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I saw Voldemort’s wiener. It was okay.

I saw explosive muzzle flashes coupled with cheesy synth loops as that guy from CSI played … the same guy.

Hannibal Lecter has the same condition as Benjamin Button.

TLDR; 2002’s Red Dragon was bad but it was astronomically closer to the Novel experience than 1986’s Man Hunter.

Experiencing Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon would not be complete without seeing the movie adaptations.

I took about two weeks to read Red Dragon. I savored it. Took my time. I let the experience make love to my brain while I pondered in the shower, taking a dump, getting a pump (gym) and during idle taxi rides. All of my brain matter soaked up the story little by little.

  • What makes the Dragon tick?
  • What similarities do the Dragon and I share?
  • What parts of detective Will Graham will I take away to help myself grow as a person?
  • How can I be more like Doctor Lecter?

Only upon reflection do you get to have these queries from a film. By then you have already gotten all the experience there is and even going to watch a second time it just isn’t the same.

Man Hunter (1986)

Director Michael Mann
Screenplay Michael Mann

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Red Dragon (2002)

Director Brett Ratner
Screenplay Ted Tally

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Will Graham

The detective that comes out of retirement to hunt down “The Dragon” after capturing the infamous Hannibal Lecter. Graham is special because of his ability to project himself into the minds of killers. He is one of those “think like’em to catch’em” trope characters. Graham is a like-able gum shoe always on the run from the mental anguish of his gifts.

William Petersen

William Petersen in Manhunter

You know this guy as Gil Grissom from the original CSI that started it all. Petersen actually does a fine job (better than Norton) of capturing the mental struggle that Will Graham faces. At first much of his dialogue in Manhunter feels rushed but he eventually finds his stride toward the end of the film allowing us the immersion into his character we are after.

WilliamPetersen

Edward Norton

Edward Norton in Red Dragon

Norton’s performance was “okay.” The passion didn’t bleed through like it did with Petersen. Most of his lines felt like they were fed to him take by take. There wasn’t much flow to his performance and at times it felt like he was playing another role entirely. Will Graham is pretty level headed, consistent in his behavior and cadence but Norton would just suddenly launch into an excited diatribe after trying to remain mellow moments earlier. Norton’s saving grace here was that he actually had WAY more lines from the book so he had that going for him.

Hannibal Lecter

Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter (before he was caught by Will Graham) actually consulted with law enforcement forensic analysts to try and catch other killers. It was only when he killed and ate parts of one of his own patients that Graham put it all together while consulting with Lecter to catch … well … Lecter. He was sentenced to serve out the rest of his days labeled as criminally insane and spends his time locked up to be conveniently visited by members of law enforcement through out the first few stories. Harris created a brilliant psychopathic killer whose mild temperament and sharp-witted rhetoric draw real world sociopaths to revere him as the Jesuits would Jesus. Personality disorder suffers are also drawn to Lecter as well has some hipsters.

“Hannibal man, he just, he speaks to me you know? Hand me my beard comb and one of those gluten free wafers.”

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Brian Cox in Manhunter

How can I take Brian Cox seriously as Hannibal Lecter after seeing Super Troopers? I couldn’t. Not even for a moment. Again he had the rushed lines like Petersen and even though he was armed with mostly ALL the Lecter bits from the novel the delivery felt over the top. His performance felt like it would have fit more in a Clockwork Orange.

Hey Denim Dan! Where’d you get the Canadian Tuxedo?

Hey Denim Dan! Where’d you get the Canadian Tuxedo?

Anthony Hopkins in Red Dragon

Anthony Hopkins in Red Dragon

The man that put Lecter on the map and out of the cult classic spotlight, Anthony Hopkins. If you close your eyes and just listen to him play Lecter you would instantly feel those old tingles from seeing Silence of the Lambs for the first time. It is brilliant and spot on.

But we do have to look at him. We are also supposed to believe this is the exact same Lecter in age and shape from Silence of the Lambs. Age cannot lie forcing Hopkins to look older, more puffy and barrel chested. It didn’t work like it should and post production should have budgeted some CGI touch up to make the Lecters identical. It really put me off and I barely got past it. Again (like Cox) Hopkins was able to rattled off the lines from the Harris Novel of which he was born. This saved him.

Hello Clarice. You must try some of this cherry pie.

Hello Clarice. You must try some of this cherry pie.

 

Francis Dolarhyde “The Dragon”

Francis Dolarhyde was born with a cleft palate, abandoned by his Mother to an orphanage and “rescued” by his Grandmother who got him fixed up while putting him through all sorts of other distress. The little guy had it rough right from the off and it was no surprise that he would drift into “different” ways of thinking. As an adult Francis works in film development and gets along mostly fine in the real world.

He does eventually fall off the wagon becoming obsessed with Lecter and the William Blake painting “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun.”

In the novel Harris spends a great deal of page time letting us explore Dolarhyde’s psyche. Unlike other “hunt the killer” stories we know right away who he is and what he is doing. Harris holds our hands to explain why he is what he is. Dolaryhyde is a pretty likable guy minus all the killing people and wanting to turn into a super being (the Dragon).

The movies both FAILED so damn hard to bring the Harris Dolarhyde to the screen. We needed to like him, just a little bit, we needed to see the struggle and root for him just A LITTLE bit. Sadly what makes Dolarhyde into what he has become was barely touched on. Sure, Red Dragon tried to use some of it but it all felt VERY forced like someone forgot they needed to say something about his past and wrote it in later.

Tom Noonan in Manhunter

Tom Noonan in Manhunter

Noonan’s performance was absolutely cringe worthy. It was a B rated of the B rated films acting job. He makes a good bad guy as he has no trouble being a dominate menacing figure but as Francis Dolarhyde they should have passed him up. He was more cutout to play a gangster or a hit-man style character of the era. It was all wrong and there was no saving grace.

Ralph Fiennes in Red Dragon

Ralph Fiennes in Red Dragon

Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort in Harry Potter) would have won an Oscar compared to Noonan but it still wasn’t Dolarhyde. Dolarhyde is NOT as creepy as these films made him out to be. In the books we hear Dolarhyde’s internal battles but they are all in his head. Very few are actually physically manifested. Does that translates to out of place gasping and licking teeth on the screen? I’m not a screen writer so maybe I have it all backwards.

Dolarhyde carries the finesse of Lecter. He is driven and knows exactly what he is and what he is doing. I wanted that to come through on the screen but it was all slapstick and awkward.

He does have that one scene where is running around in the buck and we see his doodle swinging around. Couple that with copious amounts of butt shots and you have a fully naked Voldemort. So if you were wondering… this movie is for you.

I'll stick this wand wherever I want!

I’ll stick this wand wherever I want!

Should you see it?

I guess if you are drunk in a Motel 6 late at night and you need some filler between Girls Gone Wild promos.

Manhunter Honorable Mentions

  • Stephen Lang as Freddy Lounds (Later to be that Bad Ass general guy with the face scratch in Avatar)
  • Dennis Farina as Jack Crawford (That one dude on Law and Order and a recognizable face from a ton of early 80s/90s movies and TV)
  • Joan Allen as Reba McClane (chick that was in Face/Off)

Should you see it?

This is as good as it is going to get for a while for the Red Dragon on the screen so if you can’t stand just being satisfied with the novel go ahead. Keep your expectations low to the ground.

Red Dragon Honorable Mentions

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman as Freddy Lounds (R.I.P. you know this guy. GREAT actor.)
  • Harvey Keitel as Jack Crawford (He played the bad guy in Sister Act! Delores’s old boyfriend she is hiding from)
  • Emily Watson as Reba McClane 

Read the full Review “Into the Red Dragon Novel”

May 20th, 2015

Posted In: Movie Reviews

Tags: , , ,

One Comment

My son was born this year and I’ve never really taken ownership of that fact until this very moment. Still feels weird to say, “my son.” Just weird. I never thought I was the type who would ever be in a position to say it (says nearly every father ever).

"HEY! Look at this Baby!"

“HEY! Look at this Baby!”

Chaos is one word to describe raising a newborn. Insane is another. These are the things you are feeling nearly everyday leaving little time for reflection. I need reflection and I just haven’t had it until now. I’m not stranger to the stewardship of fatherhood. I inherited a seven year old girl a few years ago through the ‘rent to own’ family plan. She is ten now and her level of communication is extremely satisfactory. She has just the right amount of thirst to learn about the world around her and the aptitude to take it all in. That is how I operate and how I want the people around me to operate.

Babies however do not have the ability to communicate beyond the primal grunts and screams when something is wrong or too stimulating. So it is a struggle for me to find pleasure in the interaction I have with my son. He is still quite young (9 weeks). So maybe as he develops more motor skills and personality I will be able to speak his language and develop that “crazy retarded happy parent” attitude where I shove pictures in strangers faces’ and beam with pride that my sperm worked.

"Oh my god it is an adorable Baby!"

“Oh my god it is an adorable Baby!”

But for now I will continue my relentless quest to lose popularity among my peers from my extremely unpopular view on infant parent relationships.

If I were to introduce my son as a character in a novel he would be tiny obese infant regressed old man who had lost all his faculties requiring constant care from others to survive. That doesn’t seem right but it would make for a good story as he gets to experience the world for the first time -again.

Removing the fact that he is a newborn and focusing on the allegorical experiences he is having is probably better.

In Band of Brothers there is a scene where the E Company boys are in Holland at night and they stumble into this old mans farm. He has a boy with him and one of the soldiers gives him a piece of chocolate. The boy takes a bite and chews quickly. But his face. His face erupts into the biggest smile. To which the old man says:

"This is a cute sleeping baby! LOOK AT IT! LOVE IT!"

“This is a cute sleeping baby! LOOK AT IT! LOVE IT!”

“He’s never tasted chocolate before.”

The world his full of a lot of awful experiences and one of them can easily overshadow ten good ones. So when I think of my son experiencing things for the first time I want it to be like the little boy tasting chocolate.

While I am not the “giddy” type of parent about my children I am a reasonable and logical person.

It motivates me to make sure the boy feels love and is cared if not for the simple fact that EVERYONE deserves to feel they matter. Even though he is a tiny little poop machine that is constantly violating my posted noise ordinances I did have a part in bringing his consciousness into existence.

It is my duty and responsibility to shepherd this little creature into the world, instill him with strong morals, teach him to be a gentleman and do the best I can to nurture his young mind to be ever starved for knowledge.

Love you buddy. 🙂

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April 13th, 2015

Posted In: Personal, writing101

Tags: , , ,

6 Comments

For my Week 3 assignment in my Fiction class I was asked to answer some of the most basic questions about my protagonist.   ie.  What is their biggest character flaw? … I was floored.  I honestly could not list one flaw, I  had my idea of who this person was so  diluted, that it made them almost inhuman when in fact they are supposed to be very human.  No one is perfect, and I’m not writing a book about Jesus, so they need flaws.

It was a real eye opener for me that I need to invest more in my characters.  So where does one even start to get to know a person they made up?  It isn’t like you get to spend time with them and meet their family, it is all in your head.  I scoured the internet looking for character sheets, and they all list things that  make you see them as objects and don’t really ask the right “What is this person like?” types of questions.   I sought out some of the questions I felt would be more helpful, and I compiled them into this 12 page questionnaire – complete with box to sketch their portrait.  I’m going to try and use this as a tool to help me, and if you REALLY want to get down and dirty with who these people are in your Stories/Novels, than fill this out.

Download PDF of Character Development Worksheet

March 3rd, 2009

Posted In: The Craft of Writing, zEverything

Tags: , , ,

One Comment