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Hooked on "Hannibal"
Anthony Hopkins can be proud of having created one of the first original horror characters of the postwar era. His Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter has rightfully earned a place in the pantheon of legendary monsters. Hopkins was only the second actor to have won an Academy Award for playing a villain, the first being Fredric March for his remarkable performance in the rarely-seen "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1931). The American Film Institute lists Hopkins' Lecter as the #1 screen villain in movie history.
When I first heard about "Hannibal" the TV series, I cringed. Each installment in the film franchise had been exponentially worse than the one before. After Ridley Scott, Brett Ratner, Peter Webber--and even Thomas Harris himself--had tortured Hannibal near to death with their increasingly idiotic sequels to "Silence of the Lambs," a TV series seemed like the sad, humiliating final nail in the doctor's coffin. Would this be "Dexter" redux, or another numbingly unoriginal CSI ripoff? Or worse, a tedious 5-season story arc following the personal trials of a young, idealistic, ruggedly handsome, perfectly stubbled Lecter as he spends 65 television hours' worth of time that I will never get back transitioning from noble psychiatrist to vengeful but justified killer? (Note to self: cock hammer, place barrel against temple, pull trigger.) Thankfully, "Hannibal" is everything I expected it not to be.
I wasn't sure Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen--or any actor, for that matter--could play such an iconic character without being overshadowed by its grand progenitor (i.e., Hopkins), however "Hannibal" is so beautifully written, acted and directed that it transcends the inevitable comparisons. Hopkins played Lecter with hellish glee. He was the serial killer as prankster, a thinking man's Joker without the facial scars. Mikkelsen's Lecter is quieter and deadlier. He's almost like an alien predator, or a velociraptor in human form. When he smiles, you're probably about to die. Mikkelsen is chilling, funny, and blazingly brilliant. He totally makes the role his own, but that's not to take anything away from Anthony Hopkins. Asking who makes the better Lecter is like asking who's the best Dracula, Lugosi or Lee. They're both great, they're just different.
I dislike police procedurals. They bore me. But "Hannibal" is different. There's something special about it. Bryan Fuller respects the characters and he understands the fans. He's given Lecter his first legitimate resurrection since "Silence of the Lambs," and I am completely hooked. (And to think that we still have Eddie Izzard and Gillian Anderson to look forward to!)
Fantastic show. High kudos to NBC for having the courage to air it.