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Hannibal Rising (DVD)

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Caffeinated Clint
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Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

If “Silence of the Lambs” was the main meal; “Hannibal” was the dessert; and the second film version of “Red Dragon”, the tea and coffee; then “Hannibal Rising” is surely the after-dinner mint. Tasty for a moment, sure, but mainly just a soft and gooey distraction.


Gaspard Ulliel, Gong Li, Rhys Ifans, Dominic West

If “Silence of the Lambs” was the main meal; “Hannibal” was the dessert; and the second film version of “Red Dragon”, the tea and coffee; then “Hannibal Rising” is surely the after-dinner mint. Tasty for a moment, sure, but mainly just a soft and gooey distraction.

Prequels have been all the rage for about a decade now – thanks to George Lucas – but the genre’s been more finely tuned in recent years to segment off a large part to films that tell the backstory of a particular character. We’ve discovered the origins of ‘The Batman’ in Chris Nolan’s amazing “Batman Begins” (2005), Learnt a little about the early wrong-doings of gangster Carlito Brigante in “Carlito’s Way : Rise to Power” (2005), Met Father Merrin before dentures in “Exorcist : The Beginning”, and we’re sent hurtling towards the exit sign with “Dumb and Dumberer : When Harry Met Lloyd” (2003). In more recent months, we’ve learnt the origins of some of horror’s biggest icons – Leatherface in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” (2004) and both ‘Alien’ and ‘Predator’ in “Alien Vs. Predator” (2004). Next, the legend of Michael Myers is told in Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”.

“Hannibal Rising” is the entrée to Dr Hannibal Lecter’s smorgasbord of spleen in “Red Dragon” and more famously, “Silence of the Lambs”. In it, we learn why and how young Hannibal Lecter (played for most of the movie by Gaspard Ulliel) came to be the mad flesh-eating doctor we know him as best.

Seems some nasty Nazi’s (are there any other type?) were responsible for the death of Lecter’s parents and his sister – who they ate; something he can’t get out of his mind – and the incident has made young Lecter one angry young man. Some 8 years later, in Paris, Lecter learns the identity of the men responsible, and with the help of a mysterious and refined Japanese friend (Gong Li) sets out to well, kill them.

Anthony Hopkins has made his name – well, the role bought him back to the big leagues anyway – as the maniacal and fascinating Hannibal. Even when the script wasn’t that hot – “Hannibal”, for instance, was a poorly written mess of a sequel – he couldn’t resist playing the character again. Which begs the question, why the hell has he got nothing to do with this latest version? I know, I know… it’s about a younger Hannibal, and CGI isn’t ‘that good’, but surely Hopkins could’ve narrated the thing? Why didn’t he??

Well, probably because the film just isn’t shit, it’s a silo of the smelly stuff. What would otherwise have been a direct-to-video shlocker (or more so, a wonky TV spin-off pilot) has instead been handed a franchise free pass and escaped to the big screen, rather undeservedly.

Thomas Harris wrote the screenplay – can you believe it? Yep, the man who penned those brilliant novels gives us nothing but dire dialogue here; terrible and languid pacing; a real lack of characterization; and a story that bores more than informs. Coupled with the terribly forced performance of the film’s young lead – seems he’s done little more than sit down and watch “Silence” a couple of hundred times and is now trying to emulate Hopkins’, which becomes just plain annoying – it’s a recipe for distress.

It isn’t quite as stinky as the similiary-themed “Perfume”, but “Hannibal Rising” still lets off a foul aroma. Quick! Get your DVD of “Silence” (even “Manhunter”) off the rack before this one leaves a scar, and deters you from wanting to revisit Hannibal the Cannibal ever again.

Rating :
Reviewer : Clint Morris

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