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It took a decade for a sequel to the multi Academy Award winning THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS to come to the silver screen, and I’m not entirely sure that the film adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel HANNIBAL ($30) is exactly what fans were expecting. For cinematic reasons, the film has changed certain aspects of the book, as well as toning down some of the more gruesome violence that would have been impossible to depict in an "R" rated movie. Still, HANNIBAL remains a rather grisly and violent film, although the "over-the-top" climax teeters on black comedy.

The plot of HANNIBAL picks up the story Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), who managed to escape from the authorities at the end of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. For a decade, Lecter has manger to stay off everyone’s radar by laying low. As the film starts opens, we find Lecter living in Italy under the guise of Dr. Fell, a Dante scholar who hopes to become the curator at a historic library. Meanwhile back in the States, Clarice Starling (now played undeniably well by Julianne Moore) is a full fledged FBI field agent, whose career still carries the baggage of her involvement with Lecter- who happens to top the bureau’s most wanted list. Unfortunately, Clarice is made the scapegoat of an ill-fated FBI operation by Deputy Assistant Inspector General Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta), who makes sure that she is taken out of the field. Deskbound, Clarice begins searching for new leads in the still open case file of Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

As it turns out, Lecter isn’t only wanted by the FBI- a disfigured billionaire by the name of Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), who was one of the Lecter’s victims, is also looking for the good doctor. When Verger discovers Lecter’s whereabouts, due to the efforts of Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini), the billionaire sets in motion a plan to capture Hannibal, so that he may extract more than a pound of flesh from the man who destroyed his life. Because of Verger’s involvement in the search for Lecter, Clarice finds herself in a situation where she must save her own worst nightmare from a fate that many would consider poetic justice.

Director Ridley Scott does a good job with HANNIBAL, but the movie is somewhat less involving than the majority of his other films. Perhaps Scott was suffering from burnout after making GLADIATOR. Of course, Scott makes HANNIBAL a visually interesting film, and he continues to push the envelope of digital trickery, something that was so much a part of GLADIATOR. However, I can’t help but feel that the intensity of ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER and even GLADIATOR is missing from this HANNIBAL. On the plus side, Anthony Hopkins is having a ghoulish good time portraying Hannibal "The Cannibal" once again. No Oscar here, but I enjoyed watching Hopkins serve up a bit of ham to go along the human flesh that his character seems to crave. As I stated above, Julianne Moore does a great job substituting for Jodi Foster, who wanted nothing to do with the sequel. Moore took on this thankless role and gave it an "A" caliber performance. The cast of HANNIBAL also includes Frankie Faison, Francesca Neri and Zeljko Ivanek.

MGM Home Entertainment has made HANNIBAL available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is a truly first rate transfer that beautifully renders the dark, gothic quality of John Mathieson’s cinematography. Although there is a certain smokiness to the film’s photography, the image remains crisp and nicely defined. There are times when the colors produce a good level of saturation, but for much of the film, the filmmakers work with a somewhat subdued palette. Flesh tones appear very natural; I especially like how the peaches and cream quality of Julianne Moore’s skin is reproduced here. Colors appear very solid, without a trace of noise or smearing. Blacks are absolutely pure and the picture has a very high level of shadow detail. Since HANNIBAL is a new film, I expected the source print to be pristine, and in this respect, the presentation does not disappoint. A tiny amount of film grain appears from time to time, but considering the darkness of the movie, it is negligible. Clean dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts from becoming noticeable.

HANNIBAL is offered on DVD with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 channel soundtracks. Both tracks are truly excellent, with the DTS soundtrack providing only modest enhancements over the Dolby Digital track. The sound designers have mixed HANNIBAL in a highly aggressive manner, which takes full advantage of the discrete nature of both formats. Channel separation is very precise in both the forward and rear soundstages, plus sound effects pan left to right and front to back in very convincing manner. Dialogue reproduction is flawless and intelligibility is near perfect. The bass channel is very solid and deep; going above and beyond the call of duty in this talk heavy film. The musical portions of the sound mix are reproduced with marvelous clarity and sonic detail, although this is an area where the DTS track has a clear edge. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the two-disc set’s supplemental features. Starting things off is a very good audio commentary featuring director Ridley Scott. Scott talks about the production in great detail and his comments are very interesting. Moving over to disc two, one will find the documentary Breaking The Silence: The Making Of Hannibal. Running one hour and fifteen minutes, the documentary looks at every aspect of the film’s production in thorough detail. Next up is The Mutli-Angle Vignettes, which looks at how a couple of key sequences were assembled. Deleted and Alternate Scenes provides a look at some interesting bits from the cutting room floor, including an alternate version of the film’s ending. There is over a half hours worth of material and all of it includes the option of director’s commentary. The Marketing Gallery includes a theatrical trailer, a theatrical teaser, nineteen TV spots, various poster concepts and a still photo gallery. Cast and crew biographies/filmographies, plus production notes close out disc two’s supplemental section.

HANNIBAL is certainly an entertaining sequel to THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. It may not be what fans of SILENCE (or the novel HANNIBAL) were expecting, but the film supplies the necessary shocks, thrills and chills that movie audiences look forward to. Anthony Hopkins is back in the shoes of Hannibal Lecter and seems to enjoy playing the character with a bit more relish than he displayed in the preceding film. MGM’s DVD edition of HANNIBAL looks and sounds terrific, so anyone interested in owning their own copy are going to be delighted by the quality of the presentation, as well as the abundant supplements.




DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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