|Upon rising shakily to our feet after withstanding Hannibal, we noted, "That was the most fucked up thing we've seen since Starship Troopers." And we meant it. Hannibal actually bore some disturbing resemblance to Troopers: lots of gore, dodgy dialogue, profound nastiness attempting to pass itself off as wit and a particularly foul image (Gary Oldman with a badly mangled face for Hannibal; Neil Patrick Harris in SS drag for Troopers).
One crucial difference between the two is that Troopers director Paul Veerhoven has never claimed that any of his "movies" were "films," while Hannibal director Ridley Scott tries to make "films" every time and, more often than not, makes "movies." In this case, he's made a pretentious slasher "flick," and attempted to pass extreme gross-outs as "art." Ridley, any goodwill we had given you for putting Russell Crowe in a leather skirt is hereby revoked. Bad director! Bad!
Admittedly, the source material isn't exactly first-rate, either. Most readers reacted to Hannibal (published in 1999) with a heavy heart and a distressed stomach. The plot was rambling, the images were unnecessarily brutal and the relationship between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter took a turn for the ridiculous. New readers were turned off and old readers felt betrayed. Hey, what better incentive to make a movie?!
We all knew it was a bad sign when Jodie Foster turned the project down. She's made some missteps in the past, but she's still a much better litmus test for a movie's quality than Anthony Hopkins (three words: Mission Impossible 2). And it was Foster's vulnerability, the fear that accompanied all her strength and made it even more remarkable that provided such a great counterpoint to Lecter's carnivorous (figuratively and literally) appetite for destruction.
While Julianne Moore is hardly a second-string replacement, she's still no Foster. Nor, for that matter, is Hannibal's Clarice as well-written as Silence's Clarice. When Clarice listens to old tapes of "her" conversations with Lecter, Moore's voice has been dubbed into scenes from Silence, and that's where the difference leaps into sharp relief. Where Foster was determined and eager despite her terror, Moore is just weary, shell-shocked, with nothing left to lose. If this is what "good" feels like, the movie seems to say, doesn't the fun of evil make more sense?
And oh, what fun it is! Disemboweling and hanging a nosy cop! Big-ass boars chomping on someone's still-living flesh! Cutting your face off and feeding it to the dog! Wheeeee!! Jesus. We knew Hannibal wasn't going to be wholesome family entertainment, but we weren't expecting a gore-drenched nightmare. There's overkill, there's ludicrous overkill, there's life-threatening overkill and then there's Hannibal.
And is there a point to any of this? Not really. The last two or three minutes of interaction between Clarice and Lecter finally provide some development of the relationship that made Silence so compelling, but it's really not enough to justify the two hours of barbaric misanthropy that preceded it. We just can't recommend Hannibal on any level.
And why is Ray Liotta eating sauteed parts of his own brain while he's still talking?! Ew!!!