“Hannibal Rising” attempts to tell the story of how iconic character Hannibal Lecter becomes the horrific serial killer we all know and love. Director Peter Webber, and writer Thomas Harris created a movie that is so utterly confused to its genre it accomplishes the fundamentals of none.
Poor, wee, innocent Hannibal is driven from his family’s castle when the Russians head toward his humble abode. They run with all of their valuables, and with no food, to his family’s lodge and await the servants to bring the food from their kitchen. A series of unfortunate circumstances take out two family members. While awaiting the Russians departure, a band of traveling looters join in the murderous fun. Hannibal goes on a whirlwind adventure as a young man, learning how to be a skilled, educated, well mannered whack job. Then Hannibal sets off to repair himself and the past by killing in fantastically uninteresting style.
When I saw “Hannibal Rising” I looked at my movie going companion and mused aloud, “Why doesn’t Thomas Harris take creative control of films made from his books?” I admit I was not paying close attention to the opening credits because I was shoving kernel after kernel of exploded corn into my mouth, looking at the person next to me. I didn’t see that Thomas Harris wrote the screen play for “Hannibal Rising.” I assume no one was behind him with a knife, a sharp toothpick or even a collection of well timed, witty insults pointed in his direction; so I do not understand how a man who created Hannibal Lecter could so thoroughly throw his writing skills in front of a moving bus. I can hear him at his typewriter on his mahogany desk at the beginning the screen writing process. “Am I writing a horror movie, am I writing a thriller, should it be a historical piece, how far should the Asian influences go? Wait, who cares, I get paid no matter how bad the movie is! I’m getting a doughnut.” Thomas Harris, I have something for you. You have to fish it out of the sewer system because I just flushed it down the toilet. It’s my respect for your writing skills and integrity. I’ll even give you a stick to fish it out with, but you probably should go out and buy some waders because it’s probably covered with day old excrement by now.
Oh, Peter Webber, you need to buy a pair and jump in next to Thomas. Your direction gave this film it’s flavor: litter box.
My chief complaint with this movie is that it doesn’t know what kind of movie it is. It bills itself as a psychological thriller but there’s nothing particularly thrilling about it and it relies too much on cheap gore to move the story. There isn’t enough cheap gore to make it a horror movie though. Not to mention, there is nothing campy or novel about the movie, two great things in a horror movie. It might be considered a coming of age movie, the male sociopathic version of “Are you there god? It’s me Margaret.” Hannibal’s idiotic Samurai psycho training program is no substitution for true psychological evaluation or distortion nor does it count as coming of age material. If there were even a hint of historical accuracies in this film, they are breezed by so fast you feel like you are watching a stock car on nitrous.
Gaspard Ulliel is a horrible substitution for Anthony Hopkins. Anthony Hopkins never forced the evil out, it just oozed from his pores like booze smell off an alcoholic. Ulliel tilts his chin to his chest and does the squinty eye to taking a big breath over and over again. He’s not confident as he should be with his new found righteous evilness. He barely struggles under the weight of such a heavy and complex character before he collapses like a sugar cube sculpture in a flood.
The absolutely stunning Li Gong graces this flick as Lady Murasaki Shikibu and as Hannibal’s martial arts teacher. Why such an accomplished and amazing actress would shame herself with such a condescending and moronic role is without an ounce of third grader’s logic.
Peter Webber and Thomas Harris will spend the rest of their lives fishing in the local municipal sewer for my respect.