Monday, April 15, 2013

TV Review: "Hannibal"

The Cast of NBC's "Hannibal"
Now that I've finally had the chance to see the second episode of Bryan Fuller's latest series "Hannibal," I have a better idea of what I think of it. 

Fuller ("Wonderfalls;" "Dead Like Me" and my beloved "Pushing Daisies") has created a prequel of sorts to Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon (the novel introduces the already incarcerated Lecter as Grahame seeks his advice in tracking down a serial killer - much like Clarice Starling would do in The Silence of the Lambs). "Hannibal" takes place several years before the events of Red Dragon, when Grahame (who self-identifies as being 'somewhere' on the autism spectrum and possesses an extraordinary ability to get inside the heads of serial killers) is called in by Agent Jack Crawford to work a case involving ritualistic cannibalism, of all things. Lecter is called in to consult - and later take Will on as a patient, and the two try to analyze one another as they begin to play a very intriguing cat-and-mouse game. 

This is the third pair of actors to to play the duo; William Petersen and Brian Cox in Manhunter (Michael Mann's excellent 1986 adaptation of Red Dragon*); Edward Norton and Anthony Hopkins in Brett Ratner's regrettable remake and now Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen in a 'pre-boot' (forget all about Harris' last novels Hannibal and Hannibal Rising and their mostly dreadful adaptations). I must say that I am enjoying both of their interpretations of the characters, though Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) makes it clear from the beginning that he is quite insane, simply by raising an eyebrow or twisting an odd smile on his magnificently cheek-boned face. Dancy ("The Big C") is trying his best not to overact in a role ripe for some set gnawing. He doesn't always succeed, but his restraint is generally effective. I wish I could say the same of Laurence Fishburne's Jack Crawford. Fishburne's very dark storyline on "C.S.I." is undoubtedly what led Fuller to cast him in the role previous played by Dennis Farina, Scott Glenn and Harvey Keitel. Fishburne plays Crawford as a volatile hot-head, practically bullying Will to return to fieldwork The rest of the cast is fine and it's great to see former Kid in the Hall Scott Thompson as saucy lab technician Jimmy Price. 

Dripping with weird atmosphere and loaded with Fuller's often outlandish and always beautiful visuals (even the gory stuff, though kept to a minimum, is gorgeously shot) and his very dark sense of humor, "Hannibal" may well be the best series Fuller has created, yet. I'm certainly interested to see where it goes and how the relationship between the eventual adversaries develops. Still, as much I like it, I can't imagine it going beyond a few seasons, and I'll tell you why. Fuller's concepts are smart and original and engaging, but they usually aren't enough to sustain more than a few seasons' worth of story before getting repetitive. I think he'd be much better served creatively, if he would start writing a feature film. I'll also say that while "Hannibal" is only slightly less salacious than A&E's 'preboot" "Bates Motel," it seems this may just be another attempt by NBC to jump on the genre bandwagon after the success of "Grimm." But what I've seen so far has been fascinating and I am very hopeful. *** (Three Out of Four Stars).

More, anon.

*And sorry Ralph Fiennes - you may be an excellent actor in most things (we won't mention The Avengers), but Tom Noonan is far creepier and far more compelling as Francis "The Red Dragon" Dolarhyde.


Anonymous said...

I give it 3*'s too but only because I took 3/4* off for Laurence Fishburne. I really am tired of him.

Prospero said...

So glad you're back! And I agree. Fishburne needs to go play Cowboy Curtis again.

Anonymous said...

I never really left - didn't you get my email?

Prospero said...

No. but I just sent you one! :)