Friday, April 20, 2012

REVIEW: Hannibal (2001)

Okay, all bets are off, people. This is the big one. One of my most hated movies of all time. I did a short one paragraph thing for this movie the last time I saw it, but I really don’t think THAT did this heinous thing justice at all. So let’s dig into this virtual layered cake of everything wrong with cinema, Hannibal.

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore

Where the first Hannibal Lecter movie with Anthony Hopkins, the great Silence of the Lambs, had characters, even the most minor ones, with depth and texture to them, a compelling story and a fascinating psychological undertone, this movie has phoned in joke characters, subplots that go nowhere and take up the majority of the film’s run-time and psychology that is mostly relegated to ‘playing classical music while showing montages of Anthony Hopkins doing things.’ Formula for a train wreck? You bet!

It starts off in the way I think everyone wanted a Hannibal Lecter movie to start, with a side character from the last movie talking to a diseased Muppet crack baby played by Gary Oldman:

You see this less than a minute into the film's runtime...isn't that just wonderful? Isn't that the best way possible to start off a sequel to one of the defining serial killer movies of the 90s?

…what, you didn’t think that would be a good set-up for one of these movies? Well then, you simply have no taste!

I guess the story is that this guy, Mason Verger, was once tricked by Lecter into doing hard drugs and savagely removing his own face with broken mirror shards, and that somehow made him paralyzed from the neck down as well. Probably just because this series loves having people bound so that they can’t move any part of their body below the neck. Are we seriously supposed to be invested in this? Oh, boo hoo, you did some drugs and did stupid things while on them? Cry me a goddamn river you whiny little freak.

What is his plan, anyway? We see that he “collects” Lecter memorabilia for some strange reason, but his main goal seems to be to torture and kill Lecter for revenge. However, THAT falls flat almost in the same scene when he admits that he’s “glad” Lecter did what he did to him, because it allowed him to awaken spiritually, or some bullshit like that. So which one is it? Is he obsessed with Lecter or does he hate him? MAKE UP YOUR MIND.

A drug fueled binge of madness? Yeah that sounds about right with how THIS movie was made...

Oh well. Oldman’s performance is deplorable and irritating, and the writing is just garish – this character is not an intimidating villain, he is Miss Piggy’s wart removed from the bottom of her foot. He’s pretty much only here to serve as a foil to Lecter to get him back into America.

He calls Clarice to his house because he saw on the news that she shot some drug dealer lady who had her baby strapped to her chest (just go with it…), and is now taking heat for it. There, he questions her about God and whether or not she has accepted Christ as her savior. This subplot is…never brought up again? What? Why? What was the point of bringing it up then?! It’s incredibly forced and contrived! Did the filmmakers just go “hey, we need something DEEP in this next scene! How about we have Verger ask Clarice about her opinion of Jesus Christ! That means our movie is SUPER INTELLIGENT!!!” Ugh.

But enough of that; we still have Clarice Starling’s character to butcher! In the original she was played by Jodie Foster, who gave an exceptional performance and really breathed life into the character. Here, and I can’t imagine why, she has not returned, making way for Julianne Moore, whose performance is about as bland as can be, but hey, at least she’s trying – it’s mostly the fault of the writing that she isn’t believable at all as Clarice. In a sensible sequel, the viewer would feel the weight of her years on the force and sympathize with her when she gets kicked off the force despite trying her best to follow orders. However, THIS movie just makes it all kinda ‘eh’ and presents it in a relatively bland way. How am I supposed to be invested in this Clarice? I know almost nothing about her. The atmosphere of the film and her personality are almost entirely different from that of Silence of the Lambs. With more insight into her inner character this could have been an arresting performance, but I guess that would have actually made the movie good, so the filmmakers couldn’t do that! Oh no.

We do however have stupid scenes set in Florence, Italy, where Hannibal himself is now residing, played by an Anthony Hopkins who I am betting got through this movie by smoking copious amounts of weed before each day of acting. He looks pretty zoned out:

"I'm sorry, I took more than my usual dose of Ritalin today..."

He’s…mostly OK, I guess, but the abysmal writing screws that up, too. He desperately wants to come out of retirement and start killing again, and yet he’s spending all his time, energy and resources applying for the position of curator of a museum? What the hell is stopping him? We clearly see later that he has no qualms with killing when provoked. Why doesn’t he just kill whenever he feels like it? Would that make too much sense? Does he just suffer from the fatal Plot Convenience Disease?

But never fear, for as soon as Clarice appears on the news for a relatively minor screw up, he writes her a letter all the way from Florence – because that makes sense how he would watch the American news all the way from there, right? Was he just doing that for 10 years straight just in case Clarice showed up in distress on the screen? Again, Plot Convenience Disease! It’s a killer!

There’s also Ray Liotta, who pretty much plays some horrible wretched douchebag put on Earth solely to torment poor Clarice. He’s a homophobe – he calls Hannibal gay because he enjoys classical music and tea time food – and he’s a sexist, as evidenced when he openly objectifies and harasses Clarice right to her face, with no shame whatsoever. Real great character guys! Maybe you should have him kick puppy dogs and tie girls to train tracks next!

"Hey, what, do you expect me to actually act like a human being that wouldn't have been beat up or killed in the real world yet? TOO BAD!"

But this is all really just window dressing for the movie’s real passion. You thought this was going to be a sequel continuing on the original’s premise of Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in a mental battle of wits with a third plotline mostly in the background? No! THIS MOVIE’S main focus is one Detective Pazzi, a rude, fat, frumpy, pissed-off looking guy who smokes a lot and yet somehow has a hot, charming wife who begs him in a seductive voice to take her out to the opera…nope, sorry movie, I’m not buying that for a second. There’s NO WAY a guy this annoying, bad tempered and fat would get a woman like that. NO WAY.

Anyway, he catches onto Lecter’s real identity and starts to try and capture him to get the FBI bounty on his head. This would be OK if, oh, I don’t know, HALF THE GODDAMN MOVIE WASN’T SPENT WATCHING HIM DO THIS. I don’t know if you know this, movie, but this character is grating as hell. He’s really not a good character at all. And we literally sit here for like upwards of 45 minutes watching him blunder around Florence, acting like a jackass, getting innocent people killed and shrugging it off like it’s nothing and just generally being a despicable excuse for a human being…? Do you people know anything about how to entertain an audience? Do you have any concept of what it means to tell a story that people want to pay attention to? GOD.

Oh, except when we have Lecter giving pretentious speeches about sin and Dante Aligieri and Judas Iscariot…Christ, I don’t think I can make it through this. How is it even possible to make something this unenjoyable? The answer to everything isn’t just putting ominous classical music on in the background, you know. That doesn’t exactly make your movie deep or anything; just more annoying and pompous.

So, yeah, after god knows how long, Lecter finally kills Pazzi by hanging him from a tall window tower and slitting his belly open. It’s actually a good scene and beautifully shot, but how much do you want to bet they just cease to care about the Pazzi character, his friends and family and Florence altogether after this? If you put money on that, well, you’d be sitting pretty right now.

It is just incredible how asinine this is. “Hey, let’s take an hour of the movie’s runtime to establish the character of Pazzi and make him the focus of the film. But after he dies, there’s no real point in resolving the story or anything; no no! Just act like it never happened at all! Great filmmaking!” What is this, the third or fourth time I’ve used that joke of imitating the movie’s creators? I’m sorry, but there just isn’t much else to do with this one. There’s nothing else here!

But maybe the movie will redeem itself with its last act or so. Maybe I’m being too quick to condemn it. After all, there’s still the plot with Verger, who despite looking like something a cat puked up, actually does have sort of a main goal, even if it is incredibly confusing. Maybe he’ll surprise us and pull out a truly cunning and sinister plan…

Yeah, this is stupid. Look at those dumb sunglasses he's wearing. Look at the boars just running around out there waiting to eat people alive. He really thought this was the best plan he could do?

…OR he’ll just do the dumbest thing possible! I mean my God! You can’t seriously tell me THIS was his only option! “Hmm, I want revenge on this guy! I think I’ll feed him to a bunch of savage boars!” It doesn’t add up! There are a billion more dignified and cool ways to kill someone! How on Earth did Hannibal attract the one person in the entire world whose chosen method of killing and torture was BOARS? It’s so stupid it’s radioactive! You could see the asininity coming off this plot from outer space. Outer! Space!

On the bright side, though, it’s finally clear to me exactly much of a joke this movie was to its creators. I mean, there’s simply nothing else here but crappy one-shot jokes turned into elongated pseudo-serious plotlines. I feel sorry for a lot of these actors, actually – especially Gary Oldman; man that makeup must have taken a long time! And it wasn’t at all worth it.

So they kidnap Lecter and strap him to another board so he can’t move his body at all; told you this series had a fetish for that. Verger says “Bet you wish you had fed the rest of me to the dogs too, huh?” Because, you know, it’s not like Verger said earlier that he was glad that Lecter tricked him! Oh wait, he did. Is it really that hard to have a character even a little bit consistent in his motive and mental processes?

Clarice comes to save Lecter at the last minute and gets shot, so Lecter saves her and walks out. But not before convincing Verger’s butler to throw Verger into the boar pit and kill him! This could have been a compelling plot point – a sort of ‘servant turns on the master’ gig. But the way the movie plays it, the whole story just didn’t matter, as nothing is ever resolved of it and we learn nothing about Verger, his butler or any of the other villains that make this movie any more compelling. But at least we got to see a guy eaten by boars! Hur hur…

Ha ha ha...finally, I get to see this terrible character pushed off a ledge and eaten by boars! My oddly specific wants are satisfied!

Lecter stitches up her wound and dresses her up in the skimpiest dress he could find, which shows off as much of her tits as possible:

Yeah, at this rate, why don't you just go full stop and dress her in her underwear or something? I didn't know Lecter was this much of a lech.

She goes downstairs and finds they’re at Ray Liotta’s house, which Lecter…found somehow, I guess. He’s scalped Liotta and is, well…it’s too dumb to even write down, so I’ll post a picture:

"Goodfellas? Meh, that was alright. THIS is my true passion in acting!"

Yeah, our finale for this movie involves Julianne Moore’s tits and Anthony Hopkins eating Ray Liotta’s brain! You know, the biggest flaw with THIS scene is that Hopkins is indeed eating Ray Liotta's brain. Ray Liotta has a brain? I think this scene is factually inaccurate.

So long story short, Lecter escapes and feeds some brains to a little boy on a plane. The end! Was it worth it? I don’t think so.

I mean man, this is a heinous piece of work, a sorry excuse for a film, a sad attempt at a sequel to something good. It’s practically unwatchable in how dragging and directionless it is. Plots are brought up and dragged out for ungodly amounts of time, as if they’re actually important, but then they’re just dropped for no reason and never resolved at all. There are opportunities for character development and psychological intrigue, but they are shelved in favor of terrible one-off jokes and attempts at being gory.

The characters are mostly indefensible, especially the awful Ray Liotta and the confusing mess that was Gary Oldman’s Mason Verger. The only good parts involve just Hannibal and Clarice together, only even they don’t seem terribly invested – hell, just look at the half-assed script they had to work with and you can completely sympathize. There’s just nothing good about this movie. There is simply no way they could have possibly screwed up a sequel to something good more…

Okay, well there’s that. But this is still terrible!

I guess some people like this movie for reasons I will never even begin to comprehend, but…yeah, keep this thing as far away from me as possible. Eugh. You know, why did I even bother elaborating on this? Looking back, my original review was fine and summed up everything I've said here except in about 1/10th the length! What was the point; what was the purpose?! Excuse me...I need to go meditate on my life.

All images copyright of their original owners. I do not own any of them.