Hideo Kojima’s new best friend, Mads Mikkelsen, features heavily in the new trailer for Death Stranding. To most people, Mikkelsen is best known as the villain in the Doctor Strange movie, if he’s known at all. But the Danish actor already had a thriving fanbase, and they’ve got some feelings about his appearance in Kojima’s trailer.
Prior to Doctor Strange, Mikkelsen was known for his starring role in the television show Hannibal, where he played the cannibalistic therapist. The show, which was developed by critically acclaimed showrunner Bryan Fuller, was never a ratings smash but was a critical darling. The fanbase, while small, was very vocal and passionate.
I loved the show and was sad to see it canceled after three seasons. Hannibal had lush cinematography, twisty writing, and strong performances from Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne and Mikkelson. After a few beers, I might say that I think Mikkelson looked really sexy in the show, especially when he got bloodstains on his three piece suits.
There’s something soulful about Mikkelsen’s underbite acting, even when playing a role as camp as Hannibal Lector. In the show, his murders were all tinged with an eroticism—and this wasn’t accidental. Fuller deliberately made the act of killing and eating sexy, including long sequences of Hannibal’s hands as he prepared cuts of meat. He also played up the sexual tension between Hannibal and the main character, FBI profiler Will Graham, saying, “They have a romance.”
Fannibals, as the Hannibal fanbase call themselves, are certainly enthusiastic about Mikkelsen’s new project, even if they have no idea what it’s about. Mikkelsen starred in a blockbuster Marvel movie and is set to appear in Disney’s Rogue One, but his latest roles haven’t had quite as many of the peculiarities that attracted people to Mikkelson in the first place. Sure, in Doctor Strange he’s got streaky black eyeliner that evokes Hannibal’s wendigo, but did he stab anyone repeatedly with a knife while listening to Debussy? I don’t think so. So for some, Death Stranding is a return to form. There’s menace in this trailer, of course, but there’s also a slyness and an intimacy. What really gets me is the way that Mikkelson grazes his lips with a finger, looks away, and then looks back, straight at the viewer, smirking. It’s a simple gesture, but it implies that same restrained intensity that I loved so much from Hannibal.
Other fannibals seem to agree with me.
It’s worth noting, also, that a lot of Mikkelson’s existing fans aren’t big time gamers. Of course there’s overlap—people are allowed to like many different things at once—but some people are investigating this trailer without any idea of what modern AAA gaming can be like. And it’s not like Hideo Kojima is the easiest developer to parse if you don’t know anything about him.
When I asked my friend Meg, my go-to Mads Mikkelsen Expert, what she liked about the trailer as a non-gamer she said this:
If you don’t know anything about Kojima at all and want to try to understand what’s going on: don’t worry, this trailer is as bizarre to Kojima fans as it is to everyone else. But fannibals can know they have at least one thing in common with him—he also loves the hell out of Mads, and has for a while.