Sequel to `Silence’ Ought to Have Held its Tongue

Eric Adams

Following in the footsteps of a critically acclaimed and popular movie like “The Silence of the Lambs” is a difficult task that most directors would avoid. Ridley Scott (“Gladiator,” “Blade Runner”) directs this sequel, reuniting us with the infamous Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins (“Titus,” “Instinct”).

“The Silence of the Lambs,” directed by Jonathan Demme, was a good film when it stood alone. Compared to “Hannibal,” it’s a masterpiece.

This story takes place 10 years after Lecter’s disappearance and FBI agent Clarice Starling’s rise to fame. Jodie Foster declined to reprise her Oscar-winning role and was replaced by the very capable Julianne Moore (“The End of the Affair,” “Magnolia”). The movie opens with a botched FBI raid (led by Starling) on a drug czar.

To avoid negative publicity for the failed raid, the bureau puts Starling in a basement to research Lecter.

Gary Oldman (“The Cont-ender,” “The Fifth Element”) is disfigured beyond recognition as Mason Verger, Lecter’s only surviving victim. The wealthy Verger uses his money to influence efforts to capture Lecter so he can exact his revenge.

Lecter uses his intelligence to attain a curatorship at a distinguished library in Florence, Italy. Through an unlikely series of events, Lecter is discovered by Detective Rinaldo Pazzi, played by Giancarlo Giannini (“Mimic,” “A Walk in the Clouds”).

Pazzi, for unknown reasons, decides to try to apprehend Lecter without assistance. Starling tracks down Pazzi who has tracked down Lecter and together they both kill a whole lot of people.

This movie is violent in a disturbing way. Effects seem to be chosen simply to shock, not to move the story forward or to enlighten us about characters.

Where “The Silence of the Lambs” was suspenseful and well-told, “Hannibal” merely uses old cinematic tricks like realistic blood and guts to make us scream or, more often, gag. The script is convoluted and there are few believable motivations for its characters.

In the beginning, Starling is shown as being emotionally distraught about the loss of a co-worker in the raid. Later on, we don’t really get any signs of her feelings about Lecter, her job, or anything else.

Likewise, Lecter is portrayed merely as a slasher-psycho as opposed to an intelligent person with reason (albeit skewed) governing his actions. The first film explains why Lecter eats people rather than merely killing them. Care is taken to explain who he is and why he does what he does.

There are many extremely talented actors in this movie, but their characters are flat. Nobody cares if one or all of them is killed. Heavyweight writers Steven Zaillian (“A Civil Action,” “Mission: Impossible”) and David Mamet (“State and Main,” “Wag the Dog”) could do little to salvage the original novel by Thomas Harris. The result is a very poor script.

The camera lingers far too long in many places for no apparent reason. Scott has continued to use his heavy-handed style. Here, all he seems to say is that “You should be scared of Lecter!” Scott hasn’t made a good movie since “Thelma & Louise” in 1991.

The questions of character, lineage determining fate, and integrity – so well illustrated in the original film – are sadly absent this time around. This film is all style with no substance to support it. The gore may make you squirm or even laugh, but in the end it is a forgettable exercise.