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HTF REVIEW: "Red Dragon" Director's Edition (with screenshots)


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#1 of 50 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 11 2003 - 12:32 AM

Posted Image

Red Dragon






Studio: Universal
Year: 2002
Rated: R
Film Length: 125 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: English



Before the Silence, there was the Dragon

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Dr. Hannibal Lecter, psychiatrist, philosopher,
culinary artist and gentleman extraordinare. The
serial murderer created by author Thomas Harris
has captured the public’s fascination like no other
fictional character in recent years. He scoffs at
weak human emotions and senses exactly what you fear,
and can easily exploit it.

He scared the bejeezus out of us in Silence of
the Lambs
. He ate a human brain in Hannibal.
But what many people may not know is that Silence
of the Lambs
was not Hannibal Lecter’s first
venture into cinema history. In fact, Anthony Hopkins
was not the original Hannibal Lecter. The character
was first realized in director Michael Mann's
original 1986 film called Manhunter.

Technically, Red Dragon can be classified as
a remake of Michael Mann's powerful 1986 Manhunter.
Both films are based on Thomas Harris's chilling
novel, Red Dragon, which turns out to be the
film's biggest flaw. There is no convincing artistic
reason for Red Dragon to exist. It was done so well
16 years ago that you can't expect this almost exact
remake to stand up to the original -- and it doesn't.

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Red Dragon begins in Baltimore in 1980 with
the capture of noted psychologist Hannibal Lecter
(Anthony Hopkins), who frequently consults the FBI
for psychological profiles. The agent who captures
him, Will Graham (Edward Norton), suffers some serious
wounds during the arrest and ends up retiring to a
peaceful life in Florida with his wife Molly (Mary
Louise Parker) and son Josh (Tyler Patrick).

Posted ImagePosted Image

Two brutal murders later bring FBI Chief Jack
Crawford (Harvey Keitel) to Graham's door in an
effort to beg his former master profiler to return
to work on a temporary basis to shed some light on
the case. Graham reluctantly agrees to return to his
work, promising his wife he'll stay in the background.
Investigating the crime scenes, Graham is able to
discover some clues as to the nature of the killer
but is unable to gain the insights needed to solve
the case. Graham soon realizes that the most
effective way to catch the serial killer, Francis
Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes), is to go back to the
incarcerated Lecter and seek his help in getting
into the killer's mind. But Lecter has his own
agenda. 'Tooth Fairy' who calls himself 'Red Dragon'
and Lecter are formidable adversaries.

The original 1986 Manhunter was a gruesome,
graphic and just plain gripping film. Director
Brett Ratner has taken Red Dragon in a slightly
different direction, giving us a more stylish yet
lukewarm thriller that creates tension out of the
things we don't see. Of course, the real draw here
is to see Hopkins step into the shoes of the
charming, intelligent, and sophisticated Hannibal
'The Cannibal' Lecter. Hopkins does not disappoint
here in a role that he has certainly perfected after
all these years. He is a man who can send chills
through your body just by opening his mouth.


How is the transfer?


Universal has given us an absolutely pristine
transfer that looks magnificent thanks to its
attention to detail and black levels that provide
an overly strong presentation. Colors are perfectly
accurate, contrast is excellent, and you'll find dark
scenes sporting fine detail. What more can I say?
This is a great-looking transfer.

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The 5.1 Dolby Surround track can best be described
as an aggressive and enveloping mix. Most noteworthy
here is Danny Elfman's score that is full of
percussion, chilling vibes and electronic sounds
that effectively surround the listener. Elfman's
dramatic and tension-hyped string rhythms really add
a chilling presence to the film. The rears do an
exceptional job of adding some eerie ambiance which
will send chills down your spine, particularly as
you walk down the corridor that leads to Lecter's
prison cell for the first time. The quality of the
sound is exceptional, coming across the fronts with
distinct clarity.


Special Features


Universal has released Red Dragon in no less
than three different versions. There's are separate
Full-Frame and Widescreen releases,
followed by a 2-disc Director's Edition, which
I am proud to be reviewing for you today.

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The Director's Edition has a wealth of supplemental
extras that seem to be equally divided across both
discs. Let's begin with Disc One....

Up first is a full-length commentary by
director Brett Ratner and screenwriter Ted Tally.
It begins with Brett talking about receiving
Ted Tally's screenplay of Red Dragon, and
wondering why someone would think that this director
could pull such a dark project off. Ratner admits
he immediately fell in love with the script, and
for that reason, readily accepted the project. The
next step for the director was to meet Dino De
Laurentis who was totally unfamiliar with Brett's
previous work. Though the director had some big
shoes to fill following the efforts of Michael Mann,
Jonathan Demme and Ridley Scott, Brett was anxious
to bring his own unique style and tone to the film.
Screenwriter Ted Tally talks about his often long
conversations with the film's production designer,
contributing his ideas on what the design of the
film should look like. There's a funny story about
how Ted casted this film, hiring one actor in order
to get someone bigger. This is a quite a pleasurable
commentary thanks to the fact that both Brett and
Ted are very upbeat throughout, often having a grand
time talking about what it was like not only to
revisit this film again, but to work with such a
distinguished cast of actors.

You need to dig around a little to find this --
especially since it goes unadvertised on the cover
specs -- there is feature commentary by
composer Danny Elfman. From the bits I heard, I
found this to be more of an isolated score track
with occasional input from the director on how he
staged his music to affect the mood of a particular
scene.

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Lecter's FBI File and Life History is a
rather interesting read. We are presented with
Hannibal's CONFIDENTIAL records that takes us
from his devastating childhood through his later
years as the world's most notorious serial killer.

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Inside the mind of a serial killer introduces
us to FBI agent John Douglas whose interests lie in
behavioral science. He talks about his experiences
visiting various penitentiaries where he was confronted
by hardened criminals (such as Richard Speck and
Charles Manson) who often agreed to talk to him.
Douglas talks about his creation of criminal profiling
that is used to aid law enforcement authorities. He
also takes us on a journey through the mind of
Hannibal Lecter. Quite fascinating!
(length: approx. 8 minutes)

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Anthony Hopkins: Lector and Me gives further
insight into the Lecter character from the actor that
portrays him. Hopkins begins by talking about first
realizing in Silence of the Lambs that Lector
would become an important cinematic character -- but
not quite being prepared for the phenomenon that
followed. Not only do we learn why director Jonathan
Demme first chose Hopkins for the role as Lector, but
we also learn that the actor is quite obsessive about
the way he reads a script. You'll be quite amazed
when you hear how many times he reads a particular
script. Very nice interview, but sadly, too short.
(length: approx. 4 minutes)

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The making of Red Dragon is the sort of usual
promotional fluff-piece narrated by someone with a
dramatically deep voice. It's basically short
interviews with the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Edward
Norton, Mary Louise Parker, Ralph Fiennes and Emily
Watson who talk about their individual characters.
There are also interviews with filmmakers Brett
Ratner and Dino De Laurentis. Intertwined with all
of this are clips from the film as well as behind-
the-camera footage.
(length: approx. 14 minutes)

There are 7 deleted scenes, 4 alternate
version of scenes
and 3 extended scenes
included for your enjoyment. I'll let you discover
all of these yourself, and simply let you know that
you can play them with optional commentary from
director Bree Ratner, writer Tedd Tally and editor
Mark Helfrich.

You'll love the clever format of the Production
Notes
that are presented across the pages of
a serial killer's diary. It is here you will learn
the history of Hannibal Lector and the four films that
have told his story. There is also a cast and
filmmaker
page that gives you some very nicely
laid-out extensive biographies of the principal cast
members and various individuals involved with the
making of the film.

I had a tough time locating actual DVD-ROM
content, though the disc's description hints at
the fact that most of it is website related.

Posted ImagePosted Image

Let's move on to Disc Two that contains
nothing but additional supplemental material....

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A Director's journey: The making of Red Dragon
is the kind of first-rate "making of" featurettes that
we WANT to see, rather than those made for cable
promotional yawners. In anticipation of the DVD
release, a film crew followed director Brett Ratner,
capturing every aspect of the entire journey of
making of this film from pre production through its
theatrical premiere. You'll walk with the director
as he scouts locations and argues with Dino De
Laurentis over why he can't burn one of the featured
homes. You'll sit in on an injury effects meeting,
as well a stunt meeting. You'll watch various
wardrobe tests, set walkthroughs and even the
application of tattoos to Fienne's backside. What
you will see the most here is Brett Ratner directing
his cast, often listening to and taking advice from
his actors. It's also obvious that Ratner is not a
very confident director, nor does his cast seem very
confident in him, often questioning him on his every
decision. It's also kind of shameful to see that
Ratner disregards advice not to place his actors in
a burning room with heat so extreme that it can
readily burn them.
(length: approx. 39 minutes)

Brett Ratner's untitled student film is the
very first film the up-and-coming director made at
New York University. Do yourself a favor and save
three minutes of your valuable time by skipping
over this silent B&W effort. It's pretty awful.

Visual Effects is a rather short montage of
many "before" and "after" shots featuring digital
additions and removals as well as several explosion
elements/composites sequences. The problem with this
piece is that it is poorly presented without any
sort of narration that would help explain what was
actually done to these scenes.
(length: approx. 4 minutes)

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Screen and film tests shows us many of the
various tests that the director put his actors
through. These include tests on hair, wardrobe,
film blood and even the dentures, tattoos and mask
that Ralph Fiennes wears. Director Brett Ratner,
Director of Photography Dante Spinotti and Special
Makeup Effects Artist Matthew Mungle talk us through
the entire sequence.
(length: approx. 11 minutes)

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Even though there's a warning about how graphic this
may be, we are going to show you a picture of it
anyway! Makeup application shows us how
a gelatin appliance was first applied to the eyes
of an actress to protect her from the shard of mirror
placed above it. Narrated by director Brent Ratner
and Makeup Effects Artist Matthew Mungle.
(length: approx. 45 seconds)

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Burning Wheelchair takes us on location as
we watch how Stunt coordinator Conrad Palmisano staged
the fiery wheelchair sequence.
(length: approx. 3 minutes)

Leed's House crime scene introduces us to
Homicide technical advisor Lt. Ray Peavy who makes
sure that the bloodied crime scene depicted in the
Leed's household looks as authentic as possible.
Makeup Effects Artist Matthew Mungle gives us a look
at how mirrors were added to the eyes of the victims.
(length: approx. 3 minutes)

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There are four Storyboards to film comparisons
that put windows on top of each other, giving you a
direct look at how the original concept of a scene
looked compared to the final filmed version.

Finally, the film/s original theatrical trailer
as well as a teaser trailer are presented here.

Let me give some praise to the really cool menu
designs that were done for this DVD release. Filled
with eerie corridor walkthroughs and an endless
assortment of Lector sound bytes, the menus really
shine here! Excellent job to the folks that designed
them.


Final Thoughts

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The big decision for many of you is whether to
buy the standard DVD or 2-disc Director's
Edition
. From quickly glancing at the specs
of both DVD editions, it seems that Disc One
is identical on both versions (but be sure to check
for yourself first). For an additional $6-$7 you
get a 2-disc edition with the supplements I described
above. Personally I think Universal should have saved
their efforts and money and just released the 2-disc
edition as I think it will be the one most people will
opt to purchase.

Despite the fact that this film comes too close in
remaking the original Manhunter, a project
that should have been let be, Red Dragon is
as polished, well crafted and entertaining as anyone
would have any right to expect. Most fans of Hannibal
Lector will not walk away disappointed.

Bon Appetite!

Release Date: April 1, 2003


All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 50 OFFLINE   Andrew Chong

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Posted March 11 2003 - 12:40 AM

Thanks for your frank and detailed review, Ron.
I'm happy that Danny Elfman's score was included in isolated form with commentary.
ac

#3 of 50 OFFLINE   Jay Mitchosky

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Posted March 11 2003 - 12:42 AM

Well done review Ron. Will probably pass on this as a purchase (which will unfortunately be released as something like "Le Dragon Rouge" or such in Canada with our bilingual covers) but it'll be an interesting rent. I haven't seen Manhunter for so long that this would be a fresh experience for me. But I agree with you that it's probably a remake that didn't need to be done.
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#4 of 50 OFFLINE   Mark Zimmer

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Posted March 11 2003 - 01:53 AM

I for one think that Red Dragon was a film that needed to be made, and that it far surpasses Manhunter by reinstating all the baroque weirdness that made the book so memorable, and which Mann replaced with dreary (but pastel-colored) police procedural. And don't get me started on Manhunter's weak, weak ending. This is a must-purchase as far as I'm concerned.

#5 of 50 OFFLINE   ChrisMatson

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Posted March 11 2003 - 02:13 AM

Sounds like a nice 2-disc set. I personally enjoyed Red Dragon more than Manhunter. I watched the Director's Cut of Manhunter about two years ago and found the 80's score to be distracting. Perhaps the original theatrical version had better pacing, but I found the movie to drag at times. That said, I do want to watch Manhunter again.

My understanding is that Red Dragon is a new and different take on the book and NOT a remake of Mann's Manhunter.

#6 of 50 OFFLINE   Bjorn Olav Nyberg

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Posted March 11 2003 - 02:16 AM

Quote:
which Mann replaced with dreary (but pastel-colored) police procedural.

I haven't seen Red dragon yet, so I am not comparing, but I think this was the best aspect of Manhunter! I agree that the ending is sort of a let-down after the amazing first 40 minutes or so, but I still liked the surreal atmosphere of it. It will be interesting to see Red dragon for comparison, but as I like Manhunter a lot, I am fearing I may end up doing too much comparing and not let myself be drawn in enough...
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#7 of 50 OFFLINE   Dharmesh C

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Posted March 11 2003 - 02:52 AM

Big fan of Manhunter here, so it will be interesting to compare, but somehow I know I will be disappointed.

Not sure why Universal bothered with 3 DVD versions.


#8 of 50 OFFLINE   Kenneth Cummings

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Posted March 11 2003 - 03:00 AM

I have to admit, I never seen any of the Hannibal movies. I seen only parts of Silence of Lambs, but that it. Maybe I could get started on the "first" movie here and work my way up (even so I heard bad stuff on Hannibal).
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#9 of 50 OFFLINE   Tony Scello

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Posted March 11 2003 - 03:01 AM

I enjoyed both Red Dragon and Manhunter in their own ways. The story is, of course, the same but they both have a very different look, tone and style. I don't believe that because someone enjoyed Manhunter that they must automatically dislike Red Dragon.

Thanks for the review Ron. I'll be adding this great looking 2 disc director's edition next to my Manhunter:LE in my collection.
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#10 of 50 OFFLINE   Adam_WM

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Posted March 11 2003 - 03:03 AM

Thanks, Ron. One of my most anticipated April releases.I can't wait to see some of the special effects and make-up featurettes.

If I may, it is in my opinion that RED DRAGON is the superior film to Manhunter. Let me rephrase. I have read all three books in the Hannibal Lector series and I have found that RED DRAGON was the most entertaining. I rented Manhunter a few years ago and while it seemed to be a "well-made" film, it wasn't a good movie. It was your typical "BASED ON A NOVEL BY Author X" type movie. Parallels could be drawn to something like the first Jurassic Park where major changes were made in order to tell a better story suited for the screen. IMHO, to be honest, I think Red Dragon might as well have said in the credits, "THIS IS AS CLOSE TO 'RED DRAGON' by Thomas Harris AS A MOVIE CAN COME". Brett Ratner and Ted Tally's RED DRAGON did what MANHUNTER did not. It created the true adaptation of Thomas Harris' original book. If these two movies were made in reverse (i.e. Red Dragon made in the 80s), MANHUNTER would not exist. This new version IS Thomas Harris' vision. I think most fans of the novels will agree with me.

Disclaimer: This is in no way saying Manhunter is a bad film nor is Ron's review bad nor is this meant to crap on the thread.
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#11 of 50 OFFLINE   nicholas_g

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Posted March 11 2003 - 03:26 AM

Good review.

I haven't seen Red Dragon yet but have seen Manhunter recently. I have seen many positve views on Manhunter,I thought it was very over hyped. I prefer Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal.

There has been speculation that the R2 version will have DTS like the R4 rental vesion.

I will be getting and looking forward to Red Dragon (which region is undecided).

#12 of 50 OFFLINE   Ed Moroughan

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Posted March 11 2003 - 03:33 AM

Hey, my first post Posted Image Anyway, I'll be adding this to my collection come street date. Great Review.

#13 of 50 OFFLINE   James T

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Posted March 11 2003 - 03:46 AM

I thought Red Dragon was an okay movie. I liked it better than Manhunter. Maybe I'll rent this disc to check out the special features.

And welcome to the forum Ed.

#14 of 50 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 11 2003 - 04:32 AM

Welcome, Ed! This will be your new home - trust me!

Thanks for the kind words about the review. That
goes for everyone!

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#15 of 50 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted March 11 2003 - 04:41 AM

Thanks for the review Ron! I wasn't a big fan of Manhunter (but was of the book) - gasp! blasphemy, I know! - so I look forward to seeing how this one holds up. I'll prolly buy it sight unseen just to complete the "Hopkins as Lecter" trilogy (since I wasn't a huge fan of the original Lecter - gasp! blasphemy again!). Posted Image

Glad to see that the 2 disc set will satisfy the film-geek in me! Posted Image

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#16 of 50 OFFLINE   Nick Graham

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Posted March 11 2003 - 05:10 AM

I'll be picking this up. I enjoyed Manhunter, but Fiennes elevates this flick to a level Manhunter can't reach.

#17 of 50 OFFLINE   Richard Waller

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Posted March 11 2003 - 05:33 AM

Here I thought I was the only one who disliked Manhunter. :b

I watched Manhunter shortly after reading the Red Dragon novel a few years ago and it just didn't seem like a good adaptation to me. Too much from the novel was left out. After reading the review and other comments in this thread, I am really looking forward to this take on the novel.

#18 of 50 OFFLINE   Tom_Bechet

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Posted March 11 2003 - 06:17 AM

Thanks for the review Ron.
I will also wait and see what Unoiversal come up with in the UK, concerning DTS.
Ron, do you think DTS could be any improvement on the Dolby track?

BTW I thought Universal wasn't sending out review discs anymore :-?


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#19 of 50 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 11 2003 - 07:24 AM

Tom,

Not everyone is receiving Universal screeners. I
have been fortunate for some reason. Probably has
to do with the size of this site.

Would DTS be an improvement? Hard to say, but I
did notice the Dolby Digital soundtrack had many
of the wide-open uncompressed characteristics of
what I hear on a DTS soundtrack. Of course, this
opens up a can of worms as far as Dolby vs. DTS
debate goes, so forget I said it. Posted Image

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#20 of 50 OFFLINE   Opi

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Posted March 11 2003 - 07:59 AM

@Ronald Epstein
Great review (as always) - I've enjoyed it very much.
But I have to disagree with your statement : "There is no convincing artistic reason for Red Dragon to exist"

I was a big fan of the novel "Red Dragon" (in fact it has the best story of all Thomas Harris books) but never of the movie Manhunter which I found rather boring and not faithful to the book. This new movie captures much more of the essence of Red Dragon. Manhunter with its cold muted blue'ish steal colors is miles away from that class, but thats only my 5 Cent Posted Image

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