Hannibal: Season 1 Blu-ray Review

Hannibal: Season 1 Blu-ray ReviewI will freely admit that upon hearing there would be a television show based on Thomas Harris’ infamous Dr. Hannibal Lecter, I was less than thrilled. Not that I am not a fan of the character, but after five films, one of which being a remake, covering nearly all of Lecter’s life, I personally wasn’t sure what else there was left to tell. Thank goodness the creative powers that be don’t think like myself, as Hannibal has turned out to be one of Television’s biggest surprises, providing incredible performances, a cinematic scope and enough belief in the intelligence of its audience to not dumb down the proceedings.

The show takes bits and pieces from Harris’ novel, Red Dragon (the book which spawned the cinematic life of Dr. Lecter with 1986’s Manhunter and it’s subsequent remake 2002’s Red Dragon) and creates a lead in of sorts to what will eventually happen in said book and possibly beyond. One of the first shifts that fans might not expect is that Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a special investigator for the FBI, is the actual lead of the series.

The season begins throwing the audience directly into Will’s “gift.” Due to a mix between Will’s mental health instability and his feelings of true empathy, Will is able to “see” murders through the eyes of the killers behind them. He inhabits them in a way that helps him put together the pieces that aren’t always on the surface.

This heightened sensitivity is also a curse for Will. He is forced to lead an antisocial lifestyle, as well as a personal preference to not be out in the field as he and his colleagues fear him getting too close and someone else’s traits taking the place of his own. Thus leads to our introduction to Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen).

Hannibal: Season 1 Blu-ray Review

What makes the Lecter aspect of the show fun and surprisingly tense is that the audience is quite familiar with who and what Lecter truly is. Yet everyone around him at this point in time only know him to be a renowned psychiatrist with a penchant for the finer things in life, especially his tastes in music and food. Despite everyone’s best efforts to protect Will, they’ve basically delivered him into the hands of the biggest psychopath of them all.

It is also worth noting that Mikkelsen has the completely unenviable task of portraying one of the most iconic roles in modern cinema and pulls it off with great ease. Rather than mimic what Sir Anthony Hopkins has created with the Lecter character, Mikkelsen takes the character his own way, making Lecter a bit suave, a touch dainty and absolutely enamored with his interests, whether that be cooking an elaborately fancy meal or removing a young girl’s lungs to prove a point.

One of the things that impresses me the most about Hannibal is just how graphic NBC has allowed the show to be. One of the aspects that makes that possible is the show rarely provides the actual violence, typically revolving around whatever gruesome misdeed has taken place after the fact. This allows Will to piece together the crime scenes within his mind while at the same time leaving the audience to figure out in their own heads just how the violence would have gone about, which to me makes it all the more affecting. Not to sound like a complete weirdo, but there is almost an artistry to the gore and graphic scenes on display. There’s a particular episode involving a row of bodies with mushrooms growing out of them that creates quite the breathtaking moment. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill shock fest. There are brutal moments but they are thought out and portrayed with care for the overall product and it really shows.

High-Def Presentation

Hannibal: Season 1 comes to Blu-ray touting a 1080p MPEG 4 AVC0-encoded transfer that is an astonishing showcase of just how cinematically beautiful the show truly is. The show is put together by several people that work within the film industry and it shows. The lighting of several scenes brings its own set of color palettes and each one is breathtaking in its execution. As for the transfer itself, there is an incredible amount of detail. There are times that one could almost feel the fabric or viscera through the screen. Though colors are sometimes muted, they still remain strong, especially red and there is plenty of it. I detected absolutely no unwarranted noise or artifacting. This is truly about as good as it gets.

As much as I love the visual presentation, the sound mix on Hannibal is just mesmerizing. As is discussed on one of the disc’s special features, the music and sounds for the show are created uncharacteristically making for some truly dreadful atmosphere that steadily increases as Will’s mind slowly spirals out of control. The disc takes every single ounce of the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix and uses it to its fullest potential. Ambient noise is present throughout and provides true immersion through most of the season. Dialogue is crisp, clear and centered. Audiophiles get ready as you are in for a treat.

Hannibal: Season 1 Blu-ray Review

Beyond The Feature

As if the show itself wasn’t enough proof of the passion the creators have behind the series, the included special features truly seal the deal. First and foremost is not only the season’s fourth episode, ‘Ceuf,’ which had been pulled from broadcast at Fuller’s behest due to it’s timing around a national tragedy, but there are also five Producer’s Cut episodes, providing a bit more than the network would allow on air.

Fans will also be treated to two wonderful Audio Commentaries featuring Bryan Fuller, David Slade and Hugh Dancy. These commentaries are for the pilot, ‘Aperitif,’ and the season finale, ‘Savoureux.’ The three gentlemen’s discussion manage the feat of being entertaining as well as informative. Also included are a few quick looks at various aspects of the show including the music, the food, the special effects as well as a look at how Hannibal the show came to be in the first place.

The following is a complete listing of all included special features:

  • Audio Commentaries with Bryan Fuller, David Slade and Hugh Dancy on Two Episodes (Apertif & Savoreux)
  • Hannibal Reborn (HD, 11 min)
  • A Taste For Killing (HD, 15 min)
  • A Symphony For The Slaughter (HD, 12 min)
  • FX Of The Murder (HD, 14 min)
  • Deleted Scene – Will and Alana (HD, 3 min)
  • Gag Reel (HD, 5 min)
  • Pilot Episode Storyboards (HD)

This set also includes digital versions of each episode via Ultraviolet.

Despite my initial skepticism, Hannibal Season 1 ended up being an incredible surprise. Strong performances from the entire cast pushed through by intelligent writing and all wrapped up in a stunningly cinematic presentation. This show is as much for fans of the Lecter tales as it is for newcomers looking for something meatier in their television watching. Demo-worthy PQ and AQ make the show and this release even more irresistible. That this Blu-ray set is even more filled out by a rather complete and informative special features package (not to mention the five unedited episodes) is the icing on the cake. Hannibal Season 1 is an absolute must own and completely worthy of your time.

Shop for Hannibal Season 1 on Blu-ray for a discounted price at Amazon.com (September 24, 2013 release date).

Hannibal: Season 1 Blu-ray Review

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