(Review originally written at 25 September 2008)

In 2007 writer Thomas Harris released the prequel novel to successful 'Hannibal Lecter' series, which all had been turned into movies previously. The prequel purely was written with the intention to turn it into a movie. So it was a very commercial project and the end result as expected also isn't anything too good. I even wished "Hannibal Rising" never existed for the pure reason that it almost simply kills the Hannibal Lecter character by showing how he did become the monstrous cannibalistic and intelligent killer who all know so well and was so perfectly portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in 1991 in the movie "Sillence of the Lambs". It gives the monster a face and with that it makes the character more humane and understandable, which is taking away a lot of mystery and scary bits about the character. I'm not sure what this movie tries to achieve. Are we supposed to sympathize with Hannibal now suddenly?

The movie shows a very young Hannibal in the beginning, who got traumatized after he saw his parents and sister getting killed during WW II, in his native Lithuania. It does explain how he got so messed up but it doesn't really connect well enough with the events and character of the other Thomas Harris novels and movies featuring the Lecter character. This movie is more like a revenge flick, in which Lecter avenges his sisters death. Charles Bronson would had been proud of him. In that way this movie simply doesn't connect well enough with the other Hannibal Lecter stories, in which his motivations are totally different.

All of the events in this movie feel so obligatory and forced. The movie had to show Lecter's first killing. The movie HAD to show the reasons why he became such a monster. The movie just HAD to show how Lecter got interested in medicine. It could had all worked out better if the movie had some more depth and focused more on the psychological aspects but instead the movie more feels like a mainstream crowd pleaser by putting in as many killings as possible without ever going into detail or deeper psychological meanings to it, like all of the other Hannibal Lecter movies did, even the poorer ones. Weren't any of the previous Hannibal movie directors available for this movie? Peter Webber obviously wasn't the right guy for this movie. He knows how to shoot pretty pictures, as he had already proved before with the movie "Girl with a Pearl Earring" but some good effective genre story telling is a whole other thing though.

The movie thinks that having a dark atmosphere is more than enough to create a good, tense, scary and mysterious movie with. It doesn't use much else to build up its tension with. The movie moves along in a formulaic way and the movie just isn't the most exciting one to watch. Also when you view and consider this movie on its own right for what it is and separately from the rest of the Hannibal Lecter series.

The movie is pretty poorly cast. I must say I already had my doubts if Gaspard Ulliel would be the right choice for the classic and larger than life Hannibal Lecter character after seeing him in "Un long dimanche de fian├žailles". He does give the character something new though; A thick French accent...He just doesn't make his character scary and he just too much of a pretty boy. He doesn't fit the character well. But also the other actors really feel out of place in this movie, especially Dominic West.

It's a nice looking movie but too lacking as a genre movie and definitely as a part of the Hannibal Lecter-series.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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