Anyone recalling the 2001 film adaptation of Thomas Harris' novel Hannibal and expecting Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, to turn up in Red Dragon minus one of his hands can be reassured that the film is actually a "prequel" to Hannibal's predecessor, The Silence of the Lambs, not a sequel to Hannibal. Dr. Lecter actually plays a relatively small part in Harris' novel of the same name, which was adapted for the screen previously under the title Manhunter. Nevertheless, fans of The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal should know what kind of stomach-turning suspense they are in for. Danny Elfman isn't exactly the ideal composer to write the score for such a film. He certainly has some macabre titles to his credit, most of them in the service of director Tim Burton, but those -- such as Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even Sleepy Hollow -- cut the tension with a degree of humor, and Elfman was able to emphasize the more comic aspects in his music. Red Dragon doesn't seem like nearly as much fun, and Elfman has to play the horror for real this time. He manages to do so, with lots of sustained strings and abruptly shifting tempos, but he really isn't doing anything special here. (You can tell he's spent a lot of time listening to the scores of John Carpenter, particularly Halloween.) And that may be just as well. A movie like Red Dragon needs a certain kind of music as punctuation here and there and to support the ongoing sense of dread, but it would not benefit from a score that called attention to itself. Using a small army of orchestrators to flesh out his ideas, Elfman fulfills the assignment, but this is not one of his more distinctive efforts.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Red Dragon, film score|