Hannibal Rising (2007)

Origin stories, with the possible exception of Batman Begins, are rubbish. So with that in mind, Hannibal Rising probably isn't as awful as it could be. Which isn't to say that it isn't awful, because it is.

The one movie where Hannibal Lecter was really, truly scary was Silence of the Lambs. Partly this is due to Anthony Hopkins, and partly it's something to do with that barely contained evil; the sense that while he might be helping Clarice, it's only because he knows he can get something out of it. There was a sense of menace that came from the fact that you knew he was always several steps ahead of her -- and that he was clearly nutty as a fruitcake on top of all that scary, scary intelligence.

I'm not sure that a film could ever be made to explain how Hannibal Lecter came to be the man he is in Silence of the Lambs without destroying a lot of that menace. That's what Hannibal Rising does, anyway, and since the screenplay (and original novel) was written by Hannibal's creator, Thomas Harris, it's difficult to argue that it's taking any liberties with the character, per se; it's just that Harris either doesn't know what he's doing any more, or doesn't care.

The film starts off fairly well: the Lecter family flee their castle as the war gets a little too close to home, but even their cottage sanctuary doesn't offer them any refuge, and they're soon slaughtered in a surprisingly well-played shoot out between a plane and some Russian tanks. Only Hannibal and his sister Mischa survive the massacre, but considering they're tiny children stranded in the middle of nowhere with no-one to look after them, things are looking pretty bleak.

And they only get bleaker when more soldiers show up, and Hannibal gets his first taste of human flesh...

It's downhill from there, as the film skips forward in time till Hannibal has become a smirky, obnoxious teenager who flees the orphanage his parents' castle has become to live with his beautiful aunt in Paris. (Gong Li is completely and utterly wasted in this role, doing nothing more than poncing about in a silk robe for most of her limited screen time.) Hannibal sets about taking his revenge, stalked by an entirely pointless detective who, despite being fully aware that it's Hannibal who's killing everyone, repeatedly lets him off with a slapped wrist; there's no-one to empathise with, no-one to root for, and a lot of completely gratuitous gore.

If they hadn't put the word 'Hannibal' in the title, it's unlikely anyone at all would bother to see this.

IMDB link


Chris Green said...

Saw a bit of it on the flight over to San Fran on Monday as the person sat next to me had a bootleg.

I only watched about 15 mins and was bored silly. The person next to me switched DVDs halfway through the movie and watched something else it was that bad.

Matthew said...

Despite intrigue I won't let myself watch it. It's mostly frightening that no-one seems to be kicking up a fuss that the book and film are being released together. I adore Silence of the Lambs and the first two books are tremendous crime novels but you're right, I think the fella's gone bonkers or even more likely is being handed blank cheques on the strength of Hopkins' performances and the weird mythology that seems to surround the enterprise. Daft really.