Red Dragon
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Red Dragon can be found here.

Three years after retiring from the FBI, Agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) is asked to track down 'The Tooth Fairy', a serial killer who is systematically killing entire families during full moons. They have three weeks until the next full moon to find the killer, who is currently wooing his blind co-worker Reba McClane (Emily Watson). In order to solve the case, Graham deems it necessary to ask for the help of criminal genius Doctor Hannibal 'The Cannibal' Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), the very same man who almost killed Graham when he subdued and captured him and who is currently putting his family in danger.

Yes. The movie is based on Red Dragon (1981), the first novel in a series of four Hannibal Lecter novels by American writer Thomas Harris. The novel was adapted for the movie by American screenwriter Ted Tally. The novel was previously made into a movie, Manhunter (1986), but it was not very successful and is not considered to be a part of the four Hannibal franchise movies.

Four characters and three actors are returning.Anthony Hopkins plays Hannibal Lector in all three movies, but he does not return in Hannibal Rising, as this fourth movie concerns Hannibal's childhood and how he became a cannibalistic serial killer. Anthony Heald as Dr Frederick Chilton from The Silence of the Lambs also returns in that role (he did not appear in Hannibal). Barney Matthews (Frankie Faison) has appeared in all three movies (he also appeared in Manhunter but in a different role). Scott Glenn's role as Jack Crawford in Silence is played by Harvey Keitel. The character of Clarice Starling does not appear (although she is briefly referred to at the end).

"Red Dragon" refers to a series of watercolors, collectively called The Great Red Dragon Paintings, painted in the early 1800s (between 1805-1810) by the English poet and painter William Blake [1757-1827]. One of these paintings, The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun, was used in the movie to show Francis Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes)'s transformation from man into dragon. The Great Red Dragon watercolors are Blake's interpretations of a biblical passage in Revelations 14:3-4 in which a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven stars on his head waits before a woman clothed in sun and about to give birth. The most common interpretation of this passage is that the red dragon is Satan, the woman is Jerusalem, and the child is Jesus Christ.

It is not explicitly explained in the movie. As with Silence of the Lambs, it is implied to be simply a 'bad joke' reference to the killer's modus operandi, i.e. visiting his victims in the middle of the night as they are asleep; this resembles the Tooth Fairy, a fantasy figure who enters the house at night to collect baby teeth that have fallen out, and exchanges them for money. The book upon which the film was based offers an additional reason: apart from killing his victims, the murderer also bites them with a custom-made set of teeth, leaving strange but clear bite marks on the victims.

What are s'mores?

An old camping favorite, s'mores are "sandwiches" made from graham crackers, chocolate bars, and toasted marshmallows. Using the graham crackers as "bread", fill with a layer of thin chocolate, e.g., Hershey-type. Place a hot, freshly-toasted marshmellow on top of the chocolate, and add a graham cracker to the top. The hot marshmellow will cause the chocolate to melt.

In Red Dragon, Lecter proved to be a disappointing research object since he had refused to participate in any test during the first years of his incarcaration; as shown, he folds any questionnaire into origami. This made it impossible to accurately classify Lecter's mental condition, or give any more insight in his thought processes. However, Chilton probably had a change of mind after being able to observe Hannibal during his interactions with Will Graham in Red Dragon. Lecter was found to be silently resentful to Graham, even though there seemed to be an amount of respect as well; Lecter's secret communication with another killer showed that despite his high intelligence, Lecter is not above feelings of pride (he kept the Tooth Fairy's letter of admiration) and desire for revenge. Lecter is also seen enjoying his little victories over Chilton (gloating over the rejection of his latest submission, making a toast to him from his cell). All in all, the conversations with Graham have probably given more insight into Lecter's psyche than all the years of observation before. In the beginning of Silence of the Lambs, Chilton still mentions that Lecter is far too sophisticated for normal study through standard tests, but does call him 'a monster, a pure psychopath', implying that they have been able to learn more about him over the years.

One explanation is that Dolarhyde was having conflicting feelings about becoming the Red Dragon because of his growing feelings for Reba. When the Red Dragon started telling him to kill Reba, too, he thought that the only way he could release the Red Dragon's hold on him was by eating the painting. Another explanation would be that, by eating the painting, Dolarhyde was completing his transformation in trying to become the Red Dragon.

In Silence, Hannibal instinctively felt that Clarice was an inexperienced student, who could be easily intimidated and manipulated. So he used a deep and pronounced intonation to make her uneasy. However, Will Graham is a seasoned veteran who has experience with serial killers and their atrocities, and both men have known each other for some time, so Hannibal knows there is little use in trying to intimidate Graham through a chilling performance. Instead, he uses every opportunity to mock Graham (the remark about the aftershave, the fake American accent, trying to 'comfort' him on the death of the tabloid reporter, etc.)

Scott Glenn has refused to take part in any of the Hannibal Lecter movies following The Silence of the Lambs owing to the disturbing nature of his research, including listening to real audiotapes of serial killer victims. Brett Ratner, for his part, has said that he met with FBI agents as part of his research before directing the film and found the FBI agents to be quite different from Glenn's portrayal.

How does the movie end?

When Will realizes that the one thing both the Leeds and the Jacobi family had in common is that their home videos were processed by Chromalux, he provides the Chromalux manager with a description of what the killer might look like. The manager recognizes him as Francis 'D' Dolarhyde, their manager of Technical Services. At the same time, D sees Will talking to his boss and realizes that the FBI is onto him, so he runs to Reba's house where he finds her just returning from a date with co-worker Ralph Mandy (Frank Whaley). Feeling betrayed by Reba, D kills Mandy, kidnaps Reba, and takes both of them to his house, which he sets on fire intending to kill Reba in order to keep the Red Dragon from taking her. He then aims a shotgun at Reba but can't pull the trigger, so he turns the gun on himself, spraying Reba with blood. Meanwhile, Will and a large squad of FBI agents and police are racing to D's house. They arrive to find the house in flames. Reba informs them that D's body is in the house. A week or two later, Will, his wife Molly (Mary-Louise Parker), and their son Josh (Tyler Patrick Jones) are lounging on the dock, having returned to their house in Florida. Josh goes inside to get the fixings for s'mores. When Josh doesn't return, Will goes looking for him. He sees that all the mirrors have been smashed and finds D holding Josh at knifepoint. Turns out that the burnt remains found in the house belonged to Ralph Mandy, not to D. Will notices that his son has wet his pants and remembers reading in D's journal how his grandmother would berate him for the same. Will begins to yell at Josh in the same manner, but D takes it personally and lunges at Will. Will puts a knife in D's thigh, then he and Josh hide in a bedroom. Will gets his gun out of the closet just as Molly comes looking for them. Peeking through the space under the door, Will can see D sneaking up behind Molly. Will yells for Molly to get down. When Molly drops to the floor, Will fires through the door, hitting D several times as D also fires on him. With both D and Will down, Molly runs to Will, who tells her to take his gun and shoot D. In the final scenes some months later, Hannibal Lector is writing a letter to Will, who has recuperated from the shooting and is out sailing with his wife and son. As Lector closes his letter, Dr Chilton informs him that there is a pretty female FBI agent waiting to talk with him. "What is her name?" Hannibal asks.

The four movies have been released in the following sequence: (1) The Silence of the Lambs (1991) , (2) Hannibal (2001), (3) Red Dragon (2002), and (4) Hannibal Rising (2007). However, in story chronology, Hannibal Rising predates Red Dragon which predates The Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal is the last in the storyline.

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