Sequels are often subordinate to the original film. Usually combining a bad script, unoriginality, and poor acting, sequels rarely meet or exceed expectations. Scream 2, Jaws 2, and any of the Rocky sequels are disappointing examples. There are exceptions to every rule however. Back to the Future 2 and The Godfather Part 2 are truly rewarding, but these are rarities. True to form, Ridley Scott’s Hannibal follows suit and brings Silence of the Lambs to shame.
When we last left Dr. Hannibal Lector he was “having an old friend for dinner.” Ten years later, Lector is still indulging in his unhealthy eating habits. Now posing as an art curator in Florence, Lector flourishes in an aristocratic lifestyle. A bounty for his capture makes Hannibal squirm like a fish out of water. Mason Verger, a former patient of Lector and only survivor of his malicious woundings, seeks revenge. Reminded daily of Hannibal’s atrocities through a horribly disfigured face, Verger is destined to make Lector suffer.
So where is Clarice Starling a decade later? She (now played by Julianne Moore) is still struggling to prove her self worth as a woman and a F.B.I. agent. A routine drug bust turns sour and Clarice is the center of bad publicity. With the help of Paul Krendler, a male chauvinist at his finest (poorly played by Ray Liotta), she is temporarily stripped of her badge as well as her integrity. Now a black sheep in the bureau, Starling refocuses her attention on recapturing Dr. Lector. She re-examines profiles, studies horrific crime photos, and replays those chilling conversations she had with him so long ago. Throughout her manhunt, we are constantly haunted by the presence of his voice.
Anthony Hopkin’s portrayal of Hannibal Lector merits recognition. Hopkins captures every quality of this merciless villain. The film brings out Lector’s strengths as well as his weaknesses. Lector is definitely the most dynamic and intriguing character on screen and Hopkins never misses a beat.
On the other hand, the script denies Moore’s character any relevance in the film. A foil character for Hannibal as well as Verger, she is merely a means to an end. Moore’s character faces few obstacles and experiences no growth as a protagonist. Unfortunately, this will definitely be a factor when comparisons are made between Moore and the original Clarice Starling, Jodie Foster.
Director Ridley Scott (Aliens, Gladiator) substitutes a dramatic plot and complex characters for a disappointing action flick. He supplies Hannibal with more than enough blood and gore but deprives the film of much needed tension and suspense.
Although one of the most anticipated films of the year, Hannibal lacks the essence of a true psychotic thriller, entertaining only with visual splendor.