We really didn’t need a Hannibal Lector prequel but his youth has been shrouded in mystery. How does a man become so twisted and evil? Hannibal Rising looks to give some insight into that and the end result is…decent.
You can read our reviews of the Hannibal film series so far below:
Adapted from the novel of the same name by writer, Thomas Harris. It opens in 1941 where an eight-year-old Hannibal Lecter and his family are forced to flee the Baltic region because of the fierce fighting between the Germans and Soviets.
The family hide away at their hunting lodge deep in the woods but the war eventually reaches them. Everyone but Hannibal and his younger sister, Mischa is killed. The children aren’t safe though as a group of military men arrive and loot the house. Starving and forced to wait out the winter, the men turn their attention to the children. They end up killing Mischa and eating her, something that horrifies Hannibal.
He manages to escape though and ends up at an orphanage until 1949. Here he can’t escape his nightmares over what happened to his sister. After a violent incident with a bully, Hannibal leaves and goes to Paris to his high-status Aunt, Lady Murasaki. Through her wealth and connections, Hannibal flourishes but revenge consumes him. He wants to find the men who killed and devoured his sister.
The Lector that we know and love will learn the thrill of a kill and the joy of cooking with human flesh.
The main takeaway from Hannibal Rising is Gaspard Ulliel who plays the teenage Lector. He gives a commanding performance and it’s easy to see how this version became the Anthony Hopkins version. His slow detachment from humanity and his budding enjoyment of the violence he inflicts is impressively done. It’s a shame that his victims are run of the mill bad-guys with a few too many familiar faces playing them. How many times have we seen Richard Brake in this kind of role?
It’s also pretty disappointing to see that Hannibal’s motivations are so basic. It all comes down to revenge in the end and that just feels wrong for such a psychological character. You can’t help but think the stories that could be told between this and The Silence of the Lambs might be far more interesting.
That being said, it plays out smartly enough even if it’s also pretty predictable. Being a prequel, we know that when Hannibal is ‘shot in the spine’ that isn’t going to kill him so there is little tension here.
Anyone hoping for some shocking moments of horror might come away disappointed as what we get here is nothing out of the ordinary. Often the camera cuts away too, missing the really gory moment. That’s pretty frustrating as the film is really long & by the end not enough really sticks making this a pretty poor prequel for one of the most iconic horror villains ever. However, as a horror movie alone, it’s not completely wasted time and the casual horror watcher will probably find it more enjoyable then most.