well, it has happened. i've given updates along the way, but now the much vaunted, looking promising TV series Hannibal, based on that Hannibal, has hit TV. only fair, then, that i offer a review and some musings.
there is little or no way to do a review or pass comment in any detail without the odd spoiler here and there. for those not wishing to be troubled by information in advance of seeing it, then, in short episode one is brilliant, stays as faithful and loyal to the characters as it can and is exceptional, if highly disturbing, viewing. but be prepared for a sort of "parallel universe" or alternate timeline sort of thing going on.
OK, for those wanting to hear nothing more, move along. for the rest of you, just in case you missed the hint above, a *** SPOILER WARNING *** is in place for the whole rest of this post, although i will do my best to not give too much away.
the episode starts in an abrupt manner, with Will Graham (played with excellence by Hugh Dancy, someone i am unfamiliar with) at a crime scene. a very graphic crime scene, hence the bit of text you can see here, and indeed see throughout the episode every now and then.
i'm going to mostly avoid referencing the novel Red Dragon in regards of the characterizations. partially because it's probably been 18 years since i read it last, but mostly because as this is before that novel it's not really a fair comparison. that said, Hugh Dancy plays the part just about right - exceptional confidence and clarity when engaged in empathic channelling, neurosis when having what you or i would consider a "normal" conversation. well written, well cast and very well acted, young man.
going somewhat against what i say above, the single biggest problem with the TV interpretation of Hannibal is the timeframe it seems to have given itself. alarm bells rang for me within the first four minutes of the episode. for fun, see if you can see what's wrong with this picture.
did you spot it? yes, that's right, that is a cellphone in view. a reasonably modern one too. if this series is a pure prequel to Red Dragon, then it simply has to be set in the late 70s or early 80s. why? because to understand who and why Hannibal Lecter is what he is, you have to accept the time frame laid out by Thomas Harris and thus you have to accept that Hannibal was a young boy during World War II. this "alternate timeline" would either age Hannibal Lecter to be a good deal older than he is in the show, or would imply they are to come up with an entirely new reason as to why he has his snazzy nickname.
in fairness, they somewhat limit the "modern" technology in the show, but that it is there at all has created something of a problem in remaining pure to the source material. it is going to be very interesting indeed to see how this plays out. interesting, mindful of the fact that it could lead to disappointment.
moving on, and enter Jack Crawford who, after previously being Dennis Farina, Scott Glenn and Harvey Keitel, now finds that he is a big black dude in the form of Laurence Fishburne.
i had no problem with this casting choice at all. no idea if it was done for any "political reasons" or agenda, but i'd like to think it was for pure casting reasons. if so, it's inspired, as he plays the part exceptionally well. in fact, in the space of 40 or so minutes, you begin to become aware of how they wasted him in CSI, in retrospect.
the character is spot on. calm and nurturing when he needs to be, as he does with Will Graham, and a ruthless bully when required, as he is with this copper in the gents, a scene that gives some rather welcome comic relief to the dark world of the series.
wither the title character? Hannibal Lecter appears for the first time about half way through, eating an unspecified meat (in this case), giving one an incredible chill.
Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter. how does that work out? i can only answer that with a question - how does one give a round of appluase on the internet? whoever thought to approach Mads, well done, and a big thumbs up to Mads for taking the risk of accepting the part.
risk? yes, risk. for many Anthony Hopkins is Hannibal Lecter. if you feel the same and nothing will change your mind, well, sorry. of course Hopkins was brilliant in the part. as was Brian Cox and, indeed, Gaspard Ulliel in the often overlooked Hannibal Rising. remakes or re-imagining often fall apart when it gets down to imitation. Mads Mikkelsen plays the part his way, and rightly so.
to give a plot detail, both Will Graham and Dr Lecter have been called upon by Crawford to try and create a psychological profile of a seemingly random serial killer, if that description is not an oxymoron. well, watch the show.
now, from Red Dragon, we know that over the years Graham had consulted Lecter for help with this kind of thing, but Thomas Harris didn't really give many insights into the mechanisms of how this help took place. the creators of this series have thus taken it upon themselves to have Graham and Lecter going around as partners, to a degree.
i point that out as some of you may find this rather odd. it's safe to assume that most would have taken it as the "help" would have been in the form of discussions, a la Red Dragon / Manhunter and The Silence Of The Lambs, only without it being in prison. it does feel kind of strange at first, but from my side it was something you soon got used to.
there are, leaving aside the obvious, four important characteristics of the character Hannibal Lecter. all make their way into this first episode. the first two are his insane levels of vanity and his love of, if even in an anonymous way, flexing his superiority over everyone. the vanity is covered by Crawford's approach, the flexing of his superiority is in of course not resisting doing a copycat murder along the lines of the person he's supposed to be helping catch.
the above gives you something of a hint of the graphic content i mentioned. it does not get any less graphic. moving on, and a third characteristic relates very much to the obvious thing i mentioned about Hannibal Lecter. this is a rather tame image from a sequence that once you have seen shall both haunt you and convince you that Mads is the right man for this part.
difficult to word the third characteristic without giving too much in the way of spoilers. how about leaving it as he seems to enjoy making people do things that amuse him, no matter how sick or sadistic they are. think Mason Verger in Hannibal. in this instance, though, it's not encouraging someone to cut their own face off - it's rather what he cooks and who he serves it to.
the fourth characteristic, and what makes the novel Red Dragon and to a certain extent The Silence Of The Lambs work, is the rather peverse pleasure he gets from assisting fellow criminals evade or play with the police or FBI. it seems to please his vanity a great deal that he's considered "king of all criminals", and the one that other psychopaths look up to and admire.
i have a slight problem with this being introduced here. at this stage, after all, he is not even a suspect in a series of crimes that no one knows have happened. his vanity has been massaged no end by the FBI. why, then, would he look to help a fellow criminal by placing a warning call?
perhaps the answer is "because he can", rather than any malice aimed at the constabulary. if a twist in each episode will be him giving the suspect or the guilty a heads up it will get tired rather quicky, i fear. it seemed somewhat out of place, but i'm prepared to see where this goes as a plot device.
well, what more can i say? on the basis of episode one, Hanninal is a dark, haunting and most impressive show, waving a good deal of promise and giving every indication that it will deliver on the promise. my great fear, though, is that American audiences will not take to it. the last time i saw something this brilliant it was FlashForward, and large parts of American audiences gave up on the complexity of it. as Hannibal is going to get rather complex, let us hope that enough viewers stick with it to keep it going.
oh, yeah - do not watch whilst eating dinner........
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!