a critiQal film review Hannibal (2001)

Plot: It’s been a few years since Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (Hopkins) has surfaced. Clarice Starling (Moore) has moved on. But, when a suspect apprehension goes awry, she is forced back into looking for Dr. Lecter. But, now that he’s not confined in a cell, can she survive another meeting?

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  • ...an enjoyable sequel - although Jodie Foster's presence is sorely missed.

After the immense popularity of The Silence of the Lambs (1991), it was inevitable that a sequel would be made. Especially since the author, Thomas Harris, was kind enough to continue the storyline in another book, this one simply named Hannibal. Even if he hadn’t, a sequel would have been made anyway (see American Psycho 2, for example).

Could a sequel live up to the expectations of it’s predecessor?

One oddity that stands out is that Jodie Foster doesn’t reprise her role here as Clarice Starling. It’s always a pity when the original cast doesn’t return – it tends to flop the second film, and reduces the appeal of the first (see Mortal Kombat: Annhilation for an example of this). It also makes the audience wonder why. Is it because of schedule, or is it because she didn’t think the movie was good enough to be a part of? I guess we’ll never know without asking her.

Jodie Foster did an excellent job in the role in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), which puts the new Clarice, Julianne Moore, at a distinct disadvantage. Moore does have to be given credit though. She plays a pretty decent Jodie Foster, right on down to the accent.

Is she a better Clarice? Nope. In fact, she doesn’t even try. It seems as if every scene she asks herself “what would Jodie do?” and acts accordingly. Try as she might, she can’t play Jodie Foster better than Jodie herself can, so fails.

Anthony Hopkins doesn’t seem to have aged a minute since Silence, and easily reprises his role as Dr. Lecter, albeit with a bit more of a sadistic side then before.

The plot seems to be well done, and doesn’t break too much with the example set by the previous film. The characters act similar to what you would expect from the first film, without any out-of-character glitches that would make one pause. The storyline is also a nice follow-up to The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and seems a natural continuation.

That right there is a major difference between a book sequel and a movie sequel. The movie sequel (again back to American Psycho 2) takes the storyline on a bizarre twist that isn’t foreseen in the original, and comes as a bit of a shock to the viewer. It also reduces the appeal of the sequel, turning it into just another quick buck, rather than a well-conceived idea.

Of course, authors occasionally try this route as well, evidenced by Jurassic Park: The Lost World. Luckily for us, Thomas Harris did not.

The main difference between this film and the previous seems to be in the horror aspect. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) did not go for gross-out visuals as much as building suspense, with a shot or two of gore, just enough to get your blood pumping, but not enough to ruin the whole effect.

This is another Hollywood error lately. With the special effects that can be achieved nowadays, filmmakers think if they show us as much as possible, it will be scarier. The opposite is actually true. Not a filmmaker in the world can visualize a scene that could be scarier than one the viewer creates in their own head. With the right storyline, a film could be freaky scary, and not show much gore at all.

It’s all in how it’s presented, not necessarily what’s shown. Trailers have become exceptional at this, why aren’t feature films following in the same pattern?

Trying for the gross-out factor does take a few points away from Hannibal, but the atmosphere that’s created, along with some pretty decent acting, still make it an enjoyable sequel.

Here’s a nice new Hollywood twist: If you make a film that does exceptional business (The Silence of the Lambs (1991)) and it’s sequel does pretty well too (Hannibal), remake the original (Manhunter), throw some new stars in (Ralph Fiennes, for one), rename it (Red Dragon (2002)) and voila! Instant cash machine.

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