Hannibal Rising Movie Review
Hannibal Rising, the latest in a trend of origin stories, commits the one cardinal sin that Hannibal Lecter stories cannot commit: it doesn't feature Anthony Hopkins. Doomed to failure by that fact alone, Hannibal Rising is a mediocre drama-horror that tries to explain what should not be explained.
French actor Gaspard Ulliel lands the role that will forever be compared to Hopkins' Oscar-winning performance, and while he isn't awful, he - you guessed it - doesn't compare to Hopkins. While he certainly has the look to play a serial killer, he is not a commanding actor, or, at 23 years of age, isn't yet one. He doesn't steal the show in every scene like Hopkins would, but, then again, this is supposed to be a younger, more raw version of the character.
Still, the movie really isn't that interesting. There are plenty of gory murders and a few intriguing tidbits (like the fate of his little sister, which drove him to become a murderer), but overall Hannibal Rising just feels like a slasher film that is also trying to be a drama. None of the characters are particularly engaging. Co-star Gong Li, like she was in Miami Vice, seems out of place in a film set in Europe forty years back.
The biggest problem with Hannibal Rising, though, is that it lacks a protagonist. While all of the Hannibal movies have benefited from Hopkins stealing the show, they have also starred quality actors such as Jodie Foster, Julianne Moore and Ed Norton in very strong roles. Aside from Li, Hannibal Rising has no big names, but more importantly, the good guys aren't very memorable. Most people may recognize Dominic West, but his character, the closest thing to a leading protagonist, gets very little screen time and is used more like a nuisance cop than a real menace.
Hannibal Rising is not a great movie by any means, but it isn't as bad as many critics said it was. It does have the gore factor going for it, and is moderately entertaining throughout. It would have been nice had the writers and director treated the film more like a psychological thriller than a slasher flick, however, as that is what always made Hannibal so creepy. What the movie treats as his reason to become a monster should have been more of a catalyst for the psychological issues already developing in his brain, rather than the root cause.
Hannibal Rising has its moments, but overall it is an uninteresting and unnecessary entry into the Hannibal Lecter franchise.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.