NBC’s ‘Hannibal’ dark, clever and imaginative

File photo.
File photo.

Ever since Anthony Hopkins made his first appearance in 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs,” Dr. Hannibal Lecter has been one of the most iconic villains in pop culture.

Created by author Thomas Harris, the character of Hannibal Lecter has spanned four novels and five films. Now, courtesy of NBC’s new crime series, Hannibal Lecter has come to television. Developed for TV by “Pushing Daisies” creator Bryan Fuller, “Hannibal” is off to a strong start thanks to its striking visuals, imaginative writing and superb acting.

A prequel to the novel and film “Red Dragon,” “Hannibal” focuses on Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), an FBI special investigator with the ability to empathize with serial killers. Seeing that Will’s ability is haunting him, FBI boss Jack Crawford enlists Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) to help prepare Will for active duty. As Will hunts vicious murderers, he forges a friendship with Hannibal, not realizing that his new friend may be the worst killer of them all.

“Hannibal” succeeds as a grim and gripping thriller for a number of reasons. Fresh off of his great work on last year’s “Awake,” director David Slade does an excellent job of creating the show’s dark atmosphere. Slade gives “Aperitif,” the series’ pilot, a David Fincher-like scheme of low lighting and stark cinematography that accentuates the show’s brutal subject matter wonderfully.

“Hannibal” also doesn’t shy away from showcasing its gruesome imagery, such as a scene in the second episode involving dead people and mushrooms. In addition to disturbing images, the series captures its compelling visual design through its distinct color palette. “Hannibal”s first two episodes are full of beautifully-captured harsh tones, such as the garden scene in the second episode and the pilot’s direct homage to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”

In addition to its great visuals, “Hannibal” captivates due to its strong writing. Bryan Fuller, the creator, does an excellent job in capturing the clever nuances in Thomas Harris’s characters, particularly Will. The pilot does an outstanding job in illustrating Will’s ability to visualize himself as the killers he hunts.

While having his protagonist commit brutal crimes on screen could have proved troublesome, the brilliance of Fuller’s script lies in its painting of Will as a deeply conflicted man who has trouble relating to people. In addition to making Will an endearingly flawed character, Fuller does a great job of making “Hannibal” a compelling mystery series, with Will’s visualizations and Dr. Lecter’s presence providing the show with an imaginative twist on the procedural.

Along with its writing and directing, “Hannibal” features an excellent cast. Hugh Dancy is mesmerizing as Will Graham, displaying remarkable range in both his emotionally vulnerable scenes and the scenes where Will visualizes himself as the killer.  Equally as impressive as Dancy is Mads Mikkelsen as the infamous Dr. Lecter.

Instead of shooting for the theatrics of Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal, Mikkelsen plays a more subdued version of Lecter that proves to be just as compelling and terrifying. Dancy and Mikkelsen also play off of each other wonderfully, which gives their budding friendship a strong sense of authenticity.

The ensemble is rounded out by Academy Award-nominated actor Laurence Fishburne, who gives a reliably terrific performance as the complex and determined Jack Crawford.

Dark, clever and captivating, NBC’s “Hannibal” is an impressively designed and acted crime thriller. An intriguing re-imagining of one of the most compelling villains in film history, “Hannibal” is a show to look out for this spring.

About the Author

Nick Keeley

Nick Keeley is a Chimes staff writer for the 2012-13 school year.

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