Hannibal Review

Posted: May 28, 2013

Fresh audience, same villain

Past surgeon, current psychologist: new TV series gives viewers a glimpse of Hannibal Lectar’s past, filled with crime chasing and many twists and turns

More than twenty years ago, Anthony Perkins won the Academy Award for his eerily charismatic portrayal of jailed serial killer Hannibal Lectar in the critically acclaimed film Silence of the Lambs. Since its release, the film has earned several accolades and is considered to be one of the greatest and scariest films of all time.

But what many fans of the movie know little about – something that fans of reading novels before film adaptations might be more likely to know – was that Silence of the Lambs was based off of not the first, but the second novel in author Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lectar series.

Harris’ first novel, Red Dragon has seen two adaptations to film: 1980’s Manhunter and 2002’s Red Dragon, which starred Hopkins at the lead.

Apparently, the entertainment media decided that the public hasn’t had enough of Lectar’s cannibalistic idiosyncrasies, and has since begun to run a brand new TV series based on the characters in Red Dragon. The series is rightfully titled Hannibal, airs on NBC, and stars Hugh Dancy as FBI profiler Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lectar, a forensic psychologist.

What Hannibal portrays that is fresh to audiences familiar with Harris’ characters is that it brings to life the story before Red Dragon, before Dr. Lectar was known as Hannibal the Cannibal, before when he was nothing but an offbeat yet brilliant psychologist who aids Will Graham in his investigation of various disturbing crimes. The audience may know the conniving acts behind Lectar’s character, but the characters involved in the show in which he’s working with don’t; this knowledge brings together the physical and psychological tension that the show radiates through both its macabre imagery and inconspicuous anxiety.

As profound as it is, the most important factor to consider when creating a show based on Hannibal Lectar is the character himself.  He’s – surprisingly – more than just a flesh eating psychopath.

Although portrayed for the first time in 1986 by Brian Cox, Lectar’s character achieved his truely infamous reputation when Anthony Hopkins went home with an Oscar. Now in this modern representation with an underlying CSI feeling, the job of illustrating the bloodthirsty mental specialist is assigned to Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen.

His thick accent may not be as concealed as it should be, but Mikkelsen has the oppurtunity to give Lectar’s character a fresh start as he begins his journey from unexposed villain to controversial anti-hero.

Bouncing from scene to scene there’s more to learn about the character in each episode, ranging from his medical past as an emergency surgeon to his passionate skills in the culinary arts (a hobby that truly earns him the name Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lectar).

Lectar’s opposite, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) also provides a strong, interesting lead that gives the show a true psychopathic feeling that leaves viewers racking their brain for their own sanity along with Graham as he faces the brutalities of crime.

It’s this physical gore that inspires an array of slaughterous obscenities that dare to overshadow the queasy images of Dr. Lectar’s cooking techniques. And while the amount of such gore may sometimes appear tasteless for a TV show, the use of this kind of horror is needed in a story that deals with the mature themes of Harris’ novels.

Cinematography and the ability to make the audience believe in the story are important, but what makes Hannibal a show worth watching is it’s undeniably clever and philosophical script. Lectar’s acts may be inhumane, but his speculative dialogue and musings are sensual and magnetic.

Will Graham’s character is another treasure trove of thought-provoking words, as he begins to fall deeper into a subconscious insanity and struggle with socially accepting others into his life (especially his unbeknownst adversary, Hannibal Lectar).

As a successor to the film series based on Harris’ Hannibal Lectar series, Hannibal gives audiences a crisp beginning to the prelude of a saga long loved by fans of film.

With the help of strong acting, murderous imagery, and a script that rivals even Silence of the Lamb‘s adapted screenplay, Hannibal has the potential to become a show that gives a knowledgeable speculation of Dr. Lectar’s character as well as his relationship with the inner villain that he is.

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