Our guest blogger is hobbyist film and TV series reviewer and writer Harry Casey-Woodward. This is the first in a series of posts in which Harry will be sharing his opinions on things he has watched. First up is his review of Hannibal…
Hannibal, 2013- , cert 18, 2/5
American TV shows tend to annoy me. Of course there are exceptions and this is not going to be a rant about how everything produced by America is pig slop compared to the firm upholding columns of British art, because I enjoy more American films, book and music than such things from my own country.
However, it’s the way the ‘hottest’ US dramas are shoved in your face constantly while someone’s screaming ‘YOUR LIFE WILL NOT BE COMPLETE WITHOUT THIS.’ And when you bully your busy consciousness to pay attention to them, you realise that under all the hype, the glossy technical sheen and pretty actors, there’s not a lot going on.
‘Hannibal’ is no exception. For those not in the know, this series now in its third season is about everybody’s favourite cannibalistic psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter and is set way before ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and even before ‘Red Dragon’, the first Hannibal story.
In the show, Hannibal is somehow not yet suspected of being a serial killer (despite an overly sinister performance by Mads Mikkelsen) and he is asked by FBI man Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) to be psychiatrist for Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a special consultant for the FBI who’s ‘too unstable’ to be an agent and is revered for his ability to fully emphasise with serial killers.
There have already been two films about Will Graham. In both ‘Manhunter’ (1986) and ‘Red Dragon’ (2002), Graham is presented as a brave, intelligent individual, battling his own demons. Hugh Dancy portrays him as a toddler constantly on the verge of a tantrum. He’s this fragile genius who everyone must dance around or he’ll snap and slaughter them all. Unfortunately the suggestion that someone who looks as threatening as a teddy bear can have a dark murderous heart isn’t very convincing.
His ‘gift’ is overblown too. In the films, Will simply sees the crime scene through the view of the killer, using psychology to pick out clues. In the show, Will can not only fully re-imagine the crime but also re-enact the whole thing, thus causing further annoyance when he pretends to be some big bad psychopath every episode. The replaying of the murder is impressive the first few times, but it gets a bit old when it’s done every episode.
The tendency to over-do things lets this show down big time. Every shot has to look sensuous and glamorous, whether it’s Hannibal’s cooking or a dismembered body. As impressive as the hallucinogenic scenes and perfect lighting is, every episode is an assault to the senses which gets exhausting. Yet under the flashy imagery, the dramatic emotions and heavy dialogue on psychology and murder, the show isn’t saying a lot. All it does it cater to society’s sick obsession with serial killers, of which there are a hundred other shows and films doing the same thing.
Every episode attempts to outdo the one before in terms of gore and violence. Every episode, Will and Jack are investigating a new killer in their local area, which just feels unrealistic. So does the amount of violence perpetrated by the killers. We’ve got killers building sculptures out of bodies, turning bodies into instruments or using them as fungus gardens. While the films attempted to be realistic and in depth with the psychology of their killers, the show just uses outrageous gore for gores’ sake, which feels shallow and sick.
The one thing that could have had more spice was Mad Mikkelsen’s performance of Hannibal. It’s cool to see a cold, restricted portrayal of the character, but Mikkelsen shows so little emotion in every episode that he gets a bit wooden. I still find Hopkins’ performance more chilling. He may be tongue in cheek but he demands your attention, whereas Mikkelsen comes across as a bit lazy.
But maybe I shouldn’t be complaining about something that has been written primarily for entertainment and I should just accept the fact that I do enjoy it for the nonsense that it is. However, what gets my goat is that it tries to be some deep philosophical drama when there’s not much substance under the style. And as for being a horror show, it’s not very scary. While the films went for the classic tools of suggestion and atmosphere to creep you out, the show just throws gore in your face. But if sensual overload is your thing, this show has a lot to offer visually, and Hannibal’s cooking did make me hungry…
What do you think? Do you agree with Harry’s review?
Images from Sky