Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hannibal - Rewind

Released 10 years ago today...

Original Release Date: February 9, 2001

I cannot think of any other film in recent history that has had so much hype or momentum working in its favor leading up to its release that just didn't deliver on any of it. It was the sequel to the 1991 Best Picture Silence of the Lambs which also gave birth to one of films greatest horror icons, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). It was based off the hit book of the same name that had just come out two years prior and the screenplay was worked on by one of the greatest writers out there, David Mamet. Anthony Hopkins returned to the role that made him a household name outside the drama circle and helming the film was one of today's greatest visionary directors, Ridley Scott. I remember the time leading up to the release of the film that the anticipation was at a fever pitch and no one even contemplated whether or not it was going to be any good which in hindsight seems very silly to me now.

When it did finally hit theaters in early 2001 just about everyone I knew panned the film saying things like "That's not Clarice!" or "Why the hell is Hannibal just talking to everyone instead of killing them?" and my favorite of the bunch "Who the hell is that fugly dude in the wheelchair?". It is true that this film was a great departure from its brethren and I suppose that is usually a good thing (God knows that I hate it when a sequel just repeats everything the original did). But I think in the case of Hannibal we actually WANTED everything from the first film to be regurgitated back at us. Without a doubt though the most jarring change or shift was the casting of Julianne Moore as Special Agent Clarice Starling.

While I generally like her in just about everything she has done I think it was a bad call on Ridley Scott's part to go ahead on the project without Jodie Foster. It isn't unusual for actors to be swapped in and out of roles for sequels but they were dealing with what I consider to be a game changing film (The original was a dam horror movie and it won the Oscar for Best Picture!). Jodie Foster was such an integral, if thankless, aspect of the first film that it was unforgivable not having her and poor Julianne Moore lost the battle the moment she signed on the dotted line. For sure though there were many other issues with the film, the pacing was horrible (if memory serves me it took over an hour into the film before Lecter actually killed anyone). And the introduction to that "Fugly guy in the wheelchair" Mason Verger (an unrecognizable Gary Oldman) just helped throw everything off balance even more with his vengeful wrath towards Lecter.

It has been a very long time since I have actually sat down and watch the film in its entirety and maybe the years have been kind to it, who knows. But my memories of it are not kind (although I vividly remember that dinner scene with Ray Liotta as being one of the single greatest and ridiculous movie moments I had ever seen) and all those cookie cutter sequels that have come after it only hurts the name of Hannibal Lecter even more. I suppose though that does make him a true horror icon in the end because all horror icons have had their name squandered over the years from horrible sequels. All that's left now is to see Hannibal Lecter in space..."In Space, No One Can Hear Lambs".

Hannibal (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Hannibal trailer:


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