HANNIBAL RISING (2007)
Starring Gaspard Ulliel, Gong Li, Rhys Ifans, Dominic West, Kevin McKidd, Richard Brake, Charles Maquignon, Stephen Walters, Ivan Marevich, Aaron Thomas, Helena Lia-Tachovska and Richard Leaf.
Screenplay by Thomas Harris.
Directed by Peter Webber.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 84 minutes. Rated R.
Okay, we’re now up to five Hannibal Lecter movies. (That is, if you count Michael Mann’s Manhunter — which I do). Those movies now include two prequels and one remake — in fact, Red Dragon was both a prequel AND a remake of Manhunter.
That said, there has not been a really good Hannibal Lecter movie since Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture in 1991. (In fairness, Red Dragon was okay.) However, even after the gonzo lows of Hannibal, this latest chapter is by far the worst movie of the series. It’s probably not a coincidence that in the best films, Lecter was a supporting role, not the main focus of the plot.
Hannibal Rising is also the first Hannibal movie without Anthony Hopkins playing the bad doctor since he took on the role in The Silence of the Lambs. When we interviewed Hopkins last year, when he was asked about whether the was going to be involved in this film and he said dismissively that Lecter was done as far as he was concerned. Sadly, the rest of the people involved in the series are not quite so shrewd.
Hannibal Rising is also the first of the films which has a screenplay by Thomas Harris, the novelist who created the character and wrote all of the books from which the films were based. In fact, he released the novel Hannibal Rising just a couple of months before the movie — which tells you something about the book as well as the movie.
Hannibal Rising looks back at the genesis of the serial killer — though you really wonder if Hannibal Lecter needs a backstory. At his best, he is evil incarnate, a dark, inscrutable riddle. The more you know about him, the less he seems like superhuman malevolence, the more like psycho-babble.
We get taken back to Hannibal’s childhood in Lithuania and see him and his sister being tortured and twisted by rogue soldiers. This story may be arresting for another character, but somehow this and Lecter’s baby steps into being a serial killer merely dilutes him.
Instead of being a shocking display of man’s inhumanity to man (though it is that, too), Hannibal Rising is instead living in the providence of pseudo-psychology and unintentionally funny lines. (Hannibal explains himself to one of his victims by hissing, “You ate my sister!”)
It really doesn’t become a legendary boogieman. It’s sort of like the moment in The Wizard of Oz where the mayor insists you ignore the man behind the curtain. Hannibal Rising takes someone larger than life and makes him look decidedly small. (5/07)
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 2, 2007.