We all love a good villain.One who inspires fear,dread and awe.One who we secretly root for and love being portrayed on screen.One of the most iconic to emerge in the last 30 years is none other than Dr. Hannibal Lecter.First portrayed on film by Brian Cox in Manhunter, and later by Sir Anthony Hopkins in The Silence Of The Lambs,Hannibal and Red Dragon.Unfortunately by Gaspar Ulliel in the absolute farce that is Hannibal Rising.And most recently Mads Mikkelsen in the television series Hannibal.This iconic character is the brainchild of writer Thomas Harris.And although the first installments of the series are among some of my favorite films.The sequels seemed to not only get worse, but so far fetched, You’d think he wasn’t even trying anymore.
The first adaptation to the screen of course was Manhunter in 1986, based on Harris’ novel Red Dragon.I already completed a lengthy comparison of Hunter and Dragon earlier last year,so I won’t go into to much details on both of these.Mann’s adaptation is quite honestly my favorite of all the Lecter films.A large part of that is Brian Cox, who I feel is one of the most underrated actors out there today.Also, This could arguably be one of the first times we saw the FBI’s criminal profiling techniques adapted to the screen.The character Jack Crawford himself, is based on world renowned profiler John Douglas.For an introduction to the franchise, it still hold up remarkably well.
Undoubtedly, the most renowned and well recognized film in the series is The Silence Of The Lambs.I consider it to be one the greatest films released in the 1990’s.Winning several academy awards, and a lot of praise from critics and fans alike.One of the elements that made the film so memorable were the on screen performances of Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal, and Jodie Foster as FBI agent Clarice Starling.On the trail of serial killer “Buffalo Bill”, who was loosely based off of real life murderer Ted Bundy. Although the film gained much recognition, It was protested heavily by LGBT groups, who felt is was wrong to have a villain who thought they were transsexual.A point a lot of people missed is that he isn;t one, he thinks he is.Illustrating his deranged mind.Through out the film Lecter appears as the ultimate anti-hero.We can;t help but cheer him on as he outwits the police and his incompetent psychiatrist at every turn, and makes his escape.In the films conclusion he even walks off into the sunset like the victorious gunfighter in an old spaghetti western.
Unfortunately, things didn’t do so well from this point on.10 years after Lambs dominated the box office a long awaited sequel was finally released, and disappointment followed.2001’s Hannibal saw Hopkins reprising his role as the infamous doctor yet again, this time on the run in Europe.(yet somehow giving lectures at colleges under the radar of interpol) But Foster refused to reprise her role a second time, So Julianne Moore was cast.That was the first major drawback, Foster gave the role life and plausibility. Moore just seemed completely out of place.Also, Gary Oldman as one of Lecter’s victims who is held together by skin grafts was an interesting touch, but seemed more farcical than anything else.To be fair though, The book is actually a lot worse.It even ends with Starling and Lecter running off together.Which really shows Harris’ shortcomings as a writer.Their relationship in the previous installment had been one of student and teacher in a way.He continually attacked her psychologically and weaved his way into her thoughts, But almost with purpose.In lambs, she’s still young and naive.It’s almost as if he’s training her to think like a criminal and not as a cop.
The film adaptation of Red Dragon wasn’t bad.I actually enjoyed it some extent.I already talked about this one at detail in an earlier review, So I won’t spend to much time on this one.I felt Hopkins did a good job, as he does in every role he’s ever given.I just couldn’t take Ed Norton seriously enough as Will Graham.Combine that with a fake out ending, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and you have an inferior product to Manhunter.It did follow the source material a bit closer.But at the end it just didn’t deliver.
And then, it seemed Harris’ talent as a writer had completely been thrown out the window with the next installment Hannibal Rising.Set in 1944 occupied Russia during WWII,Lecter’s family is victimized by members of a Waffen SS battalion who cannibalize his sister.Lecter spends the rest of the film seeking out gruesome revenge, and gradually losing his sense of humanity. The film was meant to show Lecter’s childhood trauma that would compel to evolve into a psychopath.This is a case where you can’t blame the film for a bad adaptation.Harris himself would write the screenplay.The younger Lecter would be played by French actor Gaspar Ulliel.Who was so one dimensional and unconvincing I got bored about halfway through viewing this travesty.I watched it for the purpse of completing the series.The whole film suffers through lacking performances and a paper thin plot.A story similar to this one might have worked on its own.As a sort of revenge flick, but using a plot like this to describe Lecter’s origins? I call shenanigans.
I’m not sure if we’ll ever see a new installment of the Lecter franchise, besides the television show.Which itself takes place before the events of Red Dragon.There’s an old saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”, I’m not sure if Harris’ realized over time he would do more harm than good to Hannibal Lecter.I certainly feel the first 2 entries would be more than fine on their own.However, it’s also his bread and butter, so to speak.No matter how bad the product might be, Theatre goers will always shell out their hard earned money to see the next installment of a film franchise.Everything is in the name.