Review: The Hannibal Series (1999-2002)

The Hannibal Series is a series of films centred on the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a genius psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. Played by Anthony Hopkins in all three films, the series begins with Silence of the Lambs and ends with Red Dragon*. All three features were adaptations of Thomas Harris’ novels of the same name.

Silence of the Lambs (1991) – The five-time Oscar winning film, Silence of the Lambs continues from its prequel Red Dragon with Dr. Hannibal Lecter being sought out by Clarice Starling, an FBI agent, who seeks help with another serial killer, known as “Buffalo Bill”. This film stars Jodie Foster, Scott Glenn and Ted Levine with direction coming from Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia).

I had put off watching this film for so long as I am not a huge fan of the horror/thriller genre, but this was definitely worth the wait. Anthony Hopkins gives a suspenseful and thrilling performance – I was on the edge of my seat every time he was on screen. The suspenseful nature of the film was only possible with the expert direction of Jonathan Demme, who rightfully won an Academy Award for his work. This is a perfect introduction into the series in my opinion, and would highly recommend you watch this first ahead of the others. A suspenseful, mind blowing thriller that expertly delivers itself, and doesn’t play off heightened music or jump scenes to scare the viewer.

A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” – Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Hannibal (2001) – Set 10 years after the events of Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal finds Dr. Hannibal Lecter in exile in Italy. After an investigator figures out who Hannibal really is, he reconnects with FBI agent Clarice Starling who is being victimized by the FBI through the influence of Hannibal’s previous victims who is also after the cannibalistic serial killer.

This film is as confusing as the above synopsis. Full of plot holes and character development that made no sense to the previous film, Hannibal lends itself to a team that has little understanding of the novel. There is no doubt Ridley Scott and the writing team are talented, but it’s no wonder Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster and the Academy Award winner writer of Silence of the Lambs, Ted Tally declined any involvement after reading the script. Anthony Hopkins is the saving grace, with all screen time chilling and brilliant as his previous outing as Dr. Lecter. I saw this last, and if you’re like me and unable to not finishing something, I suggest you do the same.

On a similar note I must confess to you, I’m giving very serious thought… to eating your wife. ” – Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Red Dragon (2002) – This prequel takes place just as Dr. Hannibal Lecter is being caught by FBI agent Will Graham. After both being injured by the incident, Graham retires while Dr. Lecter is sentanced to life in prison. Some years later, another killer is on the loose by the name of The “Tooth Fairy”. With FBI agent Graham now out of retirement, only Hannibal has the answers to the whereabouts of the serial killer. Directed by Brett Rener (Rush Hour), the film sees Silence of the Lambs writer Ted Tally reprise his duties. Better casting decisions than Hannibal sees Edward Norton star alongside Hopkins with Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson and Philip Seymour Hoffman supporting.

The series has been saved by this prequel to Silence of the Lambs. The writing sees a more coherent, thought through plot and the ending ties in well with the next in the coherent series. Anthony Hopkins no longer has to rely on his strong screen presence, as Edward Norton brings with him a fresh outlook on the Hannibal series. The film is darkly seductive, bringing back its thrilling and suspenseful themes that made Silence of the Lambs so ambitiously brilliant.

And be grateful. Our scars have the power to remind us that the past was real.” – Dr. Hannibal Lecter

*Hannibal Rising (2007) contains a completely different cast and crew, so have emitted this from the review.


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