This is an extremely hard film to review as it kind of defies conventional cinema. In fact if it weren't for the large budget, the famous cast and the fact it's a sequel to one of the biggest thrillers ever made, chances are this would very much be classified as art house.
It's the kind of film you'll walk out of shaking your head wondering "what in the hell did I just see". Some will love it, especially those more into filmmaking and art house cinema in general, mainstream audiences however will be befuddled. "The Silence of the Lambs" remains to me the ultimate thriller and certainly one of my favourite films of all time.
Everything from the acting, the writing, the directing, the pacing, etc. is perfect and flows not only smoothly but enhances each other to create a film I've watched over and over again and find it great every time. I've never read any of Harris' novels and Michael Mann's prequel "Manhunter" (based on "Red Dragon") released in the 1980's I found quite disappointingly ordinary with the exception of a great performance by Joan Allen.
Going in I wasn't sure what to expect and vaguely new of the plot outline along with the fact the last 20 minutes of the movie was getting a lot of talk. Still, it was a film I've been anticipating on some level ever since I first heard Harris was working on the book. My initial reaction is that of bewilderment.
Visually its great with Scott giving us some gorgeous scenery and well filmed action sequences. His 'right up close slow speed' camera use in the action sequences (a trick quite prevalent in "Gladiator") does get annoying but the few bits of action are shot well. What was so great about 'Silence' was not only the performances of Foster & Hopkins, but also the combination of the two which was electric.
In this film Hopkins hams it up and really is the highlight, its not up there with his 'Silence' performance where he was more chilling, but he's certainly very funny on a sadistic level. Moore does a solid job in a role which, while I loved Foster in 'Silence', the character of Starling just seems so different in this that the change of both tone and actress makes it feel like a whole new character.
The supporting cast is pretty solid, Giancarlo Gianni the pick of the lot, whilst Oldman and Liotta do the best with what little screen time their characters have. Sadly the aforementioned pair do have shallow characters which really should've been explored to a deeper and darker level in a way that would make the resolution of the film more satisfying.
I hear in the book Verger is a child molester but the subject is barely touched upon in the movie, while Krendler has no history of rape in the film but is rather just a homophobic misogynist - as much as you hate these characters, more could be done to make one despise them as what is done here is only very brief and feels forced. One thing to say about Oldman, he's completely unrecognisable.
The pacing in this is what'll hit most people in the way that after a quite fast start it kind of languishes with no real sense of direction. It feels like its slowly building constantly up to something but by the time it comes around the ending is over too quick and too fast. The humour is very dark and very droll but most people will get it, whilst the scares are few but effective. In terms of production value its superb but sadly the story just isn't anywhere near as riveting or interesting as 'Silence'.
What made the first film so great was the interaction of the pair combined with her own personal tale of growth. Here the pair hardly interact at all, whilst her storyline is kind of pedestrian. Then of course we come to the gore quotient and yes this is a bloody movie but surprisingly its not as shocking as you may think. The gore is limited to small number of scenes, maybe 4-5 in total and in each case is just a few seconds long.
Many have talked about the gore in the ending and while I won't spoil it for you, that is the LEAST disturbing of the gore as it is done in a way that is so over the top its actually both squirm-inducing and hilarious at the same time. Far more disturbing is a disembowling scene in the middle of the film, though there's some shots with the boars which are not nice.
So the final verdict? Compared to 'Silence' this doesn't stack up at all but then again its unfair to compare the two as they're completely different movies. 'Silence' was a taut and intense psychological thriller. "Hannibal" is a relaxed paced Gothic drama with darkly comic elements - it holds much more in common with the likes of "American Psycho" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley" than the original or its similar followers like "Se7en".
'Silence' is a film you could watch several times in a theatre, 'Hannibal' you'd watch once and probably won't see it again for a while - its not an easy film by any means, but that doesn't necessarily make it a bad one either. I'd plant myself in the 'Mixed/Negative' reaction - as much as certain elements worked perfectly, others didn't and most of all it just didn't gel together. Its very original and very different for a mainstream studio film so be prepared for that, but it is worth seeing at a cinema if only to see how the crowds react to the final scenes.