While an earnest effort with some solid chills and plenty of bloody stuff, Hannibal feels at war with its source material as it aims to appease fans who weren't keen on Harris' controversial ending and the notable lack of Jodie Foster. Still, the movie has its moments of gleeful gore-fueled brilliance. Kino Lorber Studio Classics enters the 4K UHD Blu-ray game with their first release and the results offer a notable uptick in video quality with a new native 4K restoration with Dolby Vision HDR that should please a lot of folks. The included standard Blu-ray holds all of the archival bonus features absent from the 2009 Fox/MGM Blu-ray. For Kino's first outing in 4K, this is a solid effort. Recommended.
Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) has been living a quiet life abroad for the last ten years munching his way across Europe. When Clarice Starling (now played by Julianne Moore) is in disgrace with the F.B.I. after a botched drug raid, she's given the chance to reopen the case to find Lecter to redeem herself. Seeing the distressed Starling as the perfect bait, Lecter's only living victim Mason Verger (Man of 1000 faces Gary Oldman) sets the wheels of revenge in motion to draw out the reclusive cannibal.
Ever since the day my Dad brought home a copy of Silence of the Lambs on VHS tape and told me I couldn't watch it, I became obsessed with Thomas Harris' cannibalistic culinary character. What better way to inspire your kids than to tell they couldn't do something? So, one day when I was home alone sick from school, I was first introduced to Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter. All these years later I readily admit I was not at all ready to see that movie - but I was hooked! Over the years I chased down the books and became a rabid fan of Manhunter. When Harris finally got around to saying a new Lecter book was in the works - I was ready to go. And then I read the book.
Like many, this wasn't exactly the continuation I had hoped to read. To say this was a departure from Red Dragon and Lambs is a bit of an understatement! In the movie bizz, most folks would probably call it "unfilmable," but that didn't stop Dino De Laurentiis from buying up the rights. Undeterred without the participation of previous Lambs Oscar-winners Demme, Foster, or screenwriter Ted Tally, Ridley Scott was brought in, Julianne Moore hired, Hopkins got a huge paycheck, while David Mamet and Steven Zaillian wrestled the book into a workable screenplay. The results are something of a mishmash of the original source material and what audiences wanted to see in a sequel.
The results are a bit mixed, to say the least. Where Manhunter and Lambs were sleek and straight forward thrillers, Hannibal skews towards the grotesque. Not that the early movies shied away from horror or gore, they didn't relish in it quite the way Hannibal does. Disemboweling, sliced femoral arteries, hogs trained to eat people alive, amateur brain surgery - there is a lot of viscera in this movie. After frequent viewings, I've come down on the side that Ridley Scott essentially made a big budget Hammer gothic horror movie - and for the most part it works.
Comparing the movie to the book, I've got to tip my hat to the filmmakers for giving it the college try. The book is all sorts of horror and violent unpleasantness with character turns that make little sense. The film leaves out some key characters, but in truth, you don't miss them. The movie smartly dropped Jack Crawford, he was a non-entity in the book, to begin with. They had to lose Verger's lesbian bodybuilder sister Margot because yeah, there's just no way to make her plot of wanting a child and using her brother's sperm to impregnate her girlfriend work in a movie.
The biggest issue with Hannibal is that it never really should have been actually about Hannibal himself. Manhunter and Lambs and their respective source novels worked because Lecter was a limited presence. He was a creepy figurehead who influenced pieces of the plot, but they weren't about him. By focusing so intensely on the monster Harris' novel and this movie manage to make him a sympathetic character and expose that he's just not that interesting a character in large doses. This is where I will forever tip my hat to Bryan Fuller for finding a way to make the cannibal a central character by breaking away from from the source materials and never letting the audience forget he's a true figure of evil. And with that approach in mind Hannibal the series offered a better and more fulfilling adaptation than Hannibal the movie.
Julianne Moore isn't Jodie Foster, but she gave it an earnest try to own the character and make it her own. Hopkins is enjoying every moment of having a movie dedicated to his most famous character. Frankie Faison is a nice welcome face to see again as Barney and the only actor to appear in all four Lecter movies. Then we have Ray Liotta as Paul Krendler - the sort of villain you love to hate and enjoy his gnarly fate! Of the cast, the real standout here is Gary Oldman as the diabolical disfigured Mason. He may not move and he's hidden behind pounds of makeup and prosthetics, but he owns every scene he's in and manages to outshine everyone in the film. There are some great moments to this film and I would call myself a fan, but I am under no delusion that this is a great movie. Of the five official Lecter films, it's third on my list - it still has a lot more class and character than the soulless cash-in Red Dragon and the absolutely needless Hannibal Rising.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Hannibal beats its sibling films to 4K Ultra HD thanks to Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label in a two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray set. The discs are housed in a standard sturdy black 2-disc 4K UHD case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
If you were less-than-impressed with the appearance of the Fox/MGM release, you'll be pleased with KLSC's first 4K UHD release with Hannibal. Minted from a fresh new native 4K restoration overseen by cinematographer John Mathieson, this 1.85:1 2160p with Dolby Vision HDR transfer blows past all previous home video releases. There are a few baked-in issues that couldn't quite be overcome keeping this from earning a perfect score, but for such a dark, gothically ominous looking film the results are damned impressive with some beautifully moody results.
In the plus column, details are exquisite. One of the things I've always loved about this movie is how it just loved to linger on Oldman's scarred and disgusting face and the details that come through here are disgustingly delightful. The film as a whole enjoys a notable improvement in the details allowing you to soak in all the sumptuous sights and sounds of Italy while also getting to revel in the ghoulish gore. Film grain is retained throughout allowing for a nice and natural film-like appearance without any sign of DNR or smoothing.
With Dolby Vision HDR, it feels like the image is allowed to steep in the shadows. Blacks are richly deep and inky without crush issues. There are a couple of scenes - namely the end when Moore is wearing a black velvet dress that gets close to crush but doesn't go over the edge. Flesh tones are healthy without looking too tan or too pink - but that also depends on the character. Oldman's Mason has a disgustingly yellow-brown feel that looks extra unsightly.
My only drawbacks are few but they do stand out. The first is the film's opening shot that moves from a small dot and zooms in to fill the screen. This shot is a bad first example for this transfer as it's extra crunchy looking with rough details and oddly-skewed colors. But as soon as we cut away to the first closeup of Mason's ghastly face, the image is terrific. The other issue of note flies back to the stylish nature of the photography that featured many bright white blooms. Those blooms can look pretty hot and lose some sense of depth. But those are my only small issues with this otherwise terrific transfer.
Depending on your setup, you can now enjoy Hannibal in either a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix or a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. While it'd been nice and extra squishy to get an object-based track like Atmos or DTSX, your options here are perfectly acceptable. The good news is that it does sound as if the 5.1 track has been reworked since the previous 2009 release. In the old Fox/MGM track I felt like there were some odd drops when a car would pass the screen where the sound never quite made the journey through the channels. The first example is when the FBI arrive at their staging area for the opening raid, that sound effect now sounds complete. Again with the subsequent shootout, the flurry of bullets, screeching car tires, and Zimmer's surging score all sound more active with a little extra punch. There doesn't seem to be an extra kick for dialogue exchanges, but everything comes through fine. It's an option, but the 2.0 track is a decent mix. If you're rocking a soundbar that doesn't offer up some sort of object-based option, this is actually an impressively effective mix - even if it isn't 100% necessary. Levels are spot on.
The only bonus feature included on the 4K disc is the Ridley Scott audio commentary. All other bonus features are found on the included Blu-ray.
Commentary Featuring Ridley Scott
Breaking the Silence: The Making of Hannibal (SD 1:15:11)
Anatomy of a Shootout (SD 47:46)
Ridleygrams: A Featurette on the Art of Storyboarding (SD 9:11)
An Exploration of the Opening Title Design (SD 7:17)
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (SD 33:09)
Alternate Ending (SD 6:30)
19 TV Spots (SD 7:56)
Teaser Trailer (SD 1:09)
Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:18)
White Squall Trailer (SD 2:44)
Nixon Trailer (SD 4:42)
When Eight Bells Toll Trailer (HD 2:49)
Hannibal isn't a great movie. I'm a fan and I'll admit that it has problems but it's problems as a movie stem from a source novel that wasn't anything like what fans or filmmakers hoped to read. When one of your lead actors, director, and screenwriter refuse to return - you're not exactly starting out with the best foot forward. Ridley Scott managed to make an elegant gothic horror feature with a grim sense of humor that often feels more Hammer than Hannibal - but it's a fun ride with some truly visceral material to enjoy.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics unleashes Hannibal as their first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release with solid results. The image was sourced from a fresh new native 4K restoration and the Dolby Vision HDR provides some nice touches with light, shadow, and colors ensuring that this is the best home video presentation of the film. Add in all the great archival bonus features on the included SDR Blu-ray and you've got a worthwhile set. If you're a fan of cannibalistic psychiatrists, this Hannibal is Recommended.