This edition features several images from Ken Russell's Gothic, some classic Michael Mann v. Nicolas Winding Refn, and more juicy bits.
Red Dragon. 2002. Directed by Brett Ratner. Screenplay by Ted Tally; based on the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Mary-Louise Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anthony Heald, Ken Leung, Frankie Faison, and Tyler Patrick Jones.
Rated R. 124 minutes.
I’m a big fan of Thomas Harris and his Hannibal Lecter-centric novels. Everything about them appeals to me, though, I’m not particularly fond of Hannibal Rising. My favourite, an unpopular view, is actually Hannibal – I think it’s an intensely savage, relentless piece of work with a wild twist at the end. But close by equally are Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. The Jonathan Demme version of the former is one of the best movies ever made.
In opposition, I’ve got to say that I prefer Michael Mann’s Manhunter over this version. Regardless of how well this sticks to the story in comparison, I still love the way Mann treated that adaptation; incredibly different and cool.
Part of why I’m not huge on Red Dragon, even though it’s a good movie, is because I don’t really find Brett Ratner all that interesting as a director. I can honestly say this is the only movie he’s directed I genuinely enjoy. Everything else he’s done is so ridiculously generic. There’s nothing I find appealing about his work. I think the only reason he succeeded in making me enjoy his work here is because Thomas Harris provided the backdrop. Plus, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Kietel, Emily Watson, Anthony Hopkins, Philip Seymour Hoffman, a returning Anthony Heald and Frankie Faison – could it really have gone terribly wrong?
While I do like this movie, I don’t think there’s anything overtly incredible other than the performances. Ratner is a mediocre director at best, in my mind; plenty of people love him, I have no doubt. He is a successful man. Just not my cup of tea. Overall, the lack of a really palpable style is the only thing I find truly lacking about Red Dragon. The reason I loved Manhunter so much was because, aside from the excellent William Petersen and Tom Noonan performances, Mann injected the story with so much of his style that it came off so interesting and beautiful to watch. With this version, Ratner merely shows it to us. It looks good enough, but I don’t feel as much of the story as I do while reading Harris, or when I watch other incarnations of Hannibal Lecter on television and film.
I’ve always thought the opening scene to Red Dragon showing Hannibal Lecter (Sir Anthony Hopkins) watching the orchestra was an impressive way to show why he kills. Part of him hates rudeness, another part of him also love the finer things of life – anyone who gets in the way of that is subject to being on his plate, as well as the plates of his dinner guests. With this sequence, we’re introduced to a piece of Lecter then also Will Graham (Edward Norton) shows up.
So it works in two ways, by both introducing Hannibal – though we’ve already seen him plenty on film – and simultaneously introducing his relationship with Graham. It’s an effective opener which draws us in immediately. Even more than that, the script starting from the beginning sets itself apart from Michael Mann’s Manhunter; I don’t know if you’d call this a remake, or more so simply another adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon. It’s an exciting, intense, and very wide opening in scope.
Being a fan of Edward Norton, he’s honestly one of the weakest links in this film. I think he has the potential to be a great actor, but some times he just looks to be phoning things in. There are moments in Red Dragon when he does excellent stuff. Other times he might as well be toeing a hole in the sand with his shoe. The character of Will Graham is complex. I think William Petersen brought something to the role in his own way, certainly Hugh Dancy has done a fantastic job with the 39 episodes of the NBC series, but Norton sort of feels generic here in the role. He’s not bad, I don’t mean to say that. There’s definitely a likability about Norton’s Graham, what I feel like I’m missing is the tortured side, the apprehensive man who doesn’t want to have to go back into what Jack Crawford (here played by Harvey Keitel) is asking him to do; something which nearly killed him before with Lecter. In Norton’s performance there doesn’t seem to be as much of that wary Graham, the one whose mental capacities allow him to feel and understand things no one ought to ever feel or comprehend.
I do always enjoy Sir Anthony Hopkins, particularly as Hannibal the Cannibal. He has a highly quirky charm and chill at once. Some say it’s overacting, I say it’s an excellent fictional serial killer who has an odd affectation. It’s silly to me people will accept Hannibal and all his cannibalism, all the wild stuff he’s gotten up to over the course of his character-lifetime, yet then they’ve got a problem with how Hopkins is a bit hammy at times. Really? You’re going for that?
The only thing bad about Hopkins here is the fact I don’t really think he and Norton have much chemistry together onscreen. Their scenes are decent enough because Lecter is always creepy, but the back and forth between Hannibal and Will here is nowhere near as good as it was between Hannibal and Clarice in The Silence of the Lambs, and certainly doesn’t come close to touching the Hugh Dancy-Mads Mikkelsen energy in Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal series. It just doesn’t work as well as any of that, so it comes nowhere near some of what Harris did either. I think, again, this mostly has to do with Norton. He’s a fine actor, just not in this movie. There’s nothing impressive to me about his performance here, as say opposed to American History X or his debut performance opposite Richard Gere in Primal Fear.
Ralph Fiennes is the actor who shines most of all in this good yet slightly dull version of Red Dragon. Francis Dolarhyde has always been a morbidly fascinating character, to me and to many out there. Even if Red Dragon is not my top favourite of Harris’ novels – though still amazing – there’s something about Dolarhyde in particular, even above Buffalo Bill, which terrifies me. Fiennes is one talented man beyond a shadow of a doubt. Here he brings a ferocious intensity to the role.
While it’s easy nowadays to forget this great performance due to Richard Armitage’s fabulously involving turn as Francis Dolarhyde on NBC’s Hannibal, Fiennes still knocks this role out of the park and into the lot. There’s a difference between Fiennes and the other incarnations, just as they’re unique in their own ways. What I like about Fiennes is that I find him highly unpredictable. He’s the type of actor who doesn’t telegraph his emotionality, he sort of springs into action so suddenly, which really comes through here. Truly, every single frame of the film in which you find Ralph Fiennes he is incredible. There’s a physical aspect to the character on several levels – he’s physically fit and actually a handsome guy, but inside he feels hideous, deformed, and like a monster. So what I enjoy is the fact that Fiennes is an attractive man, however, the makeup work for Dolarhyde’s hairlip gives him an unsettling feeling – not because of the scar, merely because of how Fiennes portrays Dolarhyde and the way he feels about his outer appearance. He’s at times equally sad and sympathetic, and also frighteningly savage.
Still, my favourite moment with Dolarhyde has to be his official introduction, a little over 40 minutes into the film. It’s such an unsettling view into his world, where we see him lifting weights and yelling at his dead grandmother whose voice scolds him – as a child and still as a grown man. Even creepier is the way he opens his big scrapbook, full of articles about Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham – it’s when he sort of strokes Lecter’s picture, specifically his smiling mouth, that you get this awful feeling in your gut. What an effective first look at Francis Dolarhyde here. Impressive sequence from Ratner, I must say.
While I don’t find the movie to be poorly written, by any standards, for some reason I do not get the same feeling about Ted Tally’s script here as I did with his work on The Silence of the Lambs. Not sure exactly what it is about this screenplay, there’s not the same impact as his previous adaptation of Harris’ work. I do like plenty of scenes, but there’s less tension and suspense than in the Jonathan Demme directed film. Now, I’ve never actually read the script itself, so maybe there’s bits and pieces of Tally and his writing which didn’t make it through to what Ratner did onscreen. I’ll not know until I read the screenplay someday. But still, there’s an overall lack of the tensely cultivated atmosphere from Demme’s 1991 Harris adaptation, and I think there must be part of the problem there lying in the screenwriting. Then again, I’m not particularly big on Tally overall, as nothing else he’s done particularly impresses me other than The Silence of the Lambs.
In the end, I can only give Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon 3.5 out of 5 stars. I know some will surely call me crazy. It’s not as simple for me to say this is an amazing movie. It’s just… not. Better than average? Sure. There are great performances, from Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Emily Watson both of whom I forgot to mention – she does a fantastic job playing the role of Reba McClane, the blind woman who falls in love with Dolarhyde. Even further, the story itself is good enough to carry this even if the actors weren’t so great.
But the lack of style, a few little mistakes here and there, as well as a bit of a yawning performance from Edward Norton, all makes it hard for me to even feign agreement when people say this is SO AMAZING. I remember seeing this in theatre – I was so pumped, beyond excitement. It didn’t live up to the hype then, it still doesn’t now. I do own this on DVD, because I’m a completist; even own Hannibal Rising which isn’t the greatest either. I just really can’t get onboard with people saying this is incredible or that it’s better than Manhunter. Nah, not for me.
Still a decent adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel, Red Dragon is a good movie. Don’t think it’s better than it is, there are plenty of flaws and not enough style to Ratner’s direction to forgive them. See it and be your own judge, but do not get sucked into the hype. There are better visions of Will Graham, Hannibal Lecter, Jack Crawford, and Francis Dolarhyde elsewhere.
We finally see the confrontation between Jack Crawford and Hannibal Lecter teased at the beginning of Season 2
Mason Verger finally gets what's coming to him
Mason takes drastic measures to ensure the Verger family remains the way it should
Will and Hannibal share a special meal together
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS SPOILER FILLED! TURN BACK OR BE FOREVER SPOILED.
Will: “I look at my wife and I see her dead. And I see Mrs Leeds and Mrs Jacobi lying where Molly should be.”
Bedelia: “Do you see yourself killing her?”
Will: “Yes. Over and over.”
An excellent opening scene between Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). Finally, we’re seeing Graham come around to what has been happening between himself and Hannibal. The repartee between Will and Bedelia is something to behold. Two excellent actors giving it their all, always. Anderson is enormously talented and I think Dr. Du Maurier has been a significant and excellent addition to Hannibal, which gives more depth to Lecter, and is also proving to add further depth to Will. In these last two episodes, we’re going to see all the full effects of the Hannibal-Will relationship come together in front of us. At least that’s how I think it will play out. Because Will was blind but now he can see, the blinders are slipping from his eyes and all is revealed. He has long ago since discovered the true nature of Dr. Lecter. What he has yet to see the entirety of is the way in which Hannibal has made him into a different person. He saw the immediate effects, now he’s coming to discover there’s much more beneath the surface.
Will: “Is Hannibal in love with me?”
Bedelia: “Could he daily feel a stab of hunger for you and find nourishment at the very sight of you? Yes. But do you ache for him?”
An excellently tense scene with Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne). There’s no clear reason why Jack is there, other than he wants more information out of Hannibal. Meanwhile, Dr. Lecter sees fit mostly to taunt his former dinner companion. A lot of talk about the Great Red Dragon, the Lamb, God. Very good stuff and I like that we’re still getting scenes between these two. While the focus of the series is obviously the Hannibal-Will dynamic, we can’t forget the history and intensity flowing between Hannibal and Jack. They were quite close, right from the beginning. So much has happened between these men, there can only be an ending of massive proportions coming.
Hannibal: “The seals are being opened, Jack. The lamb is becoming a lion.”
Jack, Hannibal, and somewhat Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), are hatching a plan in order to lure and catch Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage) – who is going PROPER INSANE as the claws of the Dragon come out and tear at his skin, at the painting, looking to get out.
At the same time, Dr. Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza) is more than pissed off with Lecter. Their professional lives are jamming up against one another, the former doing all he can to mess up Chilton’s reputation. We can get the sense Hannibal is ready for another round of murder, as Frederick yells and rants – quite rude, no? We’ll see.
Hannibal: “Fate has a habit of not letting us choose our own endings, Frederick.”
Getting a scene straight out of Michael Mann’s Manhunter, and of course Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, we watch as Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) is recruited to do a piece featuring Chilton and Graham. As Chilton comes up with things to taunt Dolarhyde out of the shadows, Graham aggravates them and makes them nastier by using words like pervert and impotent and ugly, all in an effort to make the Dragon angry enough to be lured into a trap. This is where we’re seeing shades of Hannibal in Will Graham.
When Will puts his hand on the shoulder of Chilton, it is a turning point. Mr. Graham has ultimately become bottom barrel desperate. Everything is pushing him – he sees the dead eyes of the women around him, Molly (Nina Arianda), Alana, bloody and stuffed with shards of glass. His world is falling down around him again, he does not want to go plunging further down the rabbit hole like he last went under the drive of Dr. Lecter. I think now, Will would do absolutely anything in order to get away from it all.
Bedelia comments on this later saying “the touch of others makes us who we are“. Will calls it a plea of authenticity. Unfortunately, Dr. Du Maurier digs deeper wondering if Will did so on purpose, perhaps wanting to put Chilton in the Dragon’s way. What we’re watching is Will becoming slightly too much like Lecter – he did this all in curiosity. Like Bedelia says: “That’s participation. Hannibal Lecter does have agency in the world. He has you.” An interesting turn earlier when Will said the same thing, minus the last bit. We’re officially watching the evil of Hannibal come to bear on Will Graham, big time. Possibly the worst it ever has. Even in a prison cell, Lecter will always affect Will deeply.
Big time Red Dragon/Manhunter feel here in this episode.
Poor Chilton – switched from the source material where it was Lounds in this predicament – finds himself taken, kidnapped by Francis Dolarhyde.
This scene went incredibly well. Not only is the acting incredible, the mood and atmosphere – as is usual for the series – feels so dark and ominous. Some people hate that Chilton and Lounds have been switched out. However, where Chilton was made a bigger character in the Bryan Fuller adaptation, I think it’s appropriate there’s a changed adaptation for this part. Lounds has served her own purpose. Chilton needs to get what is coming to him – he lead Abel Gideon into believing he was the Chesapeake Ripper, he didn’t divulge everything he knew about Dr. Lecter and his love of the unorthodox, and so on. I mean, I LOVE THE CHARACTER!
I think Fuller and Co. have done a great job taking the character and fleshing him out, but I love where it has ended up. I don’t worry that him and Lounds have been swapped, I found it incredible. Plus, every incarnation of Chilton is such a snivelling little bastard, I’d almost expect Lara Jean Chorostecki’s version of Freddie Lounds to be a tough woman; not that she wouldn’t scream once the Dragon took hold, however, I doubt she’d do much pleading.
Chilton: “I am scared. Man to man, I am scared. It is very hard to concentrate when you are scared.”
Then we see Armitage in fine form. He has a bit of Tom Noonan, a bit of Ralph Fiennes, and every bit of Harris going on. Dolarhyde, his face covered in the stocking-like cap, wears a kimono and sits behind Chilton. His voice feels deeper, changed now. Is he becoming, more and more now? Has his becoming pushed him to the next stage? I think so. We watch as Francis Dolarhyde slowly slips into the darkness. Who/what emerges, pushing itself into the foreground, is the Great Red Dragon. His becoming is nearly complete now.
Richard Armitage is a blessing. I love to see a role that’s already classic to so many film fans/book readers become a fresh, new vision in the arms of an actor. It just goes to show that many of these modern literary characters and villains we come to enjoy and love so much are similar to stage characters – just as actors, like Armitage and many others who have graced the stage before and continue to do so, play the characters of Shakespeare over and over yet actors bring new things to the role, nowadays actors on television and film can do the same. We have people like Hannibal Lecter, Francis Dolarhyde, and so many more (I won’t go on with all the great literary characters brought to life in film/television – you know there are tons). Here, we get to see Armitage bring that type of sensibility to the small screen. That’s a huge reason of why I love Hannibal, we get highly gifted actors like Armitage, Mikkelsen, and Dancy tackling these well-known characters and giving them new life.
Having Reba McClane (Rutina Wesley) show up during the middle of Francis beginning to terrorize Chilton was a nice touch. That part of him grabs hold for a moment. In the end, it’s too late. There is no hope any more for Reba to bring Francis back from the edge. Like I said before, the Dragon has snatched him up completely and there’s no letting go. His becoming has moved past the point of no return.
There is a viciousness present in “The Number of the Beast is 666” which I feel hasn’t come across so present ever before. While a ton of macabre visuals and situations have struck us, in many an episode, there’s something so brutal about the scenes involving Chilton and Dolarhyde. When Francis becomes the Dragon and lurches towards Chilton, I knew what was coming, I just didn’t see it coming so savage! This was downright gory. But it’s the whole build-up towards this which makes it feel so nasty.
The makeup effects here were out of this world. Seeing Frederick Chilton scream in pain, his mouth basically gone, only teeth and meat left… what horrific joy.
Francis: “I am the Dragon and you call me insane. Before me, you are a slug in the sun. You are privy to a great becoming. You recognize nothing.”
MADNESS! HANNIBAL ATE ONE OF THE LIPS!
The editing on this show truly helped this moment. As Jack asks “Where’s the other one?”, we see such a quick cut to Hannibal – before Alana or anyone could get into the cell and snatch up his newly delivered mail – and he greedily slurps down one of Dr. Chilton’s bitten off lips. I could not believe it. The obviousness of it might be there, I just never saw it coming. Especially how they didn’t show it immediately. Another reason I love the visual storytelling of Hannibal because it likes to stutter step and give things up at intervals, even if they’re quick ones. It’s a great technique, which has paid off over and over for the series.
This is the first time we’ve seen him consume uncooked human meat, in its pure form. Undeniably and unbelievably chilling, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. The dark look, always taunting, on Lecter’s face. Probably my favourite moment EVER on the series.
After the video of Chilton reading the Dragon’s words, then having his lips chewed off bloodily, Graham gets worse. Even more so once Chilton turns up – set on fire and wheeled down a park lane into a fountain. He goes to see the unfortunate doctor, whose entire body is burned and his face mangled. AMAZING MAKEUP EFFECTS AGAIN! Brutal and well-done.
Frederick knows Will basically set him up for horror during their Lounds interview/the photograph. It’s sad because there is a part of Will which intentionally made that gesture, knowing full well it would draw the ire of the Dragon. So while Chilton’s own hubris and rudeness brought him to his destiny, and many other horrific situations along the way, it ultimately was Graham who did this to him. While Will is the hero in a sense throughout the series, he finally becomes the full-on antihero at this point.
In the source material, Reba McClane is ultimately safe. This adaptation sees Francis Dolarhyde with Reba in his claws much the same as Tom Noonan’s Tooth Fairy had Joan Allen cornered in Manhunter. We’re not sure exactly what might happen – especially as Reba utters the name Tooth Fairy, to which Francis shushes her with a finger to her lips. It’s an extremely tense, suspenseful way to cliffhang this penultimate episode.
While the episode finishes, Francis tells Reba “I am the Dragon“, and his wings open up, spreading about the room and filling the air with darkness. Love the visuals, as always. We get a couple Dragon shots in this one and I love them. Foreboding and creepy.
This episode gave us so much. A ton of impressive makeup effects, a saucy Hannibal the Cannibal getting his first taste of human flesh in about THREE WHOLE YEARS, and most importantly Will Graham has begun to fall apart but at the same time he is coming together and recognizing himself to be more like Lecter than he’d ever cared to admit.
The final episode is upon us, Fannibals. Can we still #SaveHannibal or is it a lost cause? Watching City Tv last night, they called it a Season Finale. Is there hope yet? We shall see. Next week is “The Wrath of the Lamb” directed by series regular Michael Rymer. I’m beyond excited to see this finale.
Stay tuned, my fellow horror hounds, Lecter lovers, Graham groupies, and the all the wonderful Armitage Army who’ve joined us for the Hannibal swan song!