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Hannibal: Season One (2013)

Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/24/2013

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/25/2013

Change, even positive change, is never easy. As I get older, I find myself more and more averse to change. Not necessarily in my life, but in things to which I am accustomed. Let me give you an example -- years ago, I was really into comic books, but then moved on to other things. I was very surprised to learn that after my interest waned, Marvel created an alternate universe where many of the characters with which I was familiar had different stories and attributes. I hate this idea and I really don't like the fact that it's spilled over into other media (I'm looking at you The Amazing Spider-Man). That's not to say that artists shouldn't have creative license with existing characters, they simply shouldn't stray outside of my comfort zone. These thoughts and more cropped up when I watched the first season of Hannibal.

Hannibal focuses on the behavioral science team of the FBI which is headed by Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne). This group's mission is to profile murderers, often serial killers, and catch them. Crawford has tapped FBI Academy instructor Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) to be a part of his team. Will has the unique gift of being able to read a crime scene and discover clues which others would easily miss. However, witnessing the acts of violence and absorbing the environment takes a psychological toll on will. FBI psychiatrist Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) is concerned about Will's well-being, as is Crawford, so Will is referred to Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), a well-known psychiatrist. Lecter listens to Will's issues and then becomes involved in Will's work. Will has been asked to assist in a case where young women have been abducted, never to be seen again. However, the latest victim was brought back. Will begins to put the pieces together and Lecter works with him. When Will is involved in a violent altercation with the killer, his world begins to break down. Will continues to work other cases, but he can't get that particular one off of his mind and he begins to lose touch with reality. The question is, does Lecter really want to help Will or is he simply playing mind games with him?

Hannibal is based on characters from Red Dragon, the novel by Thomas Harris which was filmed as Manhunter in 1986 and then as Red Dragon in 2002. However, some of the characters featured here were made much more popular by their appearances in the Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs. As the last two films based on Harris' work, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising, didn't really strike a chord with audiences, it's not surprising that those who own the rights to the characters would want to try something different. I'm not ashamed to admit that as a fan of Harris' work (I read the books long before they became famous movies), I avoided Hannibal when it initially aired, as it simply didn't look appealing.

Having said that, the show's central idea is certainly an interesting one. When Hannibal Lecter is first introduced in Red Dragon, he's already incarcerated, so we only hear snippets of his past transgressions. Hannibal takes place years before, and we get to see what Lecter was like on the outside. The notion of having Lecter and Graham be allies is also an intriguing one. In Red Dragon, we learn that it was Graham he apprehended Lecter, so one can't help but wonder what will happen in this universe.

The problem with Hannibal as a television show is that it does just as many things right as it does wrong. Let's start with the positive. Hugh Dancy is very good as Will Graham. Now, this Graham is much more fragile than the one from the novel, but still, Dancy does a great job of portraying the mental anguish this man suffers. Secondly, this is a very well-made and daring show. TV vet Bryan Fuller and filmmaker David Slade (30 Days of Night) have teamed-up to create a show which is very slick and stylish, with each episode having at least one (if not many more) impressive shots. The show also pushes the envelope with the violence portrayed here, and we really get the feel for how shocking these crime scenes are. But, as previously implied, not everything is great. The show hits the ground running and the first few episodes fly by, but by the end of the season, the show drags where it should be building to an exciting climax. The last four episodes feel very redundant, as Will's break-down is prolonged, and the 13-episode season feels much longer. The show apparently assumes that the viewer is familiar with the Lecter character, as his first villainous turn is treated rather non chalantly. In fact, Lecterís character is poorly written throughout. Itís clear that the writers want to keep us guessing about Lecterís motives and goals, but his behavior is so inconsistent that itís wearing on the viewer. The final straw is the casting of Mads Mikkelsen as Lecter. Yes, heís a solid actor, but he simply isnít Lecter. And Iím not saying that heís not as good as Anthony Hopkins (he isnít), but that he doesnít fit in this role. For starters, his accent (which makes him sound as if heís from Transylvania) is too thick and the sharp dialogue doesnít sound right coming from him. Whereas Lecter is an observer of the lives of others, Mikkelsen often looks bored. Worst of all, heís not the least bit menacing or charming. It feels that Lecter spends more time in the kitchen than anywhere else.

This may be odd to say, but Hannibal would be a much better show without Hannibal. We see many cop shows, but few with a character as messed-up as Will Graham. At times, Lecter seems like more of a distraction than the actual title character of the show. The show is gorgeously made and offers some seriously twisted, yet clever ideas, but it feels as if itís of two minds. It wants to be a unique take on the standard TV procedural, but in order to stay true to the brand name, Lecter must be involved. The weak season finale put the cap on what is an oddly uneven show. I truly liked parts of Hannibal, but by the end it felt like a chore and I was tired of having to read everything that Lecter said.

Hannibal: Season One made me wonder how many dogs constitutes an animal shelter on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The three-disc set contains all 13 episodes from the showís first season. The show is letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, most obviously the reds, and despite the fact that this is a dark show, the image is never overly dark and the action is always visible. The level of detail is good and the picture has a nice depth. This certainly rivals HD broadcast quality. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The first thing that you will notice about this track is the bass. When Will ďseesĒ a crime scene, the subwoofer really kicks in and, to be honest, itís so strong at times that itís annoying. The stereo effects are good, showing nice separation, and there is some clever usage of surround sound effects, as we often get individual sounds coming from the rear.

The Hannibal: Season One Blu-ray Disc offers several extras. Disc 1 kicks off with an AUDIO COMMENTARY on the episode "Apertif" from Producer Bryan Fuller, Director David Slade, and Hugh Dancy. We also get what are labeled as "Storyboards" for that episode, but in actuality are script pages with reference photos. Disc 2 brings us "Hannibal Reborn" (11 minutes) has Executive Producer Martha de Laurentis explaining how the project came about. From there, Bryan Fuller talks about how he got involved and how the show grew from there. The cast weighs in and we hear how the characters were developed. "A Taste for Killing" (15 minutes) explores Lecter's life as a cannibal and how it is portrayed on the show, specifically how the very exact recipes were created. We also get a 5-minute GAG REEL. (Which for this show, is quite weird.) Disc 3 brings us an AUDIO COMMENTARY on "Savoureux" from Fuller, Slade, and Dancy. "A Symphony for the Slaughter" (12 minutes) profiles Composer Brian Reitzell and explores how the music and sound design for the show was created. "The FX of Murder" (14 minutes) looks at the visual effects of the show and how the CG effects spice up the show. Finally we have one DELETED SCENE which runs 3 minutes.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.