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HANNIBAL

Well ten years after THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS enticed and terrified audiences around the world, the long awaited and much anticipated sequel has finally arrived. Hopkins is back as everyoneís favorite polite and well spoken serial killer cannibal, and Julianne Moore has taken on the role of Clarice Starling, after Jodie Foster turned down the role which has stirred up many rumors as to why (good, let Ďem speculate). Being a huge fan of the original film, I was pretty much hyped up to see this film. It had a great director behind the camera with Ridley Scott, who was directing a wonderfully gifted actress with Moore. Hopkins, though in a bit of a slump since SILENCE (with HOWARDS END and THE REMAINS OF THE DAY being his most powerful performances since then), returns to the role that made him famous with a devilish glee. And the film has audiences who they can truly despise in Mason Verger if they find themselves feeling guilty with rooting for a murderer who takes pleasure in taunting his victims before turning them into a gourmet dinner. But unfortunately the film is a bit if a disappointed and cannot even become a victim of its own ambitions. Itís lazy and hides it with style.

The movie starts off with Clarice Starling (Moore) being blamed for a drug bust gone terribly wrong. She shot a drug dealer in the head who, at the time, was carrying her infant and firing a weapon at Clarice (which conveniently wasnít reported to the media). Her superiors are not happy with her, which includes Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta), who doesnít particularly care much for Clarice. She is put on suspension, but her past comes back to haunt her as a letter from an old friend arrives one day. Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the escaped madman who helped Clarice catch serial killer Jame Gumb a decade earlier, has been hiding in Florence and cannot help but take advantage of Clariceís steady fall from grace. Clarice is back on the case involving Lecterís capture, but isnít the only one. Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), a horribly disfigured shell of a human is out for revenge against the good doctor. Verger, a pedophile was once a patient of Lecterís years earlier. But Lecter, to amuse himself, drugged Verger and ordered him to peel off his own face with a piece of broken glass. Now crippled, skinless with one eye minus an eyelid, Verger schemes his gory revenge (involving man-eating boars) and puts up a reward for information as to the doctors whereabouts. This catches to attention of Detective Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini), who believes that the new curator of a library (whose previous curator mysteriously disappeared), Dr. Fell, is actually Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Using the disappearance of the previous curator is a good enough reason to get close to the doctor; he is convinced that Dr. Fell is indeed Dr. Lecter and informs Verger about this. But the hunter has become the hunted, as Lecter quickly catches on that Pazzi is onto his identity. But whatís the rush to flee? Lecter has a little fun with it, and even goes as far as to playfully flirting with Pazziís beautiful wife Allgera (Francesca Neri) after an opera. But of course the charade cannot go on forever, and Lecter brutally kills Pazzi and returns to America where meeting up with Clarice Starling appears to be his main objective (he is also on to Vergerís plans for capturing him). But Verger knows to get Lecter out in the open; Starling would once again have to be in some sort of danger and frames her by making it appear that she is secretly in contact with Lecter. She is now on suspension as an agent all together, but of course doesnít discourage her from being involved in the case. Lecter ultimately contacts her but because of it, is captured by Vergerís henchman and brought to Vergerís vast estate where dozens of boars are awaiting a feast.

I suppose thereís no need to go on (I didnít have to go that far in all honesty), as Iím sure a large majority of you have seen, or have heard about the climax. The movieís faults lie with the same faults as the novel, and that is Clarice is nothing more then a plot device. The first time around we met this headstrong, ambitious but vulnerable woman who lives in a very male dominated environment. She is a woman and because of that she cannot be appreciated by those around her (in the first few scenes we see her she is surrounded by a group of men in an elevator). But she is determined and eager to succeed despite the macho surroundings that plague her (it seems to fuel her determination, which is subtle). But in HANNIBAL, the sexism that is thrown her way is cheaply done with Ray Liotta saying mean things to her and what not, and there are shots of him looking at her legs and a drawing of her breasts. Itís obvious and clichť (and a throwback to such masterfully done scenes from SILENCE where Clarice is ordering a group of policeman out and they all stand there, not saying a word looking at her as if she where from another planet). The Clarice in this film is frigid and cold, and even a quick shot of her crying is not enough to make me believe that I was watching a woman who was emotionally bottled up. I was distance from her, and Mooreís performance, though above average, is not in the same league of Fosterís superb performance. But I donít blame Moore, but a weak script. Moore is a capable actress and I know she put a lot into this film and I applaud her for tackling it head on. But though her dedication and pride in it is commendable, I was left with a very empty feeling with this new Clarice. Foster was right to pass on the project. Fans would only have seen Clariceís face, but not the Clarice they met the first time around. I would not have accepted her even with Foster in the role.

Hopkins on the other hand is in top form as he has a devilishly great time with the part. And being that nearly everything about the story is below average, he is entitled to be. Though I wasnít as terrified of him as I was with SILENCE, he graces every scene with his courteous mannerisms which causes him to be even more evil. His charm and the tone of his voice (which still had me shivering), is great to listen to, and Hopkins is having fun with the role. There isnít a unique mystery surrounding him this time out though, probably because is able to indulge in his tastes (so to speak), and roam around freely. When we first met him, the question lingered as to what would this monster do if he were free to indulge in the things that make him happy? What would he do if the cage door were open? He seemed more lethal because even his words could shred a person to part. But this is a different film and Hopkins does a fine job in it. But of course, his ambitions to meet up with Clarice are never answered. What where his intentions when he was finally in her presence once again? Did he think they would live happily ever after? What? Though a reunion between the two was always anticipated, I think a strong reason should have been explained. We know that he has feelings for her and admires her or I doubt he would never have given her a second thought (she still amuses him though). In the novel, it is explained that Lecter was orphaned and perhaps that is why he can identity with Clarice. Itís not a great explanation but an explanation nonetheless, and could have worked here. I wanted to know and feel I did have the right to know.

I did find that Oldman did a great job as Verger and liked (or is it despised?) the character of Verger all together. I thought making him a pedophile was a bit much, it only means that he deserves to be hated and to be found vile. I thought if his background, before the incident, had him leading a relatively normal life would have made the audience feel for him somewhat. Someone who was once normal and had average ambitions in life who was turned into such a disfigured monster and is now this lonely, twisted soul of a human would have had a little more impact. He was a monster before he was a monster. But beside that minor complaint, I enjoyed the performance and felt that the confrontation between him and Lecter was more rewarding then the confrontation in the novel (the two didnít even confront each other once, and all it resorted out to be was Mason taunting Lecter in two brief sentences from a van outside of where the boars where to have eaten Lecter. All that time invested in seeing this gory revenge and the final climax is Mason childishly taunting Lecter, and only from Clariceís point of view?).

Ridley Scott does a great job directing, but all he is directing is beautifully shot scenes. There is no substance here, and though there is humor (which is pretty funny), this satire on love really sinks like a stone. I donít think that my investing so much into seeing this had an effect on my disliking it. I think it was my love for THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS that created HANNIBALís downfall. The movie is powerful and terrifying, and the characters have tremendous depth to them. It was a great movie and deserved of the praise it has received in the ten years it has been released. With this film, the feeling of dread and integument is gone, and though there are a few suspenseful scenes and scenes with biting humor to them, it doesnít feel like a whole. Itís beautiful to look at in its own dark and vicious way, but it never goes beyond being an extravagant brochure for those who wish to visit Italy.

My Grade: C-