Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: Hannibal

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas,  and Hettienne Park
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Synopsis from Wikipedia: Hannibal is an American thriller television series developed by Bryan Fuller for NBC. The series is based on characters and elements appearing in the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris and focuses on the budding relationship between FBI special investigator Will Graham and Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a forensic psychiatrist destined to become Graham's most cunning enemy. 
Language: English
Status: 13 episodes – Renewed for 13 episodes more in 2014
Rating: 5/5

More than just a typical crime show dealing with the serial killers, Hannibal delves deeply into the book account -- layering and combining elements of the source material with themes found in other horror classics. Certain subplots and characters from the novels are followed more closely than others, others are completely scraped or modified in favor of giving a more modern day twist. There are also side characters and story lines introduced that never appeared in book (or movies) but I enjoyed them since they added a fresh addition to the overall narrative. One of Fuller's visions was to more thoroughly expand upon Will Grahams character and explore the idea of Graham, Jack and Hannibal maintaining a much more complicated relationship.

One of the best parts of this show is that every single character serves a dynamic purpose. The central actors, Mads Mikkelson, Hugh Dancy, and Laurence Fishburne are extremely well matched in chemistry, are cast excellently and deliver their lines convincingly. Episodes are an hour long, which allows the story unfolds at a natural pace, with calculated cut scenes and slick edits. The haunting soundtrack enhances the cinematic quality of the show and creates an atmosphere that caused the hair on my arms to raise during some of the more frightening scenes. There are silent, vaguely supernatural sequences full of visuals that never feel too heavy-handed or pretentious. Symbolism presented in these scenes make more sense after you've finished watching the series. The cat and mouse dynamics between Hannibal and Will becomes more and more fascinating as it unravels. This is where the writers get an A +. There's a uncomfortable, borderline intimate exchange between the two of them. As the show progressed, I begin to dread the inevitable outcome of their relationship.

Also, I didn't catch it the first time, but the writers intentionally designed the bathroom to look almost identical to the one used in that one crazy scene in the Shining. You know the one. And while this is an extremely dark/grisly show, it still has a stylized, dreamy feel to it with a similarly strong aesthetic. For those worried that this evening thriller would be laden with stomach turning blood splatter and nonstop gore, please rest assured that the camera never lingers on a moment of carnage for longer than necessary nor does it aim for maximum shock value through gratuitous violence. I read an amazing analysis that made me realize how often the camera would focus more extensively on a character's reaction towards a sickening crime scene, rather than the actual object of horror itself. This was more effective than zooming in on the gore – maybe because it left room for our imaginations to work as we react to the character's reactions as we try to envision what the character is observing?

Anti-hero, Hannibal is so urbane, sophisticated and polite that its unsettling whenever were reminded of whats hidden underneath his sleek, polished veneer. At one point I had to start covering my eyes during the scenes where he was in the middle of preparing the “gourmet dishes” his visitors found so delicious. The presentation is so pretty that its easy to forget you're most likely looking at human remains rather than Iberico pork loins drenched in sweet Cumberland sauce, for example. Protagonist Will is never portrayed overly sympathetically, though we can't help but feel sorry given how he's perceived by his colleagues as this twitchy, somewhat broken individual, his constantly traumatized mental state and the powerful, internal struggles he faces while dealing with his darker nature. The final scenes of the last episode are so twisted and disturbing, that they send chills down my spine whenever I recall it. This show has received critical acclaim from the most nit-picky  of reviewers, praise that's well-deserved. I'm looking forward to buying the boxset for the behind the scenes look at the show, and I'm honestly not the type that cares for such things. And for once I actually enjoy fandom with all its silly contributions of art, screen-recaps, crack videos and meme's that serve as a good way to lighten ones mood after watching such a dense, and psychologically stimulating show. Highly recommended!

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