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.
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.
Director Michael Mann
Screenplay Michael Mann
Director Brett Ratner
Screenplay Ted Tally
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.
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.
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 “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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 (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 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
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
Danny Machal May 20th, 2015
Posted In: Movie Reviews
I often wonder what fuels the human obsession with the macabre. Is it a suppression of our primal lust for death? Why is it that so many people and authors want to safely experience murder?
Then, once we have gotten this taste for killing -why is it that we need to explore it and see how far we can go?
Is it now okay to bathe in the blood of our pretend victims while eating a Bang-a-rang style feast of their flesh?
Maybe it has always been okay. Maybe we have just evolved into a soft shell wrapped around the harden core of iron and bloodlust that always was.
A few weeks ago I used some dialogue between Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs to illustrate a bit of something about values from Buffalo Bill (the killer not the Western Legend). This opened up a few old channels in my head and I decided to start where it all began.
Red Dragon is a precursor to next installment of stories featuring our beloved cannibal therapist Hannibal Lecter. The next novel Silence of the Lambs (1988) was popularized in the 1991 movie adaptation.
Everyone knows that story. But what about the Red Dragon?
The story itself isn’t about Lecter but rather a retired detective (Will Graham) who fell victim to Lecter after discovering his TRUE nature.
Graham is called out of his early retirement at the desperation of his old colleague Jack Crawford to hunt down a new serial killer the task force has given the moniker of “Tooth Fairy.” The “Tooth Fairy” has already murdered two families leaving bite marks on some of the victims (earning him the name) when our tale begins.
The “dragon” is a reference to one of William Blake’s famed biblical water color paintings he was commissioned to do in the early 19th century. Our Red Dragon’s name is Francis Dolarhyde and Mr. D is particularly keen on “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun.”
Even with all the horror show Dolarhyde creates in the story Harris does an outstanding job of making him human. Most people never make it past their post murder orgasm afterglow long enough to actually ask the question: What made this human being into a killer?
Harris dives right into Dolarhyde’s history and motivations for doing what he does. By the end of it I was starting to experience an off shoot bit of Stockholm syndrome for Dolarhyde. Mission accomplished Tom.
Lecter however almost feels like a footnote to the actual plot itself but Harris injects him where he is needed to steer the course of “The Dragon” and Graham, into a wonderful unfolding story that even without Lecter would stand on its own.
However you can’t help but feel a little joy inside when Lecter is on the pages. Even when Graham would read a letter from the good Doctor all I could hear was Anthony Hopkin’s voice in my head.
Red Dragon has all the twists, turns, ah-ha moments and carnage you would expect from such a story.
But the TRUE spirit of what Harris has done here and the REAL literary gems are in the simplicity of the mayhem.
One particular part keeps playing over and over in my head as it was just so powerful. Yet, written so simply.
“He smiled at Lounds, a brown-stained smile. He placed his hand on Lound’s heart and, leaning to him intimately as though to kiss him, he bit Lound’s lips off and spit them on the floor.”
Do you see?
No wordy jump into Lound’s mind to describe the pain or fear.
Do you see?
No behind the eyes of “The Dragon” heavy description of what it is like to tear living flesh with your teeth.
Do you see?
He bit them off and spit them on the floor. Done.
Do you see?
Harris has dotted the landscape of Red Dragon with plenty of these little, “yea … that’s how you do it” tidbits. If only from a Writer’s perspective Red Dragon is worth a read.
It made me realize a horrible flaw in my own writing in that I am NOT good at knowing when to stop steering. Sometimes the power in what you write doesn’t come from you at all. The power of a great writer is in their ability to electrify the reader’s imagination and not tie them down to a single vision.
Give them something to argue about at the water cooler.
Conclusion: Read the book. Psychopath.
Danny Machal May 19th, 2015
Posted In: Book Reviews