Taking A Bite Out Of <I>Hannibal</I>

One of the year's most anticipated movies, Hannibal, opens Friday, and some critics say the new film lacks the bite of its predecessor, the Oscar-winning Silence of the Lambs.

The Associated Press: "Hannibal Lecter is tanned, rested and ready. And a bit dull and dowdy compared to our last encounter with him."

Variety: "Hannibal is not as good as Lambs ... Ultimately more shallow and crass at its heart than its predecessor."

Village Voice: "The movie Hannibal is less monster than monstrosity — albeit, as superfluous sequels go, not on par with the memorably idiotic Godfather III. There's no redemption here, just the quest for a paycheck."

Chewing On Hannibal
Hannibal Strikes Again.
CBS News Sunday Morning's John Leonard tells why he thinks Hannibal isn't much of a film.
Ridley Scott
The director of Hannibal and Gladiator talks to 60 Minutes II's Charlie Rose about his life and films.
Hungry For Hannibal
Anticipation grows for the movie after a 10-year lapse between installments.
Actors' Take On Ridley Scott
He had a reputation early in his career for not exactly being an actor's director, but Sir Anthony Hopkins and others talk about how Scott directs.
Ridley Scott On Ridley Scott
The director's take on himself.
Not that the reviews are stopping the publicity machine behind the $80 million movie. Stars Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore made the covers of at least eight magazines this month, including Vanity Fair, Premiere, Entertainment Weekly, and Jane.

The first movie to feature Hannibal, Michael Mann's fine, underrated Manhunter, starring CSI's William Petersen and ctor Brian Cox as the caged cannibal, was released on DVD this week to coincide with the film's release. Bookstores are flooded with the paperback Hannibal, which is selling at close to the rate it moved when it debuted last spring.

Entertainment industry observers expect that the 10 years of silence that followed the release of Silence have whetted the appetites of fans of novelist Thomas Harris' series.

"I'm guessing the changes will just make the movie more of a
roller-coaster ride,"
said Chris Stiles, a 21-year-old student in Reseda, Calif. Stiles has hungrily followed developments along with other self-described "Lecterphiles" through Stiles' Web site, Hannibal's Palace.

"I'm a fan but this movie comes up a lot, at work and school and stuff," Stiles said. "People want to see it."

As Moore's presence suggests, fans should expect a film very different from its predecessor — and very different from its source novel, too. Star Jodi Foster, Director Jonathan Demme and Screenwriter Ted Tally dropped out of the sequel, supposedly because they found apocryphal the story ending Harris crafted, in which FBI agent Clarice Starling becomes Lecter's slave/surrogate but gets cured of much of her angst. It was a novel but decidedly uncinematic way for the story to go; it would have wiped out much of Foster's Oscar-winning work turning Starling into a realistically indomitable hero.

Director Ridley Scott, Screenwriters Steve Zaillian and David Mamet and the remaining principals — Hopkins, Harris and Producer Dino De Laurentis — were determined to make Hannibal less a sequel than its own, unique experience.

To judge by the more favorable reviews and the raves, they have succeeded. Even most pans are respectful, saying that Moore acquits herself well in a rather thankless role as Starling, and that Scott's direction, while less subtle and chilling than Demme's, is often riveting.

Rolling Stone: "It's unmissable, flaws and all, because riveting suspense spiced with diabolical laughs and garnished with a sprig of kinky romance add up to the tastiest dish around."

Hollywood.com: "A must-see — fans of horror movies will eat this one up."

Time: "Hannibal ...fiddles more with its source and reworks — improves upon — that novel's ending. Director Ridley Scott is nicely attuned to Harris' depiction of evil, of the strength and seduction in depravity."

And no movie with an actor as powerful as Hopkins playing a character as diabolical as Lecter should be totally dismissed.

"For one reason or another, Lecter has resonated with the public," Moore said. "It may have less to do with the actor and this character than with this character and the public.

"Actors are there for the audience to proect their self onto the screen. Audiences don't go to see actors — they go to see themselves," she added. "He's the monster we wish we could be."

By Nick Sambides Jr