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Superior Sequel

by Johnny Bray

The critics have done it again. In many cases, it's a safe bet that if critics hate it, it's a decent movie. Usually, if a movie is getting bad reviews, I'm willing to give it a chance. This may sound hypocritical considering - at least in one sense of the word - I'm a critic myself, but the difference with me is that I don't want to hate movies.

When Hannibal first came out, I had no interest in seeing it. I figured it was the typical sequel - only made for the purpose of making money. But then of course, all movies are made only for the sake of making money, are they not? The movie did have one thing going for it that intrigued me: it's directed by Ridley Scott. Scott has a pretty good record for making good films. Anyway, when Hannibal came out, and was generally trashed by critics, I thought "Hey, maybe it won't be so bad after all."

The movie picks up ten years after the events of "The Silence of the Lambs." Dr. Hannibal Lecter is now living in Florence, under a different identity. Clarice Starling is a typical FBI agent now, though still haunted by her experience of a decade before. Dr. Lecter is still wanted by the FBI, but also by Mason Verger, Hannibal's only surviving victim. Verger is played fantastically by a big name actor, but you'll have to wait until the end credits to find out who (or find another review of the movie in which they tell you). Verger's face is completely disfigured, and disturbing to look at, but I personally think it would have been more shocking if they didn't show it to you in the first 30 seconds.

Though highly criticized for being extremely gruesome, it's really not all that bad. There are only about three points that are excessively graphic, but they're no worse than we've seen before in other movies. This takes me back to my critic-bashing: many critics seem to want to dislike a movie so badly that they will make something up in order to trash it. I agree it's much easier to review a movie you dislike, but if I like a movie, I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Sorry, back to the movie.

Anthony Hopkins returns as Dr. Lecter, but doesn't seem as into the role this time around. It almost seems like he's doing an impression of himself playing Lecter, rather than actually playing him. Fortunately, he's a good enough actor that it doesn't matter; he'll turn in a superb performance either way.

Julianne Moore, of whom I've never been particularly fond, is decent as Clarice Starling. Her character, however, doesn't seem very relevant. The movie is called "Hannibal" for a reason. Starling seems to be there only because she was in the first movie. Really, the character could have been changed to anyone else, and the film would not have been affected much.

Hannibal is a very good movie. It's slow in developing, but worth it. Those with a weak stomach should probably not watch it, but if you can handle it, it's worth it. The ending is supposedly "controversial," which only means it's better and more appropriate than some might like it to be. I must say I was very pleasantly surprised with this film.

As far as DVDs go, you can't do much better. I haven't seen an audio and video transfer this good since…well, ever. I'm not sure how, or even if, they could possibly improve on it. The outstanding video is anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), and the equally fine audio is offered in both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1.

Aside from that, this 2-disc set is loaded with special features. You get a never-before-seen alternate ending, over 35 minutes of deleted/alternate scenes, a running commentary track by director Ridley Scott, five "making-of" featurettes, a multi-angle featurette, a five angle breakdown of the "fish market" action scene, trailers, production stills, and even more.

This is quite possibly one of the best DVDs I've seen. Kudos to MGM.

Hannibal, from MGM Home Entertainment
131 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16X9 enhanced, 5.1 dolby digital
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta, Frankie R. Faison and Giancarlo Giannini
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis, Martha De Laurentiis and Ridley Scott
Screenplay by David Mamet and Steven Zaillian, Directed by Ridley Scott.


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Updated May 13, 2006