Directed by: Peter Webber
Premise: A prequel to Red Dragon, Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal that explores the back-story of Hannibal Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel). The young Hannibal tracks down the men who killed his sister and becomes a monster in the process.
What Works: The film has a look and feel of its own and as a story unto itself, Hannibal Rising is a slightly above average film. The acting by most of the cast is competent and the sequences are often well designed. The early part of the film and flashbacks to Lecter’s childhood in Lithuania during World War II are particularly well done.
What Doesn’t: As a prequel, Hannibal Rising does not really yield new ways of looking at Lecter as a character or increase the understanding of the character as he appears in the other films. Due to the disconnected nature in which this series evolved, connecting the three Hannibal Lecter stories is a challenging task, but Hannibal Rising does not even attempt to make that link. As for the development of Lecter, the character comes off less like a burgeoning serial killer and more like a hit man. Instead of a monster, Lecter is an action hero who eats his victims. Ulliel is unable to follow the lead of Anthony Hopkins, which again is a formidable task, but Ulliel’s performance and the screenplay ignore the most basic premise of the character, that Lecter is a good man trapped in an insane mind, and just goes for the madness. The psychology of the story is weak and Lecter has a very flat learning curve; he goes from boy to genius with little gradation and little cost for his revenge.
Bottom Line: As a part of the Lecter series, Hannibal Rising is an underwhelming film. The character as presented here does not really link to the other films except by contrivance and the film is unable to reach the level of the other pictures.
Episode: #129 (February 11, 2007)