There is something refreshing about sequels that appear with a time separation as substantial as that of this follow-up to the incomparable The Silence of the Lambs. That is not to say there isn't a commercial interest in this project, but with a new director and a new approach by both the screenwriters and the author alike, Hannibal emerges as an autonomous work, more an elaboration on the persona and life that is Hannibal Lecter's than a constrained continuation of Demme's film.
Under Ridley Scott's direction, Hannibal hasn't got the drive and suspense of its predecessor, but makes up for that through its delicate atmosphere and seductive nature. In Hannibal, Dr. Lecter's creepiness is conveyed in a more sensual manner, bordering on the erotic. It's a development which suits him and his surroundings. Narratively the film is structured as two separate pursuits on Lecter on two different continents by two highly interesting characters played with vigour and conviction by Gary Oldman and Giancarlo Giannini respectively. Both subplots are brooding and sinister in atmosphere, but at the same time highly interesting from both a social and an interpersonal point of view. Balancing in between as a mediator we find our hero (in the traditional sense), Clarice Starling. Although looking the part, Julianne Moore is the film's weakest point. She isn't able to satisfactorily convey the emotional connection Starling has to Lecter, and the ambivalence which Foster so brilliantly portrayed is missing - especially towards the end of the film in some of the most crucial and captivating scenes.
Luckily, Anthony Hopkins is on hand to carry the weight, and to perfection. He manages to build on the intimidating figure he created in The Silence of the Lambs and add new aspects to him here in Hannibal. His character has become superhuman in a fascinating, devilish way. Still, it is his not completely absent goodness which attracts us the most, and his relationship to Starling is deep, yearning and affecting. There's a vulnerability to Lecter here that brings him closer to us while at the same time making his enigma even more interesting. And Scott has the flair to make the description of him poetic and beautiful. That's a quality which almost equals Gary Oldman's ability to make a disfigured, spoiled pedophile appealing.