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Hannibal Rising

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    Posted: Mar-03-2015 at 8:10am
Hannibal Rising (2007) Rated R
Starring Gaspard Ulliel, Li Gong, Rhys Ifans, Kevin Mckidd, Dominic West, Richard Brake 
Directed by Peter Webber
Reviewed by Nicholas Ozment
Rating: (2/5)

Revenge has a way of turning men into monsters. Also, it's always been great box office. 

Strangely enough, watching Hannibal Rising I was often reminded of another prequel: Batman Begins. Both Bats and the Doctor are unhinged by seeing family members brutally murdered before their young eyes. Both develop into manhood driven by an all-consuming desire for retribution. Both are ruthless and relentless in hunting down their nemeses outside the law, doling out vigilante justice. There are even parallels in their training--both hone their brilliant minds and their innate understanding of human psychology, and Hannibal even trains in the way of the Samurai under the tutelage of his Japanese aunt/lover. 

What makes Batman a superhero and Hannibal a monster? Bruce Wayne spends most of his time in the Dark, but it never quite consumes him. Hannibal Lecter is consumed by the Dark Side and becomes a consumer--of human flesh. For a more literary parallel to Lecter, think of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness: a brilliant young man whose potential is warped and conscience smothered by gazing too long into the malignant depths of the depraved human heart.

Since Hannibal is hunting down the Nazi criminals who ate his younger sister, we root for him even as we are repulsed by the extreme pleasure he takes in torturing his victims and desecrating their bodies. Conflicting thoughts are stirred up; we may think "They had it coming" while also despairing at seeing the making of a villain. 

Hannibal consumes his victims' flesh with "eye-for-an-eye" poetic justice, but he develops a taste for it, and of course we already know he will become the monster he seeks to slay. As a police inspector (Dominic West) observes at one point, the boy Hannibal died on the frozen fields of Lithuania, and his conscience died when he saw his sister murdered. "There is no word for what he is now. The only word we can use is 'monster.'"

French actor Gaspard Ulliel is no Anthony Hopkins--how could he be?--but he is convincing enough in the role. Gong Li creates a sympathetic character in the Lady Murasaki, a woman who loves Hannibal and supports him in his vendetta up until she sees whatever humanity was left in him die. This occurs about the point he gets on all fours like a dog and rips a man's face off with his teeth. Hard to kiss a guy after seeing him do that. 

The camera work is lush and lovely to behold, even as one's stomach turns at the events transpiring. Like the other entries in the franchise, the film is well made. Still, one can't help feeling that connecting all the dots, filling in all the blanks, somehow lessens the coldly seductive, charming, enigmatic, homicidal genius we met in Silence of the Lambs.

You've probably heard the proverb "Revenge is a dish best served cold." In Hannibal's case, it can be served hot, cold, or in a mushroom-and-human-cheek brochette. Hannibal Rising is not on par with its predecessors, but if you have a taste for cannibal-coming-of-age stories, it may be worth a bite.

Edited by SFReader - Jul-08-2016 at 8:10am
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