Hannibal Rising is based on the Thomas Harris novel of the same name, which was released on Dec. 5, 2006. Quite a fast turnaround, perhaps the fastest book-to-screen adaptation ever, with Harris actually writing the screenplay.
Ironically, Peter Webber’s film is crippled by none other than Harris himself.
Living in Lithuania in 1944, during the Nazi invasion, 8-year-old Hannibal Lecter (Thomas) is forced to watch his mother and father die. That’s not the worst of it; Lithuanian soldiers also turn to Lecter’s sister as their entr’e of choice.
As Lecter comes into his late teens he seeks out an uncle, presumably the only family member left, living in Paris. Lecter finds out that his uncle has passed away, but his wife’Lady Murasaki Shikibu (Li)’remains in their chateau. When Lecter becomes fascinated with her ancestral shrine’composed of a Samurai suit and swords’he begins to seek out the men who took part in eating his sister.
When Lecter isn’t occupied with killing he attends a prestigious medical school, where he prepares dead bodies for study. What a perfect way for a serial killer in the making to become familiar with human anatomy.
Telling the origin story for the most sinister psychopath the silver screen has ever reproduced is a daunting task for sure, but having the nationality of Lecter be Lithuanian is too jarring. It might work for Harris’ novel because Lecter’s nationality has never been addressed, but the screen adaptations have always had a Brit playing the part. So, for the audience to all of a sudden be asked to accept Lecter has a new accent is too much.
Another problem with the film is that it tries too hard to foreshadow the man Lecter (Ulliel) will become. Whether this is the fault of Harris or Webber is debatable.
I don’t know how many times Lecter is shown with blood splattering on his face, as he sinisterly looks at his victim, in what the filmmakers hope will have us think of Anthony Hopkins. This might be a minor issue, but having Lecter put on a Samurai mask and foreshadow the asylum mask he will later wear is lame. Of further note are the many boars present throughout, harkening back to the vicious boars used in a gruesome scene toward the end of Hannibal.
All of this is a shame, because Ulliel does a remarkable job. Unfortunately, by the third act the screenplay can’t sustain his brilliant take on the character. The film takes a more action-
oriented approach, instead of being the cerebral and methodical thriller it should.