Hannibal Rising

Even the most ardent Anthony Hopkins/Hannibal Lecter fan who have to agree that the serial killing psychiatrist was oddly long in the tooth and noticably fuller in figure during his appearance in 2002’s Red Dragon, a story that was set before the Oscar gobbling Silence Of The Lambs despite being lensed a full eleven years before. Now, not to fat-shame the infamous, cannibalistic doctor, but if there’s one thing Hollywood loves to do it’s to keep churning out continuing adventures of murderous madmen – but how do you accomplish that when your star is too mature to portray an insidious killing machine?
If you sagely murmured the word “prequel” – then congratulations; if you murmured it while sadly shaking your head then it’s an extra special gold star for you, because if history has taught us anything, the best way to upend the legacy of a genuinely terrifying movie monster is to give us unnecessary details on how they ended up that way to begin with… nevertheless, here we are.

We join the action in 1944 with the Nazis being driven back across Lithuania as they clash with the Russians and the family Lecter frantically try to avoid the fighting by abandoning their castle and aim to take refuge in their family lodge in the woods. Their efforts don’t exactly pay off as they all end up dead thanks to an exploding tank except eight year old Hannibal and his little sister Mischa who have to contend with a band of Nazi collaborators who have deserted. As winter sets in a food becomes scarce, the group of men, led by the brutishly intelligent Grutas, start to think outside of the box when it comes to avoiding starvation and unanimously settle on cannibalism – which is real bad news for little Mischa, whose recent case of pneumonia means she’s unfortunately standing on the wrong side of Darwinism…
Years after these highly traumatizing events, a brooding Hannibal flees the orphanage he’s been living in and goes to Parid to discover the existence of Lady Murasaki – a Japanese woman of some refinement who married Lecter’s deceased uncle – who takes him in but soon realises that her nephew may be one glaze short of a brisket when he slaughters a thuggish butcher for making lewd advances on her. Protecting him from the searching eye of a police inspector, Murasaki also aids her unbalanced, yet hugely intelligent nephew in getting into medical school, but when Hannibal discovers a way to remember the identities of the men who chowed down on his sister and launches an extremely gruesome vendetta on them one by one.
As he enacts merciless vengence on the men for indulging in an all-Mischa diet, what tiny sliver of a soul Hannibal has evaporates into the ether; but Grutas hasn’t exactly gotten dumber over the years and if young Lecter is going to have a fight on his bloodied hands if he truly desires revenge…

I guess the first thing you could say in Hannibal Rising’s favour is despite seeming fairly obvious on the surface, the film isn’t entirely the cynical cash-cow it first appears – oh, it adds virtually nothing new to the title character and it features fairly leaden characterization with virtually ever other speaking part – but you do get the feeling that the filmmakers are actually trying.
The settings are appropriately eloquent and the violence is fittingly grizzly for a dude that’s due to escape jail by wearing another man’s face like it’s Halloween, but the film offers virtually zero nuance when trying to relate it’s tale of the forging of a serial killer.
The main issue is the script penned by Hannibal creator Thomas Harris himself, which often forgets to give it’s antagonising protagonist a personality beyond stalking throughout proceedings with a permanent sneer etched on his face and while Gaspard Ulliel does what he can with the material, it ready just heightens how much more interesting Lecter is when he’s actually behind bars.
Also the film while the script admirably succeeds in giving Hannibal a brutal edge, it plays the same old trick of attempting to gain sympathy for an emotionless lunatic by pitting him against adversaries who are blatantly the utter scum of the earth. Not only are the villains a group who aided the Nazis and scoffed a little girl to avoid starvation, but they’ve used the loot they robbed during the war to set up a sex slaving ring too which may have you cheering for Lecter, but it’s a little at odds with the guy that goes on to butcher and eat people who merely show a distinct lack of class in his presence.
While Thomas Harris’ script seems completely befuddled with it’s own tone, it concocts a string of vicious slayings worthy of the weirdly poetic deaths it’s anti-hero is known for. One such deserving wretch has his head liberated from his shoulders with the judicious usage of a horse and some rope and some other guy is drowned in formaldehyde, but again, the film is asking us to side with a main character who thinks it’s a swell idea to cook and eat the cheeks of one of his victims when the world would obviously be a far better place if 85% of the featured characters received the treatment of a bullet at the base of the brain…
Director Peter (The Girl With The Pearl Earrings) Webber gives things a sheen that recalls the gothic feel Ridley Scott gave his crack at Hannibal in ’00, with terrible opulence and grim decay creating the sense of terrible madness that festers under the facades of it’s characters, but it also guilty of conveniently forgetting that Lecter is a fucking villain who kills and eats people and not a shadowy vigilante who punishes people like a cannibalistic Batman…
The rest of the cast perform well with Rhys Ifans and Robert Brake turning in typical amoral monsters while Kevin McKidd’s “reformed” war criminal should have really been given more to do, but Gong Li’s protective aunt and Dominic West’s Nazi hunter turn out to be far more interesting than the rather one-note total character…
One other thing before I wrap things up; what the fuck were the foley artists on this movie smoking? All the sound effects on this movie are turned up to a ludicrous degree that I’m guessing is to show the heightened senses that Hannibal’s supposed to possess, but considering every sound is dialled way up it ends up just being distracting. The simple slicing of a fish sounds like someone doing a backstroke in a vat of offal and every time someone fiddles a gun it sounds like they’re handling a bag of lego next to a megaphone…

Nowhere near as awful as I was expecting, Hannibal Rising still suffers due to mostly uncomplicated villains and the curious habit of letting it’s bloodthirsty main character run rampant while choosing not to acknowledge that he’ll go on to be the kind of guy who’ll eat a nurses tongue right out of her head simply because he feels like it…
Hannibal may rise; but you’ll have to lower your expectations to appreciate it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s