‘Hannibal’ – A Stylish and Gruesome Sequel That Stands on Its Own
Ten years after ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, Hannibal Lecter returned to screens in Ridley Scott’s slick, gruesome 2001 sequel ‘Hannibal’. With Anthony Hopkins reprising his iconic role, the film finds the cultured cannibal once again matching wits with his FBI foil Clarice Starling, this time played by Julianne Moore. Though it predictably lacks the shock impact of its predecessor, ‘Hannibal’ charts its own fiendishly entertaining course.
Hannibal picks up where The Silence of the Lambs leaves off. An escaped Hannibal Lecter is living a life of luxury in Florence, Italy. Agent Clarice Starling is disgraced by an incident that occurs during a high profile shoot-out. She is a pariah to her colleagues in the FBI and is considered a disgrace. In his own twisted fashion Dr. Lecter returns to America to defend her honor. Can a beautiful FBI agent and a cannibalistic genius live happily ever after? Well…kind of. Goody goody.
Now I know that there are those of you out there who are critical of the casting of Julianne Moore as Clarice Starling. I do not join you in your sentiments. The change in casting represents two entirely different times in the life of Agent Starling. Foster’s and Moore’s Starling are two entirely different people. One was green and inexperienced while the other is now wiser and more jaded to the ways of the world she is a part of. In the first film Starling is thrown to the wolf, Lecter. In this film the very people she works for are the wolves. After watching this film I don’t know who more of a cannibal is; the FBI or Hannibal Lecter.
Giancarlo Giannini stars as Inspector Pazzi, an Italian police officer determined to capture Lecter and reap the rewards. It is hilarious to hear Lecter insult him and his heritage at every turn. Pazzi may as well be wearing a shirt that says “I tried to capture Hannibal Lecter and I met the same fate as my ancestor.” When Pazzi’s death finally occurs at the hands of Lecter, I have to admit I was secretly thanking the good doctor. Giannini’s character is a lout and a pig, obnoxious and ignorant. Of course this being Giancarlo Giannini the part is played to the highest of expectations. Ray Liotta stars as the proverbial thorn in the side of Agent Starling. His character is as corrupt as Giannini’s is loutish. Rounding out the cast are Francesca Neri, Gary Oldman and Frankie Faison; the latter whom reprises his role as Nurse Barney from TSOTL.
With Agent Starling’s career in shambles, Lecter emerges from hiding in Italy to toy with her, finding new and creative ways to dispatch those who’ve wronged her. Their twisted bond deepens as Lecter returns stateside, though Starling remains determined to capture him. But a disfigured victim of Lecter (Gary Oldman) also seeks revenge, leading to a volatile showdown.
Under Scott’s sleek direction, Hopkins and Moore faithfully reprise the quid pro quo intensity of Lecter and Starling’s conversations. The lurid Grand Guignol displays of gore stand in sharp contrast to Lambs’ restraint, with Scott indulging in baroque visuals as Lecter conducts his gruesome machinations.
Smartly avoiding repetition, ‘Hannibal’ carves out its own identity with operatic style and exaggerated morbid humor. Scott seamlessly takes the reins from Jonathan Demme, proving that 30 years after his debut, Lecter remains as compelling a movie monster as ever. It may be hard to top perfection, but as sequels go, this sinister second serving still delivers a macabre good time.
Under the direction of Ridley Scott, Hannibal is a near-perfect film. It’s not the great film that Silence was but that doesn’t matter. It stands on its own two feet and that is really all we ask of it.
When Jodie Foster declined to reprise the role of Clarice Starling, Julianne Moore beat Gillian Anderson, Cate Blanchett, Hilary Swank, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Heather Locklear, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Drew Barrymore, Winona Ryder, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Kristin Davis, Bridget Fonda, Calista Flockhart, Helen Hunt, Sandra Bullock, Christina Applegate, Jennifer Connelly, Meg Ryan, Shannen Doherty, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Eggert and Teri Hatcher for the role. Anderson fell out of the running early on when it was discovered her contract to “The X Files” (1993) prohibited her from playing another FBI agent. Davis and Parker both turned down the part due to their contract to HBO’s “Sex and the City” (1998). Flockhart declined due to her contract to “Ally McBeal” (1997).
After Thomas Harris finished writing the novel, he sent copies to The Silence of the Lambs (1991) principals Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster, Ted Tally, and Anthony Hopkins for approval. The screenplay was rewritten no less than 15 times because of dissatisfaction by Demme and Foster over new character elements. In the end, neither Demme nor Foster remained with the production.
In Florence, where part of the movie was shot, it is possible to buy a sort of tourist guide called: “Hannibal Lecter. Visit the places of the city where he was.”
Hannibal asks Pazzi about being demoted from the Il Mostro case. Il Mostro was a serial killer about whom Hannibal gives clues to Pazzi. This was a subplot that was filmed but never used as it was thought to be too complicated.
Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter
Julianne Moore as Clarice Starling
Ray Liotta as Paul Krendler
Frankie Faison as Barney
Giancarlo Giannini as Inspector Renaldo Pazzi
Francesca Neri as Allegra Pazzi
Gary Oldman as Mason Verger
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by David Mamet and Steven Zaillian
Based on the novel by Thomas Harris