I write this review as a fan of Thomas Harris and the characters that he created for ‘Red Dragon’ – through ‘Silence of the Lambs’, ‘Hannibal’, ‘Hannibal Rising.’ So it pains me to say: This series is so abysmal that it made me feel physically ill as I watched it. Everything that was great about Harris’s characters has been cheapened beyond redemption, mashed-up, recycled and spewed out into a mindless, overblown caricature. To be fair, as soon as ‘Silence of the Lambs’ hit box office gold, Harris has been compromised by Hollywood’s dollar and the gruelling schedule necessary to make regular hits. The sequels/prequels, both in print and film, diminished rapidly.
Ironically, his ideas gave birth to all manner of repetitive movie and TV imitations; not least the endless CSI spin-offs which even cast the same actor from (‘Red Dragon’) ‘Manhunter’ as a watered down version of ‘Will Graham’. And now, in a climate where every other show in the TV schedule is about profiling serial killers we have this tragic perversion of Harris’s original concept. Worse still, it borrows from its imitators. Think ‘Dexter’, removed of humour and bare-face cheek. Dexter’s lead character would have this version of Hannibal immobilized, parcelled up and flung from a boat long before he’d finished preparing the menu for breakfast.
There isn’t a single moment of believability, psychological insight or subtlety in ‘Hannibal’. The characters are universally one-note, dour, limited and devoid of any charm – a waste of a great cast. The writing is so poor it enters into the realm of ‘making it up as we went along’, pitches a tent there, and never leaves. The show professes to be a prequel leading up to the events in ‘Red Dragon,’ but actually steals continual plot points from it – and all of Harris’s following books. In that alone, it’s completely insulting. If nothing else, Hannibal Lecter is an intellectual genius – he would learn from his mistakes – not repeat them. As events lurch from one stupidity to the next, vast plot holes appear and the writers think that it’s OK to actually draw attention to them: contrived as questions routinely posed by Laurence Fishburne’s ‘Jack Crawford.’ I think that’s stupid, insulting and lazy.
As the show ‘progresses’ the scene-of-crime victim tableaus become increasingly more over the top and unfeasible. We’re asked to believe all manner of ridiculous body poses and situations. One of which, is declared by the FBI ‘experts’ to be suicide – even though it would have required a set of assistants, step ladders, ropes, pulleys – perhaps even a crane. Expertly hidden from sight – or just abysmal writing? I know which I’d opt for. In another scene, we see a body on a mortician’s slab – with every type of weapon imaginable sticking from it – in vast numbers. The only thing missing is a collection of safety pins or a Boy Scout badge. It looks like a giant metallic hedgehog. Without fail, Jack Crawford brings in his ‘expert’ and asks in a calm, philosophical tone: “What do you see?” I was laughing so hard at this point I almost herniated a disc.
There was a point where I zoned out so far I noticed how glaringly obvious, fake and impractical all of the interior sets were – and I wondered if the entire show would be later revealed as a fantasy. Later still, Eddie Izzard (yes seriously) appeared in a scene stolen from the most iconic moment of ‘Silence of the Lambs’, performing an horrendous, ill-judged and excruciatingly bad copy of Anthony Hopkins – and I was convinced that the show was a deliberate parody. But by then I was trying to justify the money I’d wasted on this Blu-rayed detritus. And that is why I’m writing this review at 4.15am in the morning – so that you don’t waste your time or money. Yes, it’s really that bad.