Written by Thomas Harris
Directed by Peter Webber
Running Time: 2:01
for strong grisly violent content
and some language/sexual references.
Hannibal Rising wasn't a great film but all in all, wasn't a horrible one.
During WWII, a young Hannibal Lecter is living a relatively happy life with his parents and his younger sister Mischa. Then the Germans roll into his home town in Lithuania and his world is turned upside down. First his parents are killed, then a bunch of rogues from his area decide to take up camp in Hannibal's cottage. Starving and near death, they do the only thing they can think of to survive. Eight years later Hannibal has pretty much snapped. He has nightmares and only wants to find the people responsible for the death of his sister. Even the love of his aunt isn't enough to save Hannibal's mind as we witness the birth of madness.
It's funny watching these Hannibal movies after The Silence of the Lambs mainly because Hannibal Lecter was never shown to be a nice person. Smart and charming for sure, but let's face it, when a man breaks out of a cell by eating a guy's tongue, he's not someone you invite over for dinner. But in each sequel (or prequel as the case may be) Hannibal has become the hero of the film. It's very hard to center a film around a bad guy, so in each film they give Hannibal a reason for his insanity, conveniently forgetting that he is in fact, a monster. In Hannibal Rising we see how Hannibal went crazy and his reason is understandable. He witnessed his parents being killed and then his baby sister being eaten. That would be enough to make anyone go slightly bananas. So the movie didn't play out as a man becoming insane as much as it played out as a man enacting revenge on the people who wronged him. In another time and place, this movie could have been called Batman.
Gaspard Ulliel, who plays the young Hannibal, was creepy. You could see the schoolboy charm and at the same time, everytime he looked up at you, with his hair in his eyes, he did look mad as a hatter. I didn't really see how he grew up to turn into Anthony Hopkins, since Hopkins is a few inches shorter, but I suppose people do shrink as they age, so anything is possible. Ulliel and the rest of the cast did well, and the dialogue wasn't overly cheesy. There were also no real references to the other films in the series, which I found interesting. At some point I figured there would be mention of Chianti or fava beans. The look of the film wasn't bad either. Filming in Eastern European countries gives you the freedom to make things look good, but on the cheap.
But was the movie any good? That's really the question. Well, it depends on what you're there for. If you go in thinking it'll be as good as The Silence of the Lambs, well, you're just as insane and Hannibal. If you go in hoping for a halfway decent thriller, you may enjoy the movie. The torture scenes were done well and there is enough graphic violence to keep you blood thirsty heathens happy. However the film is kind of long and there are a lot of dead spots. It clocks in at just about two hours, and there are long sequences where not a lot happens. It didn't have enough gravity to it where the "in between" scenes were strong enough to carry the film, so I found myself eagerly await Hannibal's next kill, just to see how he'd do it. And then there was the pseudo-incestual relationship with his aunt, played by the beautiful Gong Li. As much as I enjoyed watching her on screen, anytime she appeared, the movie immediately slowed down. I couldn't understand what her role was because she wasn't really his conscience since she had her own killing issues. Her character seemed to really only be there to look good and slow Hannibal down a bit. Had the movie been tighter I think I would have enjoyed it more.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, Hannibal Rising was a so-so film. It looked good, it wasn't badly acted and the scenes of violence were nice, but the film was way too long and didn't really have much of a purpose beyond banking on the title. That being said, it's not nearly as bad as you might expect, so it wouldn't be horrible if you gave it a shot.
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