I was so turned off to the idea of this movie, that it took until now for me to see it. Which is to say that my wife (who loved Silence of the Lambs) finally became rather insistent. As we stood in the local video store, she again expressed her desire to see it. Rolling my eyes, and saying, ‘uunnnggggggg’, wasn’t getting me anywhere. And, on a cautionary note, what did she say when I didn’t want to? ‘You can review it.’ It was then that my new Father Ted fetish kicked in.
Recommend this product?
“I don’t want to see it.”
“Oh, come on.”
“Ick. I don’t want to. You read the book, and hated it.”
“But, I want to see it anyway.”
Then with the lilting voice, “You can review it.”
And here I am.
First of all, I feel I need to mention the book just briefly. The book/movie combination is something of a new level in the annoyance of what goes on with books and movies. The book was written in a sort of pseudo-screenplay style, and exists only to be made into a movie. It’s almost confusing to call it a book (as differentiated from a screenplay), as everything happens in such a ‘ease of movie transition’ style. The characters are laid out with almost a sort of reckless abandon. The very sort of non-committal style that comes from an idea that you are supposed to know the main characters from the first book/movie, and you will get to know the new characters better in the movie anyway. The ‘scenes’ of the book are given to you in such a movielike way that you can almost experience the dissolves and fade-outs.
To steal a line from someone famous, “The book is both interesting and original, but where it is original it isn't interesting, and where it is interesting it isn't original.” You get the impression that much of the book was original in a way that may itself be original. It is original to no purpose. What parts are original have no other value. Take, for example, the human-eating pigs. We are given this pig idea on a silver platter, and it is displayed to us as though it were wildly original. It is given to us in such a way (in the book and the movie) that the fact that the villian/lunatic coming up with the idea does not cackle and wring his hands greatly detracts from the overall effect.
In fact, it might be original, but so what?
Images dance about in my head of sitting around in a study.
---- He looks down at his man-eating tigers which he plans...... No, scratch that. Tigers. That’s been done. Let’s see. Bears. No, that might have been done. Lions are obviously out. Panthers? No, I think the whole cat family is right out.
(Lots of time passes)
Fek! I just need one damn animal that hasn't ever had people fed to it before. Wombats. Well, I don’t know. There was that one movie. Pigs. No, there was that.... Pigs? Pigs!
And then, of course, there was much rejoicing. A few days later someone mentioned that man-eating pigs was not only not scary, it was downright comical, and it was stupid. But, it was not to be changed, because it was original.
The whole book goes along similar lines, and gives the impression that while you are reading it you are having a nose snubbed at you. There is no real reason for much of what happens, or how people are killed, or even why people are killed, except that it hasn’t been done before.
Now, the really confusing part, and the reason I bring the book up at all, is that the book was clearly written for no other purpose than to be hacked into a screenplay as soon as possible. Then, when it was, the movie was different. The movie isn’t any better, but it’s different. It’s not that this is particularly interesting, it just confuses me.
Okay, on to the movie.
With the release of Hannibal, the world of film moves into a new area of ‘massesmedia’.
Luckily, this movie will rest on the New Release wall for quite a while, giving people a chance to find a category for it. Suspense? Apart from the fact that something suspenseful happening seems a natural requirement for that category, suspense movies usually have some goal. A goal is something that this movie is sorely lacking.
The almost meaningless use of gore for gore’s sake might make one want to put it in horror, except that for all its guts and blood, nothing scary happens. Lots of things happen that might make some lose their lunch, but it isn’t scary.
The movie’s ‘massesmedianess’ comes directly from this strange combination. It’s a suspense movie without suspense, and at the same time its shockingly graphic gore serves no purpose but to leave the audience shocked, and presumably graphed and gored as well.
A culmination of several overdone, cut-and-paste plot bits, most of which had, up to this point, been thought completely used up by the late seventies. Even 007's enemies have learned not to lock him up for hours before killing him, or even setting in motion those time consuming, escape allowing ‘slow and torturous deaths’.
We begin with a brief run-through of an attempted capture gone wrong which puts our beloved agent Starling in the bad graces of the F.B.I. I would have been happier if the movie had just started with a message stating that she was, in fact, in the bad graces of the F.B.I. There being no point whatever to the first twenty minutes or so of the film except to tell me that, why do I have to watch it?
Starling is losing her place with the powers that be, and Hannibal is on the loose somewhere in the world, what are we to do? Enter an extremely unfinished meal of Hannibal’s. Gary Oldman, who is growing his career by playing more and more people whose faces can’t be seen, is the outrageously wealthy, wheelchair bound lunatic who has been hunting for Hannibal since his escape in the hopes of turning Hannibal into a meal for a change by way of the very scary pigs.
We see Hannibal in Europe trying to get a job as head muckety muck of a (we assume) prestigious library. This is mostly so that he can spout off about how very clever and learned (be sure and pronounce that right, it’s Ler-Ned. Two very distinct, heavily accented syllables) he is.
We basically have the smashing together of three plotlines. Starling is looking for Hannibal. The rich, faceless lunatic is looking for Hannibal. And, Hannibal is basically duping a local police inspector into thinking he is Hannibal. Into thinking Hannibal is Hannibal that is, not into thinking that he himself is Hannibal.
The last is, hopefully, clearly the most interesting. What would have made for a fairly interesting sub-plot (if the movie as a whole were not so obnoxiously silly) is the fact that the police inspector would never have been the least interested in Hannibal, had Hannibal not acted like such a bizarre, creepy person. The police inspector made some very routine inquiries into the death of the person who previously held the job Hannibal is trying to get. Hannibal’s reaction is to in all ways act like he certainly must be at least a little mad, and to antagonize the police inspector for no apparent reason.
This leads to the police inspector really digging around, and eventually discovering (somewhat accidentally) that Hannibal is Hannibal. But, crazy Gary Oldman has put up a very large reward for information on Hannibal, and the police inspector can’t resist.
This might have turned out to be an engaging look into a little more of Hannibal, and a saving grace for the movie. Even as we got pretty deep into this little ‘twist’ there was hope for it. That there might be some interesting examination of why Hannibal would stand up to the police in his new hideout and scream ‘Investigate me! I am very creepy!’ But, there was no such examination. Not only that, but before long Hannibal was treating the inspector as if there were some grand struggle between longtime nemeses going on. This was a bit hard to swallow when Hannibal had all but forced the man to investigate him.
This leads us to the main problem of this movie, and that is that it diffuses its own virtue. Part of the ‘appeal’ of Silence of the Lambs was in the desire to like Hannibal. The conflict inherent in the character. You didn’t want to like him, but then again you wanted to like him. He was a lunatic, but he seemed like a right enough chap otherwise. He liked to eat people, but he was helping us out with catching the other, ‘worse’ lunatic. Hannibal killed and ate people, and provided the ‘scare factor’ and added to the intensity, but he only killed bad people (or people who tried to prevent him from escape... that’s not so bad).
In this movie, we have the same basic situation. We have another lunatic in the form of the rich person who is after Hannibal, and believe me he is really a nut, and you'd have no trouble thinking of him as the lunatic you’d get rid of if you had to pick. You don’t want to have this movie without the bigger looney counterbalancing Hannibal.
But, in this movie the system gets pushed out of balance, and you find the internal struggle to decide if you like Hannibal or not falls flat. You can feel that you are meant to be having the struggle, but you soon find that it’s no struggle to decide. In this movie, Hannibal kills people in new and uselessly ridiculous ways (as I said, merely because they haven't been done before) but it doesn’t seem that he really kills ‘the bad guys’. The Ray Liotta character is perhaps rather bad, and you certainly don’t like him, but you don’t feel any better about Hannibal because he kills him. You certainly don’t feel any better about Hannibal because he pokes and prods the police inspector, a fairly innocent-seeming regular joe cop, until he finds out about him and then Hannibal ‘has to kill him’.
There are only two things that make this movie even slightly worth watching. Hopkins’ acting, and even that has a certain snobby air to it, and doesn’t quite live up to his work in Silence of the Lambs. And, a certain small part of a scene I don’t want to spoil but it involves an ‘accident’, and you’ll know it when you see it. Even this bit is somewhat less than perfect as you realize that surely some sort of accident would have happened years ago if this were reality.
It may come as no surprise that I can’t recommend this one. It doesn’t do what you want it to do, it doesn’t do what it should do, and contrary to most movies with these two strikes against, it doesn’t even do what it sets out to do.
It’s not as bad as can be though. It could have had the ending from the book.
Read all comments (8)