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You already know it's the sequel to "Silence Of The Lambs", so let's just get down to the quality of the DVD ... just kidding ...

As the producer of this film states:  It's not necessarily a sequel to the previous film, but it is a sequel to characters of the film.  This story is very different to the original, uh previous, movie (the first was "Manhunter" which I'll review soon).  It obviously needs to be different since Dr. Lecter is now an animal out of its cage, and ultimately his freedom also results in the loss of the most respected element of the original film - the psychological suspense and terror that he invokes when he is unable to make physical contact with the people he meets.

Hannibal's ability to enter your mind is still brought into play in this film, but Starling's clinical FBI training and her respect for Dr. Lecter just informs us that he has lost none of his insightfulness for reading people and their motivations - which is expertly handled here.  But the FBI Hunt for the killer in this film comes in at a distant third place to the grisliness and the very different attitude of the FBI itself, and unfortunately this takes away the mystery of this story that made "SOTL" such an incredible experience.

Ridley Scott (the Director) and Julianne Moore (Clarice Starling) ended up replacing the original members of "SOTL", but this unforseen change in circumstances ultimately seemed to help the transcendation of the characters' development over the last 10 years, especially in Starling - I can't imagine Jodie Foster playing a street-wise FBI agent.  Gary Oldman (who is uncredited in this movie) gives yet another commanding performance, this time portraying the only surviving victim of Hannibal.  And even though his character was pretty mean in his earlier days, being attacked by Hannibal sort of acts as some kind of rebirth for him and we can't help but forgive the guy, just as ourselves would want to be forgiven for our past misdoings.

It is definately not a movie for the kiddies and the subsequent R-rating is well deserved as it was originally give an MA-rating in the cinemas (until some people kicked up a stink about it).  And if anyone remembers a report about how some teenagers were apparently psychologically disturbed after watching another MA-rated movie called "Scream" (I'm not kidding here) then it was a wise decision to only allow Over-18s to watch "Hannibal".  All fans of the previous film have been screaming for a sequel for the last 10 years, and you can't expect that things don't turn a little ugly this time around.

Hmmm, how do I not spoil the movie for you?  (If you want to experience this movie untainted, skip this section now ... slight spoilers may ensue).

Special-Agent Clarice Starling has advanced very promisingly at the FBI since 1991 in which she is now a very experienced and by-the-book officer.  However, her dedication to doing the right thing (and a little naivity) lands her in hot water when something beyond her control goes horribly wrong on a recent sting.  After an unfair grilling from her superiors, some new evidence turns up on her debut case as to the possible whereabouts of Dr. Lecter (Hannibal), possibly as a way to redeem herself (or simply to hide her from scrutiny, which is somewhat due to the FBI's apparent ineptitude ever since the Waco Texas disaster).

We soon discover that Dr. Lecter is now living in Florence, Italy, which provides both obscurity as well as the beauty and culture that he loves so much.  The story continues with intertwined tales of many past involvements, and some new ones too.  However, unlike the previous film, the FBI involvement in this investigation is virtually dropped in this film since the FBI seemingly holds little or no interest in wanting to capture this newly elevated FBI Top Ten Wanted criminal, and any desire to track him down rests solely on Clarice Starling's shoulders.

Not exactly vibrant in colour, but it is wonderfully textured.  There is some brilliant cinematography which I feel I have never seen before on celluloid and the shots in question are beautifully exploited, and it's a testament to the D.P. about how he can work out the technicalites of photographing these scenes.  Black levels are typically deep for this production and the shadows are well defined even in the darkest scenes.  A few nicks and scratches appear in some of the transitional scenes between the major film sequences.  The lighting of these scenes (especially the night-time ones) is so skillyfully structured with many subtle highlights on every object that anyone with an appreciation for film-making will be overawed by the complexity involved in setting them all up.

The City of Venice gave the production crew virtually unrestricted access to the town's beautiful landscape (no doubt to capitalise on their tourism potential) and the producers happily went about utilising the best of what it had to offer, and it shows up so well in this DVD.  I'm also glad that today's filmmakers haven't gone 'George Lucas' on us by thinking that digital is the way of the future - there is something about the inconsistency of film that allows the realism of the moment to be retained.

As far as aggressive surround sound is concerned, you'll probably find that the Fish Market Shootout will be the only thing to whet your appetite, as it showcases a really pumping fire-fight with nice sub-woofer and great split-surround activity - however this isn't the type of film to be providing this endeavour into home-cinema heaven :).  Instead the soundtrack is emotively haunting and creepy, but definately not as suspenseful as the original movie was.  

In a way I feel that Hans Zimmer's score does tend to lean on the obvious side at times, however it's still a subtlely unnerving experience.  The musical sequences provide a welcome thump in the chest to highlight the menace that is Hannibal, but not in the way that most 90s teeny-horror flicks do it in of course.  The dialogue is easily understood, however the background chatter is nearly always lost in the quagmire and you'd have to read the subtitles to know what you're missing.  Other than that, it's a very welcome nerve-wracking audio mix.

This 2-disc DVD set gives you everything you've ever wanted from Hannibal except a cup of Italian short-black coffee :).  However, you should not view these extras until you have seen the movie in its entirety as it goes into great detail about how they accomplished certain parts of the filming.

On Disc 1 the only extra here is the Director's Audio Commentary, which is packed with interesting insights into the comprises that had to be made from the book in order for the film to work.  He also discusses what he felt the motivations of every character would have been, so this provides a much needed subtext of information that enhances what we already understand of the movie.  What a guy has to do to make a movie!  On Disc 2 is where the majority of extras are kept ...

The "Breaking The Silence" behind-the-scenes featurettes are split up into 5 segments and can either be played individually or as a whole (with chapters).
- Development starts off as quite an interesting summary of what it took to get this sequel to film, including having to find the important replacements for actress/director and the differences between what works on film compared to what should stay solely in the book.  However, it also dedicates a few minutes of self-promotion by pointing out how great Ridley Scott is (which really doesn't reiterating to us, people).
- Production goes into how a couple of the effects shots were accomplished and also provides an extensive collection of the various on-set footage.
- Special Make-Up Effects provide interviews with the SFX people who describe how difficult it is to show something that looks real on film (or our interpretation of reality) compared to what actual real-life incidents appear to people (like when you are looking at an accident scene).  Fascinating stuff, especially since there was one scene in which I had no idea was an effect at all.
- Music proved to be a lot more entertaining than I expected as it spends a day in the studio with Hans Zimmer whilst he develops the film's Opera song (yes, it was an original composition and not a rehash of a classic).  This is such a moving piece of music that it never fails to impress, and the composer himself says that even after developing it ad infinitum in the studio it never sounds tired or worn out to him - I'd have to agree with him.  However, the score that carries the entire film is not explained in any great detail, but Hans does his best to iterate to us how he accomplishes the haunting feeling that he wanted to achieve.
- Reaction shows the film's grand opening to Hollywood industry's finest, which is probably the first inside look that I have ever seen of what goes on after they enter the outer doors.  Also, a video camera must have been snuck into the seating arena and we are shown the audience's reaction to the now infamous dinner scene (I won't elaborate on this, discover it for yourself).  It's the kind of reaction that you know would only happen in the cinema when the whole audience is free to react in the way they do, even if they wouldn't act the same way in real-life.

The "Multi-Angle Vignettes" consist of three segments.
- Anatomy Of A Shoot-Out shows up to 4 different camera angles that were used at the same time to film the various sections of the Fish Market Shootout scene, and these can be displayed either with one of the cameras on-screen at a time or all four in separate windows on-screen.
- RidleyGrams is basically an interview with Ridley Scott where he gives a quick overview of how he started in the film business doing storyboards and what his inspirations were as his career developed.  This can be viewed with just storyboards of the film, scene/storyboard comparisons, or the latter with Ridley Scott himself on-screen.
- Title Design shows the opening credits viewed in four different guises (from Final Cut, Teaser Cut, Raw Video footage or Notebook diagrams), with either the Final & Teaser sound mixes or one of the two audio commentaries by the videographer and the director himself.

The "Deleted & Alternate Scenes" provide 13 sequences (not 15 as stated on the packaging - if there are more I'd like to know where) that were removed or trimmed mostly for pacing reasons and can be viewed with an optional director's commentary (either via audio or subtitles).  These scenes are understandably removed from the final release as they do slow the movie down considerably, but they were filmed to keep as faithful to the book's tone as possible - the director's commentary goes a long way into explaining what these scenes really meant in the context of the film, but were deemed to confusing for film-goers to understand easily.  There is also an alternate ending which dramatically changes the persona of both Starling and Lecter and it's amazing how the slightly different script and editing changes can make this all happen.

Then there is the "Marketing Gallery" which consists of the Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots as well as an extensive Still Photos section and Poster Concepts.

If you were expecting a "Silence Of The Lambs 2" (aka "Manhunter 3"), then I'm afraid you'll be very disappointed.  The claustraphobic environment in "SOTL" that helped to centre your attention purely on Hannibal's menacing persona is virtually non-existant here - so the fear of him entering your mind is now replaced by the fear that he might actually be standing right next to you.

I would rather not have stated this fact at the risk of giving away any plot-points, but it's a logical deduction to make considering Hannibal now has the choice of being anywhere and anyone, therefore any acts of 'human consumption' (groan!) by Dr. Lecter would be paid much more attention to by the authorities since they would eventually lead back to him in some way.  Indeed, this would have turned him into a much more cunning and devious personality in order to avoid capture, especially from the one person who would know him better than any other.

By the way, if you are ever interested in visiting the beautiful city of Florence, be sure to check out the tourist brochure available there entitled:  Hannibal Lecter. Visit the places of the city where he was.