By Jerome Reuter
Hannibal Lecter is one of the screens most iconic villains. Unfortunately, the films about everyone’s favorite cannibalistic psychiatrist haven’t always been good. I don’t fully place the blame on the films themselves, but author Thomas Harris. Over time he seemed to be more concerned with cashing in, than creating a decent narrative. Which brings me to the 2007 film, Hannibal Rising. Without a doubt, the worst film in the series. Not only is it poorly written, it’s absolutely unnecessary. Harris, author of the book of the same name, also penned the screenplay. As we saw with past adaptations, the films where almost always better than the books.
The main focus of the film is the origin of Hannibal. Where he comes from, what made him what he is, and what makes him tick. Not that establishing a characters origins are a bad idea, with Lecter it just doesn’t make much sense to me. Lecter for me has always been the anti-hero. Someone who we know is capable of unspeakable evil, but we can’t help but rally behind. Part of what gave him his persona, was how much we didn’t know about him. The nature of his previous crimes where somewhat of a mystery, all of this gave him an aura of mystique.
Finally, some light is shed on the events that led to the creation of this madman. The result? Lecter is the product of Nazi Brutality, in the closing days of WWII. We’re also shown his journey into the world of crime, and revenge. This is not the angle I would expect Harris to take, and it just doesn’t work. If this was a film where someone’s family had been victimized, and the bulk of the story centered on revenge, I might overlook it. I’d just see this as a revenge flick; something to watch for the kicks of seeing Nazi’s killed. (Which is always acceptable.)
However, this is a Lecter film. Harris attempts to make him seem more sympathetic; he fails on that front as well. He attempts to paint a portrait of someone who gets pushed to far, someone who becomes bloodthirsty in his quest for justice. I’ve always liked to think Lecter was someone who was born evil, and developed his skill for manipulation through his medical training. I don’t want to feel empathy for this character; I want to enjoy his callousness, and his complete disdain for everything around him.
The biggest problem I had was with the performance of Gaspard Ulliel as Hannibal. More specifically, how they tried to model his performance after Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins brought an air of sophistication to the role. It makes sense they would do this to achieve some sort of continuity to the other films, to make you believe this is indeed a young Hannibal. However, that’s who he is at an older age. A younger Hannibal Lecter wouldn’t be overly articulate and manipulative. Those are character traits he would acquire over time, so it just didn’t work. Furthermore, I feel Brian Cox in Manhunter did the best portrayal of Lecter.
I feel this was an entry into the series we could have done without. I’m not sure if Harris has any plans in mind for the future, but one things for certain; I wouldn’t get your hopes up.