Dave’s 3-Word Review:
That’s not Hannibal.
Doesn’t every popular villain or hero need an origin story? No, but that doesn’t stop every production company from thinking otherwise. So, the real question is how do you take a well-known cannibal/villain and show how he became who he is? Clearly, the answer to that is to substitute him into an otherwise generic kung-fu vengeance story. I agree that we could benefit on learning a little about Hannibal’s backstory, and there were some believable aspects to how it was told in Hannibal Rising, but it went a little too far in going unoriginal.
After a gang of ruthless criminals kill his parents and eat his sister, Hannibal spends the rest of his youth silently tracking down these men down and making them pay for what they did. In the scheme of things…that’s about it when taking the plot into consideration. Why? Well, it’s quite obvious isn’t it? They are playing off of the common kung-fu theme on vengeance. Sure, vengeance is everywhere in film, it’s in Batman, but what makes this so obvious is how they went about it. Asian actors, Hannibal learning to fight…using a samurai sword…the list goes on and on, but he might as well have been wearing a kimono.
Let’s be real…this wasn’t a Hannibal film, it was a generic kung-fu vengeance story with a Hannibal theme. It doesn’t even follow the basic theme met in each of the Hannibal films. This wasn’t Hannibal’s M.O., since when did he chop off heads and eat cheeks? No. He is a creepy, slow-talking villain that gets inside your head and works opposite an obvious protagonist, usually an FBI agent. There was a basic detective in this, but the film really didn’t focus on him at all. Instead, it was just a basic plot – these guys are bad, they wronged me, so now I will go kill them with my samurai sword.
Now that I got that out of my system, I’ll give the film the credit it deserves. Had you never seen a single Hannibal film, Hannibal Rising wouldn’t be horrible. You have to have basic understanding of how Hannibal works in order to really hate the film. If this is how they first introduced him, you really wouldn’t have a problem with it. Gaspard Ulliel did a good job at playing a bad guy, clearly disturbed, maybe not so much creepy, but you still get a bad vibe off of him. The movie also looked pretty great, visually speaking. It was explosive literally and figuratively, the picture was crisp and clear, everything on the visual side looked how it was supposed to, so I’ll give it props for that. Finally, part of the story I could believe. People that are messed up in the head are almost always screwed up in the head due to a traumatic event in their past, and they usually end up doing the thing that screwed them up to begin with.
You can’t ignore the facts though, there’s really nothing about the film that screams or even whispers “Hannibal”. The film was made solely because fans of the series would like to know how Hannibal became who he was in the classic films/books. I admit I would like to know too, still would, because Hannibal Rising clearly wasn’t the answer to that question. It’s more like a fun idea that a fan wrote up and did a fine job at making his work come to life. Other than that, no.
Overall, Hannibal Rising is a well-done film that really has nothing to do with Hannibal, making the movie as a whole make the viewer feel cheated rather than satisfied. There’s no way that you’ll buy that this guy is Hannibal Lecter.