Newest Review: ... characters he comes across. Jodie Foster couldn't return as Starling, as she had just become a mother. So the role of Starling was r... more
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Member Name: SWSt
Advantages: Reasonable, tense first part
Disadvantages: Julianne Moore no good as Starling, lurid and ridiculous second part
Following a botched drugs bust, FBI Agent Clarice Starling is re-assigned to the search for Hannibal Lecter. Meanwhile, Lecterís only surviving victim, Mason Verger, is out for revenge
Whoís in it?
Anthony Hopkins returns as Hannibal Lecter and has a much bigger role than previously, although this is not necessarily a good thing. In Silence of the Lambs, Hopkinsí scenes were powerful, because they were limited and so he had a massive impact when he was on screen. Although at times he manages to recapture that sense of menace, at other times he almost becomes a parody of his former self and seems bored with the role.
Itís not helped by the fact that Jodie Foster is replaced by Julianne Moore. Itís always difficult when an actress tries to step into a role made famous by someone else, and Moore fails to shake off Fosterís shadow. This is partly because Foster was so utterly convincing. However, itís also because, personally, I donít rate Moore highly as an actress, and she appears to be all at sea in this film, blundering through it on autopilot, desperately trying get a handle on Starlingís character.
An uncredited (at least in the original film release) Gary Oldman is all but unrecognisable as Mason Verger and does a reasonable job, but in a role so limited that he has little impact. Worse still, he plays a completely unsympathetic character, so itís difficult either to root for his schemes of revenge or care about his fate.
Because of the limitations in the lead role, there is very little emotional impact and the film feels a little empty as a result. In Lambs, the strange relationship between Starling and Lecter gave the film heart; here, the lack of chemistry between the two leads severely hampers the film.
Is it any good?
This is very much a film of two halves Ė one good and one bad. The first half concentrates on Lecterís new life in Florence and the attempts of an Italian policeman to catch him for the reward offered by Verger. This is actually pretty good. There is a tense atmosphere pervading, which manages to capture, at least partially, some of the sense of menace from Lambs. Hopkins certainly does his best work here, compelling as the calm, controlled, yet utterly deadly beast constantly on the lookout for threats to his freedom.
Equally good in this part is Giancarlo Giannini as the policeman Pazzi. Pazzi is, perhaps, the one sympathetic character in the whole film Ė an essentially good man, increasingly tempted into doing the wrong thing by money and greed. His battle of wits with Lecter, as he attempts to identify and capture him, is really quite tense and is probably the only part of the film where there is a spark of chemistry between the protagonists.
Sadly, this part of the film only lasts about an hour before the action moves back to America and Starlingís attempts to find Lecter. Itís ironic that the Lecter-Starling scenes were what made Lambs so compulsive. Here they are the scenes that let the film down.
Part of the problem is, as suggested above, Moore fails to convince as Starling and there is no chemistry between the leads. Another problem is that the relationship has changed and is written as a more overtly sexual one, which sits uneasily with the film and the characters generally. In Lambs, the relationship was deliberately ambiguous Ė whilst there was undoubtedly a certain sexual element, this was very much underplayed. Here, however, Lecter simply comes across as a dirty of man who wants to have his wicked way with Starling, but is too much of a gentleman to quite dare to do it. This element further unbalances the relationship and makes it far less believable.
After the reasonably tense first part, the second half also drops any pretence of being a psychological thriller. Instead, it goes down the silly, lurid route, with plotlines involving man-eating pigs and unusual dinner parties. From here, things degenerate into a ridiculous mess, destroying any sense of atmosphere or credibility the first part managed to build up. Hopkins, in particular, looks a little uncomfortable with the material and is clearly looking for something meatier (ahem!) to sink his teeth into. There is even a part (the trek across town searching for Lecter), which feels dreadfully like filler - as if it was put in simply because the film wasnít substantial enough, as it stood.
The film is also a lot more bloody and violent than Lambs, which again is not an improvement for the better. Whereas previously, the violence was limited and subdued (and so more shocking when it happened), here the violence is right up on screen. This doesnít do the film any favours and may put off more squeamish viewers.
Finally, thereís Ridley Scottís direction. I always felt that Scott was a strange choice for this film, and so it proved. One of the reasons why Lambs was so successful was because director Jonathan Demme kept the cameras tight and simple, producing a very effective, claustrophobic atmosphere. Here, however, Scott feels the need to introduce his trademark flashy visuals, along with several unnecessary and distracting effects, such as slo-mos, jump cuts and flashbacks. Itís meant to be atmospheric, but ends up being simply annoying and takes away what little sense of tension the film has managed to build. Itís noticeable that the bulk of these effects come in the second part of the film Ė almost as if they are trying to deflect attention away from the weak storyline by distracting the viewer with effects.
Hannibal isnít even close to being in the same league as Lambs. Whilst the first part makes a reasonable stab at providing a tense (semi)-psychological film, it never reaches the same heights as Lambs. Crippled by a lack of chemistry between Moore and Hopkins and an overly lurid script, this is a disappointing conclusion to Hopkinsí Lecter trilogy*.
* I Know Red Dragon was made after Hannibal and so, technically, this is the last of Hopkinsí outings as Lecter, but Iím taking the films in chronological order of the events they portray!
Director: Ridley Scott
Running time: approx. 131 minutes
Gillian Anderson was considered for the role of Starling, but her X-Files contract forbade her from playing another FBI agent.
Summary: Time for the cannibal to retire