Can anybody believe that multiple Oscar winning The Silence of the Lambs came out a decade ago? In the meantime, rabid, terrified fans eagerly waited for a sequel that would reunite director Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster, and Anthony Hopkins. Well, the sequel is now, and of the three, only Hopkins returned. Along the way were multiple rewrites and a flurry of activity to find a replacement for Foster (Julianne Moore won out). This time around, novelist Thomas Harris' creation is still creepy, but Hannibal lacks the depth and horror of its predecessor. Hannibal will mostly likely suffer also from extraordinarily high expectations. People want this film to top The Silence of the Lambs, and while it is a decent movie on its own, it is not a worthy enough sequel.

Everybody wants to see the rematch of wills between FBI Agent Clarice Sterling (Moore, The Ladies Man, Magnolia) and Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Mission Impossible 2). They will have to wait quite a while before the two meet. Adapters David Mamet (State and Main, The Winslow Boy) and Steven Zaillian (Gangs of New York, A Civil Action) spend an enormous amount of time elaborately staging the stories that allow Sterling and Lecter to meet again. Sterling took the fall for a failed drug bust, getting temporarily suspended. Mason Verger (Gary Oldman, The Contender, Lost in Space), the only person to survive an attack by Lecter, comes into some information that may possibly locate Lecter. Verger, horribly disfigured, wants nothing more than revenge against Lecter. In Europe, Lecter is leading a quite life until Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini, Mimic, Dune) begins having suspicions about his true identity. Pazzi, wanting the reward money, plots for a way to capture Lecter himself.

And the spotlight remains on Moore and her performance. Moore is an extremely capable actor and the opening scene has her assert herself in the role of Sterling. As Hannibal moves forward, Sterling does not have much to do. Moore falters simply because there is not enough meet in the script for her to act out. Hopkins and Oldman steal the show. Even after a decade and many self-parodies (anybody see Titus?), Hopkins can still generate fear. It's his small flourishes, like not blinking, that make him so effective. Oldman is completely unrecognizable underneath heavy prostethic make-up, and equally creepy. Oldman decided to remain uncredited as not to shift the focus away from the Sterling/Lecter story.

Hannibal is missing the tension in the original. The urgency here is much less. It feels as if the reason Harris wrote the novel was to appease fans instead of telling a story. This time around, Sterling just does not seem to have the same dimension to her character. If there were a contest of wills between her and Lecter, she would easily lose. It is more than the fact that her railroading is breaking her spirit. The Pazzi subplot is there mainly to pace the movie. For a law enforcement agent, Pazzi is incredibly stupid, as he ends up realizing. Director Ridley Scott (G.I. Jane), fresh off Gladiator, makes the movie gruesome, but not to forward the story, just to be gruesome. However, it is more than enough to make audiences squirm in disgust. If it's any consolation, there are tentative plans to adapt Manhunter, Thomas Harris' first novel about Lecter (adapted once already) into a new film, also starring Hopkins.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.  
2 hours, 11 minutes, Rated R for strong gruesome violence, some nudity and language.

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