Ten years after his escape from custody, Hannibal (Hopkins) has relocated to Venice and is enjoying a life of high culture and freedom. However, a grossly disfigured former victim, Mason Verger (Oldman), is plotting to use his vast fortune to exact revenge on his old tormentor. Into this struggle is drawn a now-disgraced Clarice Starling (Moore) who is used as bait by Verger's FBI cronies to draw Hannibal out of retirement.
Where Hannibal really falls down is on the decision to focus on the titular villain. While there are a couple of very effective sequences which highlight Hannibal's darker side, Hopkins spends too much time gnawing at the scenery which drastically diminishes his impact and menace. Instead, we're left with the disfigured Mason Verger to provide the film's most villainous moments. But he lacks the devious intellect of Hannibal and comes across as a bitter sideshow freak. The other notable omission is the police procedural work which made the initial movies so compelling.
That's not to say Hannibal is a bad film: it's sumptuously shot and ably holds the audience's interest. It's just that as a successor to Silence of the Lambs and particularly Manhunter it really falls short.