As bad as Hannibal Rising is -- and believe me, it's terrible – this fictional biography of the beloved Dr. Hannibal Lecter could have been worse. After all, financing studio MGM
and its assorted producers could have tossed a small fortune at Sir Anthony Hopkins
in hopes of coercing the Academy Award winner back to the title role -- never mind the fact that the picture covers the cannibal's formative years.
The Lecter character has appeared in five different films now, which by my count is four too many. Brian Cox
gets credit for first playing the imprisoned killer in Michael Mann
's underrated Manhunter. But Lecter didn't become a household name until Hopkins sank his teeth into the role for The Silence of the Lambs. Since then, Hollywood has strained its muscles beating every dollar it could from this dead horse of a character. We've endured the Jodie Foster
-free sequel Hannibal and Red Dragon, an unnecessary Manhunter remake with Hopkins in the Lecter role. Article continues below
Author Thomas Harris has the power to nip this Lecter fetish in the bud, but he apparently craves cash the way our good doctor hungers for human organs (or the cash he earns for these tales). And so, we now face Rising, an unwatchable mess of a movie that asks an intense Gaspard Ulliel
(of A Very Long Engagement) to re-enact Lecter's earliest days.
Those up on their Lambs trivia might remember passing mentions of Lecter's youth. It was suggested that a horrific event involving his sister, Mischa, turned Hannibal from obedient son to stark-raving-mad murderer. As Rising explains, the killer's origins also include samurai training from a distant aunt (Gong Li
), a crash course in the culinary arts, medical-school training in Paris, and a lethal vendetta waged against the Russian soldiers who may or may not have eaten Mischa alive.
Rising is director Peter Webber
's second feature film, and it shows. Ugly and drab, the film has the mood of a morgue. It falls back on predictable slasher-film clichés (gone is the thrill of the chase that drove Lambs), and reduces Hannibal to a one-note joke of a villain, a soulless killing machine with as much depth as a contact lens.
By this point, a Lecter prequel would only appeal to the most dedicated fan base, and yet Rising makes mistakes that will drive the core audience crazy. I'm not talking about the easy plot holes, the ones you could drive a truck through. Though you might ask yourself why, after 10 years, the chateau where Hannibal and Mischa were held prisoner remains untouched, even though there was a working orphanage right next door.
No, I'm more bothered by a particular scene that's included for dramatic effect, even though it messes with Lecter's mythology. You might have seen the shot on the poster
. It shows young Lecter wearing an Asian mask that places three recognizable bars over his mouth. The image is supposed to conjure memories of Lambs, as it resembles the protective guard authorities slapped on a straightjacketed Hopkins. And that's just it. Lecter never chose to wear that mask, as Rising suggests. It was forced on him. How pathetic that a movie claiming to honor Lecter's past can't even get his history straight.