Main cast: Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal Lecter), Julianne Moore (Clarice Starling), Giancarlo Giannini (Rinaldo Pazzi), Ray Liotta (Paul Krendler), Frankie Faison (Barney), Spike Jonze (Donnie Barber), and Gary Oldman (Mason Verger)
Director: Ridley Scott
I like Thomas Harris. I really do. I think his The Silence of the Lambs is a decent thriller and his Hannibal a complete pile of s- er, crap, but I love this guy, because he is the only person I know that can make critics salivate over the very same things they call disgusting in, say, The Crypt of Rats. He provides these critics a legitimate outlet in enjoy B-grade, no, make that Z-grade gore without feeling guilty.
The book Hannibal is just that, if you ask me, Z-grade gore with no purpose of print other than to shock and boost up Mr Harris’s bank account. The critics and his fans are the ones scrambling to give Hannibal Lecter’s perverse insanity and savage cannibalism some deep meaning. The joke is lost on Ridley Scott and the producers of Hannibal, the movie version. It sincerely believes that Hannibal Lecter is the last vanguard of true human spirit, and it tells me that Hannibal’s ripping off a man’s face to put it over his (a brilliant disguise, eh?) or seeing a man being ripped apart by man-eating boars – these are moments of deep human insights.
The plot of this movie exists only to complete the perverse corruption of Clarice Starling left unfinished in The Silence of the Lambs. This time around, Hannibal is chased after by bounty hunters and he wants Clarice to drop by in Italy for a long-needed break (okay, she gets her badge taken away from her after ten years on duty and getting burned out as a result).
Frankly, the plot doesn’t make sense, relying on coincidences and minimal characterization. Anthony Hopkins (didn’t he say he’s retiring years ago?) camps it up, but he’s actually a mere second billing to this movie. Julianne Moore probably knows the press will be merciless on her because she is too cheap to pay for plastic surgery to look just like that upstart Jodie Foster, so she sleepwalks here. The main star in this movie is, of course, the gore. A man rips off his face to feed it to his dogs. Penile mutilation, disembowelment, scalping and brain-scooping, everything is presented here with the gravity of a medical autopsy session and none the levity required to make these gory scenes work.
There’s an even more ludicrous attempt to make me empathize with Hannibal. The movie tries to tell me, “Oh, he only disembowels and rips the face off perverts, rapists, criminals… so it’s, like, okay!” Up yours. I didn’t pay money to be smacked in the face with such insulting drivel.
Hannibal is actually Evil Dead 3 with an expensive budget for gorier special effects. But alas, these folks think they are making the new Jesus Christ Superstar. They don’t even want to get the joke, so this movie sinks like a stone, bogged down by its own humorless and even tasteless attempt to elevate gore and meaningless cannibalism as high art.
The adoring critics always say that Mr Harris is a “genius” who reveals how low human beings will stoop to in the name of depravity. They have no idea how right they are in this instance.