Perhaps I’m not the best person to review anything connected to the Thomas Harris / Hannibal Lecter saga. It was only after watching for the third time that I was able to appreciate The Silence of the Lambs and I’m not a fan of any of the other films — not Red Dragon, not Hannibal, and let’s not speak of Manhunter. Nonetheless, the intrigue of the first film captured the minds of audiences so much that studio executives almost couldn’t resist the potential to make money on a Hannibal Lecter film that didn’t require the services (or the salary) of Anthony Hopkins. I, for one, think they should have stopped after the first film. This film doesn’t change my opinion much.
For those who might not be familiar with the previous films, Hannibal Lecter is a psychologist, surgeon who also happens to be a cannibal and a serial murderer. The books by Thomas Harris, beginning with Red Dragon were the inspiration for the films. But equally as important to the mythos are the Academy Award-winning performances turned in by both Jodie Foster as young FBI Agent Clarice Starling and particularly the chilling performance of Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Lecter.
Hannibal Rising stars Gaspard Ulliel as a late teens – early twenties Hannibal Lecter. The film begins with a very young Lecter (probably at about age seven) during the end of World War II. Without spoiling the movie, the film attempts to explain the origins of Hannibal’s cannibalistic desires as well as draw sympathy for him to explain the sadistic actions that would occur later in his life. Well, actually, not too much later because he’s pretty sadistic here as well.
First, the good. Gaspard Ulliel plays about as good a Hannibal Lecter as he could. Being somewhat of a closet casting director, I would have probably sought someone a bit shorter and less subtle in their approach. Despite my biased view, the performance is great. He has it all — the walk, the mannerisms, the inquisitive nature, the sense of quiet madness that Anthony Hopkins perfected. At times, Gaspard appears to be a bit too refined for such a young age. He hasn’t even started his career as a psychologist and already he’s breaking down adults with mind tricks. But this is more of a criticism of the screenplay. Which leads me into my issues with the film….
There are quite a few problems with Hannibal Rising — not the least of which is the script. This is basically the film that anyone who saw the other films would expect. It’s very predictable and although it tells us a bit more about the foundation for Dr. Lecter, there isn’t much intrigue here. Perhaps it’s the lack of Anthony Hopkins. Perhaps it’s the lack of a young FBI Agent to play mind games with. Perhaps given a stronger antagonist than the unforgettable random bad guys in this film, it would have been more memorable. Whatever the case, there’s something missing.
When I first heard about the property being turned into a film, I got excited. Though for sure that it would be a blockbuster. And planned on seeing it during the first run. Somehow it just came out like a whisper and before I knew it, I was hearing about a video release. After seeing the film, it’s clear why the film didn’t get too much hype. Save the performance of Gaspard Ulliel, this film could probably have been a direct-to-video release. It’s just that forgettable.
If you’ve see the other films and you’re looking to expand upon your Hannibal Lecter knowledge, check this one out. However, if you’re not that big of a fan of the other films, there really isn’t much to see here.