Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Hannibal Season 1 DVD Review



There have been many iterations to bring Thomas Harris‘s famous cannibal Hannibal Lecter to the screen. It started back in 1986 with Michael Mann‘s Manhunter with a Brian Cox playing Hannibal Lecktor – a variation of the spelling for some reason. Then there was the successful series with Anthony Hopkins as the deranged sociopath in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon followed by a critically unsuccessful prequel called Hannibal Rising with Gaspard Ulliel in the role. Dr. Hannibal Lecter has now found himself on the small screen as Mads Mikkelsen before he’s been captured by Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), playing the role of compassionate therapist, FBI helper and cannibalistic serial killer on the side as he plays his games. He’s not blatantly obvious about his endeavours, not making the audience scream at the TV at the FBI’s stupidity, Hannibal is playing it so subtly that sometimes we even forget what he’s doing.

Will Graham is one of the best FBI profilers around because of his vivid imagination and total immersion in empathy. He can recreate scenes, he can not only feel why the killer(s) are doing what they’re doing but understands their reasoning for doing so without any judgement. It’s a huge psychological undertaking to delve into a murderer’s mind but a much more traumatising and damaging one to capably understand everything they are feeling. Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) brings Will Graham’s special abilities out at the beginning, calling for his specific brand of immersive analysis.

This incarnation of the Will Graham character is a neurotic creation, one which has an element of chic geekiness, perhaps drawing on the current cultural phenomenon of nerdy protagonists. Recreating the crime scene through another’s eyes and motives means that we delve in with Will Graham as he shuts everything out, colours everything in an Instagram filter and begins to murder – in his head; he’s not Dexter Morgan. Creating a character much more nerdy is a bit of a weird reimagining of an unstable empathetic sociopath, it feels like a significantly style orientated move. Clothing him in muted knitwear and shirts to oppose everyone else’s suave suits, having him standout as an outcast.

Implanting deep thoughts of control, identity and sanity is one of Hannibal’s strong suits but it never quite details itself like its sets, its costumes, its murders. Everything else seems second hand to a style over substance viewpoint that has everything dripping with a contemporary liquidity as it flows from one scene to the next. You can see that there’s sometimes time constraints placed upon them by NBC because the cut-to-black-for-commercials can sometimes can come poorly edited, transitioning poorly; music hasn’t reached its end or the camera yet static. That can sometimes detract from an otherwise seamless production. Another problem is when we’re in a POV shot of Will Graham, just before the reconstruction, it’s black but gold flashes across and flashes across again, it seems much more poorly done compared to the rest of the effects.

One of the earlier problems in the episodes is that the murders that are being investigated are too open and shut cases. Sometimes there’ll be conversations about the characters, about problems in their lives, while the murder is still being investigated. It’ll then cut to the highly stylised FBI headquarters where a supporting character will hand them an iPad full of information on the murder and the suspect, solving the case in one simple, short lived moment. That leaves no reward for the search of the killers early on because it gives the audience uncomfortable closure to an episode that’s only there to advance characters, it doesn’t particularly contain its own story, it doesn’t warrant its own episode. Seeing things from the side of the killer before the investigation is completed too creates a lack of suspense to the murderer because we know who it is but we don’t know where they are. It turns into more a game of Where’s Wally? rather than an exercise in profiling or real investigation. That iPad will surface soon enough to pinpoint their location on Google Maps, don’t worry.

Hannibal is enjoyable but there are many detracting flaws to realise. There’s too much simplicity to supposedly intricate, dedicated murderers. Everything is created to be lavish, modern, stylish, with great cinematography – and cinematography Guillermo Navarro on directing duties for three episodes could explain why. There are details, there is beauty, there is violence but there’s never any doubt or interesting storylines that stray from the personal ones or from Hannibal himself. It more or less boils down to the eponymous character because his motivations are the only thing that aren’t ever let slip, that are intricate, that are dedicated. The majority of other episodes are played out in a finite fashion. Hannibal has interesting moments that boil down to the cannibal’s motivations and reasons, his sociopathic mind and then his manipulative relationship with Will Graham. Graham starts to grow as a character into more than a neurotic styled geek but into a full blown panicking problem of his own doing. Hannibal is an elegant stylish creation that has a constant interest in its characters but lacks the episodic complexity that it thinks it has. Too simple to be as clever as it wants to be.
 ★★★

Extras
Eat the Rude, First Look and Forensics 101 featuretes are all that’s available.

Hannibal is available on DVD (£29.99 RRP) and Blu-ray (£34.99 RRP) on the 2nd of September.