Sunday, July 7, 2013

Prequels: Monsters University and Hannibal

Monsters University 

Monsters University is the prequel to Monsters Inc following Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan during their college days.  MU is delightful.  I enjoyed it tremendously and had forgotten how charming the Monsters world was- full of color and optimism.  Given Pixars two latest films, the cliche, forgettable Cars 2 and well-intentioned but too preachy Brave, I was a little worried they were losing their touch.  With Monsters,  I am reassured that Pixar still has many fun and meaningful stories to tell.

Monsters University is very much Mike's story.  We learn why he's so optimistic and why he's the guy who is still over the moon when he's on a TV commercial even when the logo happens to be covering him up.  I like how it goes back to those classic Pixar movies in which the messages were always uplifting but not saccharine.  I was also particularly impressed with how brutally honest the characters are with each other when they finally confront each other.  


A more terrifying prequel I've been following is NBC's Hannibal, created by Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies).  For a while, Hannibal had been one of those shows I put on in the background while I did other things, but somewhere in the middle of the season, "Sorbet," completely blew me away.  

Hannibal is a prequel of sorts to Silence of the Lambs and features Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen, the Bond villian from Casino Royale) when he's still a psychiatrist before he gets caught.  Lector is at the top of his game.  He is respected in the community for his medical expertise and for his gourmet cooking.  Mikkelsen really nails this role, especially since Anthony Hopkins so iconically portrayed Hannibal in Silence of the Lambs.  Mikkelsen's Lector is mysterious and frighteningly cool.  He has an accent no one can quite place but he appears so cultured and polite, other characters can't help but to instinctively trust him.

The show follows Hannibal's relationship with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a gifted FBI profiler who's gift and curse is his ability to empathize with others, and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), Will's supervisor.  Other main characters include: Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), Will's close friend and Beverley Katz (Hettienne Park), a member of Jack's forensic team.  I was also really excited to see Gillian Anderson (Agnet Scully!! :D) make an appearance on the show.  

Hannibal is a very character-centric show and visually striking, full of eerie imagery.  I enjoyed it the most somewhere near the middle of the season, when things weren't too bleak yet and when there was this undercurrent of tremendously dark humor and when you really had no idea where things are going.  The episodes leading up to the finale are tough.  Will Graham, who uses his gift of empathy to profile serial killers, becomes increasingly damaged as he bears the brunt of the emotional trauma the characters experience.  While the Abagail Hobbs story was interesting especially for the development of the characters and Will and Hannibal's relationship, I wish they had featured other arcs more heavily, like Franklyn, another one of Hannibal's patients, and Tobias the violin maker.

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