HANNIBAL: SEASON ONE
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Hugh Dancy as WILL GRAHAM
Mads Mikkelsen as DR. HANNIBAL LECTER
Caroline Dhavernas as DR. ALANA BLOOM
Hettienne Park as BEVERLY KATZ
Laurence Fishburne as JACK CRAWFORD
Scott Thompson as JIMMY PRICE
Aaron Abrams as BRIAN ZELLER
Created by: Bryan Fuller
BY KEVIN CARR
Ever since Anthony Hopkins became the embodiment of evil in “Silence of the Lambs,” the character of Hannibal Lecter has become one of the most notorious and popular villains in media. (Yeah, I know that Brian Cox was the first actor to play him in “Manhunter,” but that movie pales in comparison to Jonathan Demme’s 1991 Academy Award-winning thriller.) He so became the character and galvanized him in the popular culture that it seemed impossible that anyone could live up to the iconic performance.
It was for this reason that I was initially skeptical about watching NBC’s “Hannibal.” However, after finally giving the series a look on Blu-ray, I applaud Mads Mikkelsen’s brilliant portrayal of the genius cannibal.
And on TV, no less.
“Hannibal” the series tells the story of Hannibal Lecter while he was a practicing psychiatrist, a practicing psychopath and a practicing cannibal. He becomes a consultant for the FBI, initially as the referred psychiatrist for Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a mentally unstable but brilliant profiler. Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) is the Special Agent who loops Graham into the investigation of a string of serial killings. Throughout the season, the true killer Lecter manipulates the investigation and manipulates Graham to the brink of insanity.
Probably the biggest compliment I can give the makers of “Hannibal” is that it is the perfect mix of network prime-time quality with the edginess of a cable station. Granted, I watched the first season on Blu-ray, which contains the unedited episodes, but there is plenty of gruesome elements to go around to make it surprising that a lot of it gets on the air, even if it is showing in a 10 p.m. time slot.
“Hannibal” works because it isn’t trying to be the movies that preceded it… and really, how could it? Some of the films are similar in tone (specifically the ones starring Anthony Hopkins), but the outliers of “Manhunter” and “Hannibal Rising,” which don’t necessarily fall into complete canon with everything, complicates matters.
Instead, “Hannibal” is the reimagining of the series, taking place in modern day the way the BBC’s “Sherlock” takes place in today’s world with seamless precision. In the supplementals, showrunner Bryan Fuller confides in the viewer that the fourth season will finally catch up to the events in “Red Dragon,” but it won’t play out as a prequel to that movie. And that’s a good thing. This makes “Hannibal” part of the same tone and grisly flavor of the film series but gives it its own universe to contend with.
The anchor in this series is Mikkelsen as the title character. He gives such a divergent performance than Hopkins that he makes the character wholly his own. His demeanor offers a genuine creepiness with the faux tenderness of a true psychopath.
Darcy also does a fine job playing Graham, not diving too deeply into the now-cliched overuse of characters afflicted with Asperger’s. He’s not as compelling on screen as Mikkelsen is, but they share the spotlight well. Fishburne also gives a fine performance, raising the quality of the series from a humdrum television standard.
The problem the series has is the rest of the cast. With the exception of former “Kids in the Hall” player Scott Thompson, the rest of the characters are either hopelessly dull or so feel like they strolled out of a lesser show like “Body of Proof.” So when Hannibal, Graham or Crawford aren’t on screen, the show suffers.
Fortunately, that doesn’t happen all that often.
Grisly and deliciously twisted, “Hannibal” is an excellent show which can hopefully continue with the same flavor as it extends into full seasons and all the external drama that happens with something like this.
In addition to the uncut episodes, “Hannibal: Season One” comes with audio commentaries with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, a gag reel and the storyboards for the pilot. Additional featurettes, which run about 10 to 15 minutes each, include “Hannibal Reborn,” “A Taste for Killing,” “The FX of Murder” and “A Symphony for the Slaughter.”