Retro Review: Red Dragon

Written: October 5, 2002

In the fourth morsel, Hannibal shows signs of age.

“Red Dragon” is based on the Thomas Harris novel of the same name. In the 1980s, emerging director Michael Mann directed an adaptation of this novel which was later renamed “Manhunter”.

“Manhunter” was a bold film for its day and eventually found a cult following. Now in 2002, we are brought back to the novel that spawned the cult film.

This time we have the fan favorite version of Hannibal, played by Anthony Hopkins, and the author of the novel who is more pleased with this more-faithful version.

The story behind “Red Dragon” is the return to the profiling game by retired FBI agent Will Graham (Edward Norton).

Graham is brought out of retirement by his friend Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) to track down a psychotic killer dubbed the Tooth Fairy. Graham was responsible for bringing the notorious Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to justice that event almost cost Graham his life.

Now years later, Graham has to confront the man who almost killed him in hopes that the evil doctor can unlock the mindset of the Tooth Fairy.

“Red Dragon” works because of what has come before it. The opening sequence where you have Hannibal having a group of dignitaries over for dinner is complimentary to the final scenes of last year’s “Hannibal”. The film begins with homage to another chapter and ends with a delightful little throw to the “Silence of the Lambs”. This film is aware of the others around it. In some ways that is comforting.

Once again Hopkins is grand as Lecter but I found that Ralph Fiennes performance as the demented “Tooth Fairy” to be the most unforgettable of the film.

This version of novel really made me see a lot more into the mind-set of the “Tooth Fairy”. I did however like William Peterson’s Will Graham from “Manhunter” much better than Edward Norton.

That was my problem with “Red Dragon” was that I was always comparing it to the films that had come before.

Since it was the fourth film in the franchise and a remake it was so hard not to. How can one not? I liked the other films before this one a lot better because each one was paving new territory and telling a fresh story. This film was doing neither.

Placing comparisons aside, I liked Brett Ratner’s interpretation of the events. I loved the film’s opening and closing scenes which for

me were by far the best in the film. I did find that there were chunks in the middle of the movie that were long and drawn out. I also found it really incredible that Ratner chose Danny Elfman to score the film. I loved his score throughout. I also adored Ratner’s casting choices especially Emily Watson and Fiennes.

I think we are going to see some interesting projects from Ratner in the future. Ratner is a former music video director who seems to have a grip on how to put a movie together.

Other directors who have come from music videos tend to make movies like music videos where there is a lot of fluidity and flashy cutting. Their visions tend to be all flash and little or no substance.

“Red Dragon” will be amazing to people who haven’t seen “Manhunter” or if it is their first Hannibal movie. To some of us who have been there since the beginning it may be hard to watch the movie without comparing it.

(3.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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