*. I think I’ve already registered my low opinion of the novels of Thomas Harris. And of all his Hannibal Lecter novels, Hannibal is the worst. I reviewed it when it came out, and remember thinking that they were going to have a hard time making a movie out of this. Man-eating pigs? A cannibal banquet for the finale? Never going to happen.
*. I had misjudged the zeitgeist, and not for the first time. Still, a number of people (including Demme and Foster) bowed out of this film saying they found the book too gory or “excessive.”
*. Perhaps. I think it more likely they thought it was no good.
*. I blame the source material for most of what’s wrong with the movie. Anthony Hopkins is fine as Hannibal, though he seems a little bored with the role (he was reportedly reluctant to do it after he heard Foster and Demme had dropped out). Julianne Moore is convincing as Agent Starling, filling in some big shoes. Gary Oldman (uncredited) is terrific and steals every scene he’s in, even when playing against Hopkins and Moore. The locations are beautiful (but can Florence ever look bad?). The screenplay has a couple of memorable lines (“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” and “Spoken like a true protestant”). No expense seems to have been spared on the production. Ridley Scott handles the action well. And yet.
*. And yet I found the whole thing dull. Perhaps it just felt too much like Hannibal Lecter putting on a horror show. In particular, the dinner sequence at the end goes on far too long. Not just because it is cruel and disgusting, but because it is entirely pointless.
*. The creeps are all pretty creepy. The head D.C. cop in the opening firefight sequence is a jerk. Ray Liotta’s Krendler is sleazy and corrupt. Giancarlo Giannini is less sleazy, but still corrupt, and stupid to boot. And then there’s Mason Verger (about whom more in a bit). It’s the old trick of making your anti-hero look good by surrounding him with people who are even more detestable. That said, I liked Hannibal better in The Silence of the Lambs. Here I find him repellent and, what’s worse, uninteresting.
*. Gary Oldman is so good. His make-up is brilliant, one of the most original and disturbing freakshow faces ever put on film. It looks like a doll’s head that’s melted in a fire. And his insouciant accent fits the part perfectly.
*. Oldman has a knack for these offbeat, almost alien characters. He’s great at being weird, but not so weird that he’s unbelievable. He fits naturally into oddball parts.
*. I just wish we’d been given more of him. I would have loved to hear him go on some more about being born again. And he is disposed of far too quickly and unrealistically. Even Scott admits on the DVD commentary that Cordell’s motivation may be inadequately prepared.
*. Why is Starling called on to the carpet for the fish market meltdown? She ordered the operation off and the resulting massacre was due to the local police chief going rogue. So why is her ass on the line?
*. I wonder if there’s anything significant about Ridley Scott’s fondness for ceiling fans. Maybe he just likes them or thinks they look cool.
*. Giannini can’t look at a web-page of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted without a password? That wouldn’t make much sense if you’re asking for public assistance and offering a reward, would it? And yet Scott on the commentary says that information of the reward is “not for public consumption.” I don’t understand. Scott says this part of the movie “was carefully thought out” but I don’t see how it makes any sense at all except as a way of giving Starling a chance to track Giannini down by way of his cookie crumbs.
*. They should have left out all the stuff about pigeons that are “deep rollers.” It isn’t well enough explained. Hannibal is concerned that Starling might be just such a deep roller and hence . . . suicidal? Accident prone?
*. I like to re-watch movies, even ones that I don’t really care for that much. I’ve only seen this movie once, and then again to listen to the commentary. I can’t imagine watching it again. It’s too conventional to be a really stylish art film, and too dark and talky to work as popular entertainment. Instead it falls into a deep gap in between.