Hannibal (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

How can you mess this up? Think about it for a minute. You have one of the hottest properties in existence, a film that many picked as the best of the 90's, and various elements of it have become an integral part of world culture. Is there anyone who doesn't know who Hannibal Lecter is?

Then you bring back the same author of the original book to write a sequel. You hire David Mamet to write a screenplay from the book. You get Ridley Scott to direct and, best of all, you get Sir Anthony Hopkins to recreate his famous role. When Jodie Foster won't accept the role, no great harm done, you get one of the best actresses in the world to substitute.

You'd think that would be pretty cool, eh? Well, you wouldn't be alone. Everybody including me thought it was a pretty cool idea. The film did the all-time record box office on its opening weekend and grossed $100 million in about ten days in the theaters. People wanted to see it. Most were disappointed.

What was a tingling game of cat and mouse in the original "Silence of the Lambs" has been remade as a Dr Phibes movie. Remember those Vincent Price films from three decades ago, where the whole point was that the insane killer had to find a different, creative, and appropriate way to kill all his victims? Well imagine if they made them today, with today's loosened standards for explicit violence and gore. There ya go - "Hannibal". Ridley Scott portrayed the city of Florence and everything else beautifully. The actors did fine. But when you get right down to it, it's just a really stylish gross-out flick - the psychology is like "Basket Case" with really great production values.

Dr Lecter kills one Florentine detective in an exact duplication of the way the detective's ancestor died - hanging from a rope in a public square, with his bowels slit. Typical - everybody got what was coming to him. I guess we were supposed to understand Dr Lecter's point of view because the guy who is chasing after him (an unrecognizable Gary Oldman) seems to be far more evil than Dr Lecter, and we surely have no sympathy for him even though he is Lecter's only surviving victim, and is grotesquely deformed by his encounter with Lecter. His entire goal in life is to feed Lecter to starving, 600 pound, wild pigs. Of course, he met an appropriate fate which I probably don't have to describe.

But how the hell can we have any sympathy for Dr Lecter when he keeps slaughtering people like beef cattle?

NUDITY REPORT

Julianne Moore came very close to a pop-out from her dress, but never quite slipped out completely. Francesca Neri poked through an evening dress.

In a performance attended by Lecter and Pazzi, two extras are either topless or seem to be.

In the deleted scenes, one of "Il Mostro's" victims was pictured topless, ala Botticelli's "Birth of Venus"

SPOILERS COMING:

I guess you know that Jodie Foster didn't like this project. I don't blame her. In addition to the fourth-grade level of gross outs (Ray Liotta eating his own brain was my personal favorite. Lecter slits off the top of his head, cuts out little pieces of brain, and feeds Liotta. Since Liotta is drugged up and missing part of his brain, he is unaware of what's going on, and even compliments Lecter on the taste).

The original concept was even grosser. The book even had Clarise eventually seduced into Dr Lecter's lifestyle, joining him in a cannibalistic meal. If I had been in Jodie's shoes, I think I would have turned it down as well.

As I see it, Dr Lecter sure works better as the evil chained mastermind than he does as the guy on the lam in disguise. The suggestion of how twisted and brilliant Lecter might really be was truly frightening in "Silence of the Lambs" and "Manhunter", but it just isn't the same to see him wandering around freely, checking the expiration dates on the milk at Piggly-Wiggly, picking up the newspaper at 7-Eleven, sipping an overpriced latte at Starbucks, and playing third base for the Psychotic Murderer's team against the cast of Cats in the Central Park softball games.

Man, how'd you like to be the guy who sold Dr Lecter that expired buttermilk?

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, lovely transfer

  • one of the best DVD's ever produced. 35 minutes of deleted scenes, a "making-of section" which is 76 minutes long, hundreds of stills, full-length commentary by Ridley Scott, and one complete scene shown on all four cameras in real time.

Man, I'm glad Dr Lecter doesn't smoke any loco weed while he's free. I would hate to see this man with a case of the munchies. 

They didn't retain the book's ending, and I won't tell you how it does end, although I will say that I don't think you'll have any strong feelings about it either way except that they sneak in another gratuitous, last minute gross-out. You might say that it doesn't really end at all, leaving open the possibility to make yet another sequel.

This is a beautifully filmed movie, but my advice to you is to skip it, unless you think the stuff I described above is exactly the kind of stuff you like. If you want to see more of Dr Lecter, rent Manhunter. While that film doesn't have Anthony Hopkins, it is a better story with some great atmospheric touches.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: the dreaded and tepid two and a half stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4. I agree. Too slick to pan, not good enough to recommend.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 41% positive overall, 43% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.5.
  • With their dollars ... it started out with record grosses in its early days. It did $58 million in its first week, and held on to the tune of $49 million in week 2! It looked like it would smash every box office record, but did not, finishing with a solid but unspectacular $165 million.  It did a comparable 21 million un the UK (the UK has only 1/5 the US population). Total world-wide gross was about $330 million, placing it in the top 70 of all time. It was produced for $87 million.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. A very high-level, expensive genre picture that will not appeal to people who don't like this kind of sophisticated but grotesque gore and humor. Although the appeal doesn't really cross over to the mainstream audience, the film is a significant technical and aesthetic achievement in many ways.

Return to the Movie House home page