Making Sweden 5% nerdier than it has to be.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

No clever title, I just wanted to tell everybody that Hannibal the tv-series is just really bad

No pictures either. I just really want to rant a bit and explain why I am utterly baffled why a lot of people are praising the new television series Hannibal, which acts as a prequel to Thomas Harris' book series turned into three pretty great movies where the titular Hannibal Lecter plays a big role.

Because if you ask me it's really really bad.

Now, I love the three books (Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal) where the character of Hannibal Lecter started out his fictional existence. They were some of the first books I really read. And like so many others I pretty much fell in love with the suave and sophisticated cannibal that could influence and manipulate while still being locked up in a cell underground. And he wasn't just a fancy serial killer with a gimmick. He actually had a complex personality, most of it revealed in the third book. This guy was just a damn good villain.

I read the books first and then I saw the movies where Anthony Hopkins portrayed him in the most amazing and awesome fashion I could ever have hoped for. It was a nice little trilogy of books and movies to appreciate. I was pefectly fine with no other iteration of the character because this was good enough and it would probably never get any better.

The well-intentioned but ultimately not good prequel movie Hannibal Rising proved me right. Haven't read the book yet.

Now I can understand that a company would want to make money off the character of Hannibal Lecter, that's fine it's what they do, and it's always good to introduce such a classic villain to new audiences. So when I saw that channel 5 here in Sweden was going to air a television series that would act as a prequel to Red Dragon I was caught between sceptical, because of the mentioned prequel movie, and catiously optimistic, because of Mads Mikkelsen who is a very talented actor and america is usually pretty good with crime drama.

Then I saw the first episode together with my mother and sister, we recorded it and waited for a chance to see it together for some family fun. And then we all agreed that it was pretty freaking awful.

First of all, Thomas Harris worked really hard and did a lot of homework in order to bring a lot of realistic details to the investigative procedure and criminal profiling that take place in his books. The reader gets a real sense of how these things work and this is all very well translated to the movies. The Will Graham of the books needs the material that's collected from forensic reports, psych-profiles, witness reports and all those other things. He studies every single detail of them and from that he builds the images in his head that helps him figure out how the killer works and where he might come from. It's a large collaborative effort where Will is a special weapon that gives a different kind of perspective that most people just can't imagine.

This is not the case in the television series. This Will Graham can just walk into a crime scene, get one of his many boring and pretentious visions and from that deduce that the killer has a daughter that looks exactly like the victims based on basically nothing. In this series instead of having an entire investigative team hatching out possible motives and means of the killer you have two guys shouting at each other in a toilette room. And apparently nobody could find that one of the missing girls had been put back in her room, despite the disappearance happening suddenly and the parents saying that the police had been on the floor where it is. Because her dead body was in fact in her own room. So we're either dealing with the world's most incompotent crime scene investigators, why wouldn't you look inside the victim's room, or they were just freaking blind. Either way it's stupid and not at all in line with how well portrayed the entire investigative process is in Harris' books and the movies.

Also, remember Francis Dolarhyde and Buffalo Bill from Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs respectively? Remember how they were both given deep and complex criminal profiles that let you understand where they're coming from and why they do what they do? And remember how that let you appreciate them that much more as fully fleshed out characters? That's not the case in this series.

Here we get no background information on the killer, no detailed analysis (at least no one that makes any sense or contributes to actually capturing him) and the best we get in terms of motive is that his daughter was going off to college and this upset him so he went out and killed eight girls that looked like his daughter because... because he was crazy. They don't even go into how he picked his victims which would've taken a huge chunck of his time that was already occupied with being a family man with a job. Essentially nothing about the guy is explained. Oh and he's a cannibal... because he was crazy.

So yeah, the procedures are largely botched and the killer is bland and uninteresting in every sense of the word and it's all just a big mess. I could maybe forgive all that and write the whole thing off as so bad that it's good for riffing, like Twilight. But they did one thing that I can't really forgive. They completely messed up Hannibal Lecter.

I'm not talking about Mikkelsen's acting, he does really good with what he's given. I'm refering to an instance halfway through the episode where the body of a ninth missing girl is found. It's killed in a manner similar to the other girls but different, TV Graham deduces that it's a copycat and the copycat's motivations seconds after seeing the scene. Hannibal killed this girl to show Graham, using photography terms here, a negative to the positives of the other crimes, that alone is stupid on so many levels.

A little backstory on Hannibal Lecter is now required. When he was young he witnessed his little sister Mischa get murdered and cannibalised by Nazi soldiers during WWII. This incident naturally did something of number on him and is largely the reason for why he is the way he and kinda explains his cannibalism, better so in the books than this text naturally. One will also note that it is much more common for Hannibal to kill men rather than women.

I bring this up because it is utter bullshit that Hannibal Lecter would kill some random girl just to make a point to Will Graham. I'm not even going to go into how risky this would be for Lecter or that he'd be much more interested in leading Will to that point via discussions. If Hannibal got involved with a investigation where some dude that was killing young girls and cannibalising them he would find the guy himself and make mince-meat out of him. Because that guy would be exactly the kind of monster that killed Mischa and it would be much more in line with Hannibal's character to kill the bastard himself.

So yeah. I thought that the first episode was pretty fucking awful and the above is why. Other people loved it. I do not understand why.

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