A deflated cannibal story

15 02 2007

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The history behind one of cinema’s most beloved villains is illuminated, but the results are less than inspiring. Hannibal Rising was a film destined to shed light on the mystery of the infamous cannibal, but it only serves to further dilute the impact of the original film series. Looking in from the outside without seeing the finished product one would easily assume this could be a good film, think about it: a promising film director, a screenplay that was being penned by Thomas Harris (the author of the books on which the series is based) and a character that has become just as a part of American culture as apple pie. However, what is given to viewers is a film with half-cocked ideas and a plot that is too simplistic for such a complex character.

The movie opens in Eastern Europe, where audiences are introduced to the young Hannibal Lector and his family. Chaos fills the air as the story is set during the final moments of World War II and his family fleas there castle to a wooden cabin hidden in the dense forest. As the story progress a tragic accident claims the lives of his parents and those of some Russian soldiers, but little Hannibal (Gaspard Ulliel) keeps it together to calm his sister, Mischa. Peace and tranquility are fleeting after that as a group of rogue bandits discover the cabin and chain the children together while trying to evade capture. The cold begins to take its toll when food becomes scarce. Here is the moment that forever transforms this cute, little boy into one of the most notorious serial killers: the men kill and eat his sister.

Hannibal Rising boasts noteworthy performances from its leads, Ulliel and Li Gong. Ulliel (A Very Long Engagement) marks his first major Hollywood outing with a very enjoyable caricature of Lecter. There are seildom moments where he channels the well-known cannibal but more often than not it merely plays as a second-rate knock off.

Fresh off a tantalizing role in Rob Marshall’s Memoirs of a Geisha, Gong is once again the cornerstone of another movie with far-too-high expectations. Audiences should keep an eye of the lovely Gong because with the right role in a great picture, she might someday soon be accepting her own gold statuette.

Surprisingly enjoyable, Rhys Ifans plays Lecter’s arch nemesis and the man responsible for stealing his innocence. Ifans still shaking off a run of dud flicks (Danny Deckchair, Vanity Fair) makes Brutus, a character viewers will love to hate but lacks the edge to cross over from usual movie villain into cultural boogie man.

The problem with the script is that it just is a simple, elementary tale of revenge. The audiences then follow Hannibal (Ulliel) as he escapes foster care, learns the way of the Samurai and plots against those who took Mischa away. Any person that has followed, or seen any chapter in the franchise will find the back story unsavory. What plagues this movie and drives into sub par genre fonder is that it is truly unnecessary. Filmmakers seem to forget that it is the mystery which draws us in, entertains us and scares us. The idea of a horror prequel is completely ridiculous as are countless unwarranted sequels. With iconic characters such as Lecter, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and even Darth Vader, it is the unexplained that shocks audiences. Nothing in Hannibal, Red Dragon or Hannibal Rising is as chilling or terrifying than the first time the camera points you directly into Hannibal (Anthony Hopkins)’s eyes as we are introduced to him from the perspective of Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster). That is exactly what studios and executives don’t get. When a unique moment or character is create, one that transcend even the confines of typical genre fare, it is best left alone than cheapen in pursuit of bigger payoffs.

In the currently film landscape where prequels are being used to reinvent and infuse tired characters with darker elements in order to keep audiences guessing, Hannibal Rising is outright disappointing. The filmmakers are given the opportunity to recreate a horror legend, but instead opt out for cheap thrills, a predictable revenge backdrop and overused genre clichés.

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6 responses

15 02 2007
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[…] Movie Reviews Hannibal Rising The Painted Veil Children of […]

16 02 2007
john

I knew there was a reason i skipped out on this flick. maybe if i’m bored i will rent it when it makes out on dvd, which should only be a month or so from now.

16 02 2007
Becca

as much as i wanted to see it, your right, its the unknown that makes such characters like hannibal intriguing and scary! i was just as disappointed!

21 10 2007
Milly

have u read the book?
and what exactly were u expecting from lecter in the early years of his murdering career? he can’t be pure genius from the beginning.
I agree it would have been better to avoid making a prequel altogether but i think the result wasn’t as bad as you say.
The plot was good even though it was simple. Why should it be more complicated?

17 11 2007
THE REVIEWER IS A DICK

Too simple? How complicated do you want it? It has to appeal to a wide audience, as do all movies these days. A quest for revenge? The movie and the book show that it’s really the process Hannibal undergoes to desensetize him to killing and his own fear of death himself.

You have pursuade weak minded retards into not going to see the movie, due to your own simple minded opinions.

F(_)CK1NG Retard.

19 11 2007
a44paco

In response to the last two comments: obvious neither of you know what it takes to make a good movie, much less a decent flick (both of those categories Hannibal Rising falls tragically short of). While the simpliticity of plot may have been a minor problem the film was plagued with bad acting, cliched direction and a rather unbelievable relationship (Hannibal with his Aunt).
I did not read the novel and neither did most Americans as the book was met with harsh criticism and flopped on book shelves. If you liked the novel and feel that the review didn’t reflect the story well, that is simply because the review is solely focusing on the movie.
As for the inarticulate gentleman who called me a f(_)cking retard, check out http://www.rottentomatoes.com and you will see that the vast majority as thinking people agreed with me. Further more so did movie audiences as well since this pathetic stinker rightfully bombed at the box office and the DVD can currently be found in value bins. Instead of pretending to be so enlightened you should pick up a good book or watch a good movie and gain some new perspective, if you need any suggestions feel free to hit me back. I don’t write on this blog to persuade anyone to my point of view, I respect people who are able to stand behind their own opinions. Thank you very much for your comments, next time please watch the language.

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