Ten years after his escape, Hannibal Lecter has decamped to Florence, while Clarice Starling has been sidelined at the FBI to ponder anew her missing adversary. A corrupt Italian 'tec realises a new lecturer in town bares an uncanny resemblance to the erudite cannibal. First onto the discovery, though, is Lecter's only surviving victim, Mason Verger, who has been plotting a violent revenge involving man-eating pigs.
Even for a high profile sequel such as this, the preceding ballyhoo was pretty intense. The talent behind The Silence Of The Lambs - director Jonathan Demme, and Clarice herself, Jodie Foster - scarpered to the hills on reading Thomas Harris' deeply disappointing sequel. Still, Hopkins returned, and the arrival of new recruits Julianne Moore and Ridley Scott, piping hot after Gladiator, boded well. Add the mouthwatering screenwriting talents of David Mamet and Steve Zaillian, and something special was definitely on the cards.
The resulting collaboration is, for the most part, as faithful an adaptation of a novel as you could wish. Except you wouldn't. Foster and crew were right, it was just a bad idea in the first place. Scott's leaden movie simply exacerbates all the frustrations of Harris' derided novel - it's a thriller devoid of thrill. For starters, there's just no-one to worry about, for the only person in any kind of jeopardy is Lecter himself and it's his invulnerability we all love. The much mooted combo of Mamet and Zaillian have failed to find life in the moribund book, and Lecter is allowed none of the devilish wordplay, piercing intellect or sparks of hideous violence that defined his complex persona.
As events wobble from Florence to Washington to Verger's New England estate, driven by spurious motivations, you can't help but recallt the intricacy and skill that made Silence so riveting. There's not a single set-piece in Hannibal to match the mind-blowing escape of Lecter or the double house twist at the end of the original, replete with its scalpel sharp editing. Man-eating hogs, mobile phone chases and the odd gunfight hardly suffice.
While story ineptitudes cannot be laid at his door, the flat visual style and - staggering - lack of atmosphere are most certainly Scott's fault. Where is the florid Gothic mood of Silence or, for that matter, the hulking darkness of Alien? Florence might as well be Huddersfield. Hopkins, too, struggles to rediscover the impact he once made. The script doesn't help - apart from a lecture on fine art, you'll be hard pressed to find anything clever eminating from that mind. Outside of the cell, Lecter comes across as foppish and avuncular, a listless foodee sporting a hat at a jaunty angle. Moore is a huge misfire - perhaps Foster had just made the role too much her own. Only Liotta and Oldman have fun with the nominal bad guy roles: a slimy FBI suit and the dribbling, biscuit-faced billionaire Verger. Character piece or thriller, love story of psychodrama, Hannibal counfounds and dumbfounds - an inert spectacle and a frightening waste of modern cinema's juiciest villain.
Expectation far exceeds delivery. Ranging from laughable to just plain boring, Hannibal is toothless to the end.