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  Publicity Stills of "Hannibal Rising"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

Genre: Drama/Thriller
Director: Peter Webber
Cast: Gaspard Ulliel, Gong Li, Rhys Ifans, Dominic West, Kevin McKidd
Released By: Shaw
Rating: NC-16
Official Website:

Opening Day: 1 March 2007



As the Soviet Union redraws its borders in the wake of World War II, swaths of independent Eastern Europe come under the bitter yoke of Soviet domination. In Lithuania, one teenager, orphaned by the war and mute from the horrors he has endured, finds himself incarcerated in a Soviet orphanage, where he bridles against his classmates’ ruthless hazing and rebels against the place’s rigid pecking order. But this is no ordinary boy, it’s the young Hannibal Lecter. He makes a remarkable escape from the iron curtain and journeys to the outskirts of Paris, France, where his only surviving relative, an uncle, lives.

Arriving at Lecter Castle, Hannibal discovers his uncle has died. However, the man’s mysterious and beautiful Japanese widow, the noble descendant of the Tale of Genji’s author Lady Murasaki Shibuku, welcomes him home. Lady Murasaki’s kind and wise attentions ignite lifelong passions in Hannibal for fine food, music, and painting. She leads Hannibal to recover his voice, but she cannot help him banish the repressed memories that haunt his nightmares, or shield him from the prosaic evil that lives in even the most genteel of places.

Commencing his illustrious medical career, Hannibal obsessively tries to plumb the depths of his own subconscious. Hannibal’s ghosts prove to be real people – vicious, predatory war criminals – from whom he needs the answers to his past, and ultimately, revenge. This quest, however, will endanger everyone and everything he cares about, and nurture dark desires that will forever demand feeding.

Movie Review:

Apparently, revenge is a dish best served raw. Or so that’s what author Thomas Harris would like to make us believe in this prequel to his popular series of novels chronicling the life of Hannibal Lecter. Unfortunately, there’s nothing particularly interesting about coming to understand a villain, especially when it cheapens his very legacy by forcing the audience to sympathize with him. Only in Hollywood can you find such a blatant excuse for making an extra buck, and while the film would have made a much better thriller without the baggage of Lecter onboard, we’re instead forced to watch as a classic horror icon is transformed into a ruthless anti-hero seeking revenge against who else but the Nazis.

More than fifteen years ago, Anthony Hopkins (under the direction of Jonathan Demme) brought to life possibly one of the greatest anti-heroes of the modern cinema, a staple of American horror that he is today.However, “Hannibal Rising” didn’t get the same buzz that “Hannibal” did a little more than five years ago. The resulting film didn’t nearly command the star power that the movie did.

The satire unveils a war raging in Lithuania where the Lecter family is killed except for 8 year old Hannibal and his little sister Mischa. But starving brutes took over their house and the unexpected happened. Mute after the shock of his trauma, Hannibal (Gaspard Ulliel) escapes to the West from the orphanage, making his way to the outskirts of Paris, where his uncle lived only to find his widow, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li) greeting him. She takes him in and supports him through school as a bright medical student but he soon begins to seek revenge on the men who killed Mischa, and discovers his own taste for human flesh.

If this sounds a little too much like a revenge flick, it’s because it is. The story has absolutely nothing to do with the serial killer that we all know and love, except for the fact that it spends nearly two hours explaining why it is that he’s resorted to cannibalism. The results are gruesome, but they’re also incredibly dull, and the fact that director Peter Webber inundates the bloated script with blurry flashback after blurry flashback only further proves just how little material he has to work with. Furthermore, there’s nothing particularly suspenseful about the film, and while many people will probably go into “Hannibal Rising” expecting a horror movie, they’ll likely come out feeling like they’ve just sat through a WWII drama about war crimes.

Probably the biggest question about this film, “Does Gaspard Ulliel pull off the role of Hannibal?” Well yes and no. Gaspard gets a minus in appearance and physical shape, he really shares no likeness at all to Hopkins and their physical appearances would not meld over the time lapse of the story. There are, however, a few brief moments when a smile, a witty remark or glare makes you see a bit of Hopkins’s Lecter performance. Gaspard does get a huge plus in creepiness and intimidation, the guy plays a very good psycho and during the performance he had the cold calmness of Lecter down to a “T.”

Entrusting the role of the adolescent cannibal-in-training to the young (and mostly unproven) French actor may seem like a big risk on the studio’s part, but Ulliel has done a commendable job of creating a sympathetic Hannibal. The young man oozes the same polished confidence that made Anthony Hopkins’ seasoned psychopath such a frightening presence (even when locked away), and though comparing the two performances would be an insult to Hopkins, it’s worth noting that Ulliel isn’t a complete disappointment. Of course, this hardly makes “Hannibal Rising” any less embarrassing to watch, and while fans of the series will no doubt flock to theaters to catch the latest installment, don’t be surprised to discover that it doesn’t taste quite as good the fourth time around.

Movie Rating: -

(Hannibal Lecter is back in theaters, and apparently he ate the fun, mystery, and sinister edge of this once proud and highly effective horror franchise.)

Review by Lokman B S

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