Red Dragon is by far the best book by Thomas Harris. It was written before Silence of the Lambs as is more of a delicious treat, full of some great suspense filled writing. Will Graham is far more intriguing as the protagonist than Starling and it’s the first outing for Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the world’s most beloved fictional killer. With Graham and Lecter battling wits and also hunting down demented serial killers, it is an incredible piece of work. Red Dragon has been developed for cinema lovers twice. Once in the brilliant Manhunter and secondly in the lesser Red Dragon, which was somehow directed by Brett Ratner....
Why Is It Bad?
It feels a bit wrong of me to say but it is very true, this is no Manhunter. Red Dragon genuinely could be a great stand-alone movie if it hadn’t the others to proceed it. Basically, Hollywood should have left it alone but the need to see Hopkins in the Lecter debut role seemed to tantalising to resist; thus Red Dragon was released. However, being years after Silence of the Lambs, having Hopkins play a younger Lecter whilst being significantly older actually has a detrimental effect on the film; It forces Hopkins to ham up Lecter and thus the cold and calculating killer becomes a bit more camp and teddy bear like. And Norton feels more wooden than troubled as Graham, playing a static man who should be on the edge. Plus Ratner and Silence of the Lambs writer Ted Rally really fail at subtly. There are moments where a few facial expressions or imagery could suffice but they fill it with unnecessary conversation making it terribly wordy. Overall, it is filled with sloppy and almost laughable filmmaking, especially compared to the prior movies.
So I’m going to contradict myself here; you shouldn’t compare it to the prior movies. As a stand alone thriller, it is pretty decent and Rally really gets to the heart of the book transferring the tale rather well onto the screen. There are some genuinely scary moments here and Ralph Fiennes really excels as the killer Francis Dolarhyde. Hopkins is still awesome as Lecter and there are some great lines to sit and reel off to others. It is filled with horror, mystery and intrigue as well as some stunning scenes that are highly memorable.
Red Dragon shouldn’t be so easily dismissed because if someone were to be a Hannibal Lecter fan then it is a great first movie to watch to give them a taste. It could be better, it could be so much better. And where Manhunter used themes, imagery and tones to express the killing, Red Dragon is the Hollywood action movie. People talk, music is ever so dramatic and people run for no good reason. For Hannibal Lecter fans it is simply the entree; a small almost tasty treat that won’t satisfy but fuel the hunger.