Red Dragon is in the unique position of being a prequel that was meant as a first installment. Manhunter already adapted Thomas Harris’s novel before The Silence of the Lambs was adapted. When the latter became so acclaimed that Hannibal was adapted 10 years later, they decided to readapt Red Dragon. This time with Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter and a more faithful approach. The only problem was the book already being so similar to its more well known sequel. The only major difference being the serial killer that’s pursued.
Although released only a year after Hannibal, I hadn’t even heard of the Brett Ratner directed prequel. Despite it actually being better in comparison. Thanks to Oscar winning writer Ted Tally returning, this is the closet Hopkins gets to recapturing Lecter in his prime. An all star cast consisting of Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Ralph Fiennes, and Philip Seymour Hoffman elevate the standard story a bit too. After FBI agent Will Graham catches the cannibalistic serial killer, he more frequently visits Lecter to gain insight into the mind of the new serial killer.
Lecter’s prison is a fine recreation and likely a way to show as much of him as possible. More focus is still put on Graham and his target the “Tooth Fairy.” Fiennes is naturally creepy, so his tattoos are shown more, while his mask is seen less. More of Francis Dolarhyde is shown too, including his tense relationship with a blind lady. The book’s violent ending is well executed and Clarice Starling is even teased for good measure. Red Dragon can’t compete like the rest, but at least it respects what came before.