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Hannibal: Special Edition

Why is Hannibal no match for The Silence of the Lambs? For starters, Thomas Harris' novel "The Silence of the Lambs" was tight, briskly paced, and compelling. "Hannibal," is a different animal altogether. Five-hundred-plus pages in length, it reads as if Harris wrote it as the outcome of some sort of deep-seated grudge, and it's impossible to read its controversial ending without being aware that Hollywood had already optioned the property for a movie; you can almost hear Harris laughing to himself, writing an ending that he knows will never, ever be filmable in a million years, as he gleefully pockets their money. The story picks up Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore, taking over for the wisely absent Jodie Foster) ten years after Silence, her FBI career less illustrious than she had hoped. Demoted to a desk job, she soon receives a letter from Dr. Lecter. Hannibal's living in Florence, Italy, working as an art curator, and he's made it a point to stay on top of Clarice's doings. He's also avidly pursued by one of his previous victims, a billionaire named Mason Verger (Gary Oldman). Meanwhile, a Florence detective named Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) has become suspicious of the art curator, figures out that he's Lecter, and decides to turn him over him to Verger for a $3 million reward. So Clarice tracks Lecter down — which was his plan all along, of course — but he flees Italy to return to the States, stalks Clarice as she, in turn, looks for him, Verger catches him, he gets away, blahblahblahblah — then we get to the big gross-out dinner scene and the finale. As stated previously, part of the problem of Hannibal lies in the source material. But another fundamental problem is in the re-working of the characters themselves. The single greatest strength of The Silence of the Lambs is the character of Clarice Starling. She's scrappy and brave, and she overcomes amazing obstacles in a believable, very human way. So "Hannibal," the book and the film, is something of a betrayal of that character. Where is Clarice's strength? And as for Hannibal himself, the book at least gave us a chance to explore his inner workings, but in the film we don't get that. We get Hannibal as a refined gent, a snappy dresser, and a lovelorn sap. Finally, the biggest reason that Hannibal doesn't work is director Ridley Scott. Coming off the success of Gladiator, his film is curiously detached, with lots of scenes shot from rooftops, from across rivers, from hundreds of yards away. It's stupendously uninvolving. But Julianne Moore, as usual, is very good, although she's not given a lot of actorly stuff to do, while Anthony Hopkins seems to have decided that he's now a Movie Star and doesn't need to do the hard work, playing annibal as, well, Anthony Hopkins with a nice paycheck in his pocket. MGM's two-disc Hannibal: Special Edition features a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1. Supplements include a commentary track by Scott, the 75-min. documentary "Breaking the Silence: The Making of Hannibal," deleted and alternate scenes with optional director commentary by Scott, multi-angle featurettes on storyboarding, title design and action sequences, a still gallery, and trailers and TV spots. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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