Thursday, August 24, 2017


2007's Hannibal Rising is the black sheep of the franchise. It was poorly received, badly reviewed, and struggled to make its budget; Rising came off looking like a hack job cash in. Was it, though? I initially passed on the film, because that was the very impression I got. On top of that, no Hopkins. So I didn't get around to watching Rising until this year and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Directed by Peter Webber from a screenplay by Thomas Harris himself, from his own novel, and starring Gaspard Ulliel, Gong Li, Rhys Ifans, and Dominic West. Hannibal Rising hit theaters in February 2007 and didn't inspire much love from the critics and by the end of its nine week theatrical run had made much less than the previous two films had on their opening weekends. Why it didn't connect with fans, I can't understand. The film is visually very beautiful; shot in Prague, Webber did an excellent in taking advantage of his sets and surroundings and wound up hiding a mean spirited horror film in a foreign character drama. The cast is solid and had a strong screenplay to work with. Harris did another great job of creating characters we want to invest in and while the idea of prequel may inspire eye rolls in some, at least it was Harris himself that wrote it.

One of the things that I appreciated about Rising is the fact that it really dispelled the notion of a 'psychological thriller' and was more of a slick horror film, with some really nice influences from classic horror and noir films. It's a very classy movie too, while still being one of the bloodiest entries outside of the TV series.

Ulliel as Lecter and Li as Lady Murasaki are fantastic. They have great chemistry and tell a very interesting love story. Ulliel really shines in the role, giving a strong performance that, again, is a bit of a throwback to a classic era of film. He plays Lecter as the driven and mad medical student who experiments with sodium thiopental on himself to unbury hidden memories of his childhood trauma and the fate of his baby sister Mischa. This sets him on a path for revenge against five Lithuanian Nazi collaborators. Hot on Lecter's trail is Dominic West as Inspector Pascal Popil, who suspects Lecter for a string of brutal murders. The Lecter we see inRising is much closer to Mads Mikkelson's portrayal on Hannibal, and the story of Rising plays heavily into season three.

Rising is a perversion of the hero's journey, the way Lecter overcomes steep obstacles to become one of cinema's great monsters. It's more action heavy than any of the other films and deserves to be rediscovered, now that we've reached its ten year anniversary. For my money, it's got a better ending than Scott's Hannibal and is a more entertaining film over-all than Red Dragon and perhaps the strongest cast since Silence of the Lambs. I wouldn't mind seeing a follow with Ulliel in full Hannibal the Cannibal mode in the 70's, but I suppose that's what we have Hannibal the series for, which hopefully will be getting a fourth season soon.

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