“Hannibal” is more deliberately-paced than “Silence of the Lambs,” which makes for better dramatic tension and narrative, but diminished effectiveness in the horror department. Viewers who are familiar with the source material might feel like the first half of “Hannibal” serves only as necessary build-up to the film’s shocking and controversial final act, which thankfully deviates from the conclusion of Thomas Harris’ novel.
Hans Zimmer composed the wonderfully suspenseful score, which used a classical symphony orchestra to heighten the film’s grandiose charm. According to the acclaimed German composer, both Hannibal and Mason had their own themes– which complemented their differently demented personalities.
Still, “Hannibal” remains in the shadow of its Oscar-winning predecessor, but Hannibal’s sophomore outing is still a horrifying thriller thanks to its psychological layered narrative and a typically exquisite performance by Anthony Hopkins. “Hannibal” is an underrated sequel that somehow gets better with multiple viewings.
The Hannibal Lecter Collection includes “Manhunter,” “Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal” and is available on DVD and blu ray. on Amazon. And be sure to check out the other entries in the Horror Sequel Marathon right here on My Vinyl Muse!