In which Gerry Hayes wishes he was drunk...
Hannibal Rising, 2007.
Directed by Peter Webber.
Starring Gaspard Ulliel, Li Gong, Rhys Ifans.
Screenplay by Thomas Harris based on a novel by Thomas Harris.
I almost don’t want to include Hannibal Rising in this column because it is one of those films that has waded so far into the excrement that it has composted and bloomed into something unintentionally hysterical. Normally, I’d recommend you see a film like this with some beers and some friends - it will make for an astonishingly funny couple of hours. However, as it seems to be further indication of the inexorable slide of the Lecter saga into arsedom and Thomas Harris’ slide into dim-witted-up-his-own-arsedom, I’m including it here.
Let’s chart the Lecter canon so far:
Manhunter (1986) - actually a pretty good film if you can get past the Miami Vice suits and the bitchin’ 80’s soundtrack. Brian Cox’s Lecter isn’t bad but pales in comparison to Hopkins’ and he shouldn’t wear those big wooly socks - that’s not Lectery.
Silence Of The Lambs (1991) - Splendid stuff and deserving of the respect it receives.
Hannibal (2001) - Hmmmm. Moore is good. Hopkins is Lecter. Daft in places, it’s, at least, watchable and one of the few examples of a film that’s better than the book (which is astounding in it’s awfulness).
Red Dragon (2002) - It’s essentially Manhunter with better suits. Good performances and a good cast but with a whiff of cash-in starting to permeate the cinema.
Hannibal Rising (2007) - The whiff has grown to a noxious foetor that seems to be coming from the pen of Thomas Harris; a solid titanium, diamond-encrusted fountain pen filled with past glories and bum-juice.
This one’s a prequel (and we all know how great they are, right George?). It’s the tale of how a sweet little boy like young Hannibal could become the inhuman, cannibalistic monster that we all know and love. Obviously then, this is a delicate, intricate examination of abnormal and developmental psychology; a detailed study of the roles played by biological, psychosocial and sociocultural causal factors.
Nah, a bad guy eats his sister.
We meet Hannibal and his loving family living in a giant castle in Lithuania at the end of the second world war. They have to flee when the castle is taken over by soldiers. Best I can tell, they flee all of a hundred yards or so to their lodge house. There, before you can scream, “STUKA!!!”, a Stuka crashes into a tank and kills Hannibal’s parents. As if things couldn’t get any worse, Rhys Ifans arrives with a band of bad guys. Cut off as the winter closes in, the bad guys get peckish and pop Hannibal’s sister in the pot - “Oh, the trauma, it’s making me become a... a... a cannibal!”
Suddenly it’s eight years later and Hannibal (Ulliel) still hasn’t managed to make it out of the grounds of his folk’s castle. Now it’s been turned into an orphanage and he lives there. Yeah, I know - don’t expect things to get better though. He escapes the orphanage after meting out some poetic justice and tracks down his aunt (Li Gong) who seems to be a ninja. She teaches him the way of the exploding fist, or the sharp sword, or some damn thing. As a thank you, he has sex with her.
Suitably armed with sword and thoughts of revenge, he goes looking for the men that ate his sister. It all gets even more insane and Harris’ masterful gift for writing half-baked scenes and abominable dialogue comes, even more, to the fore. In one scene, Hannibal - who’s wearing a sword, Blade-style, down his back - is shot by a bad guy, in the back. The bad guy scoffs, “Ha! Shot in the spine!” Guess what his mistake is (other than actually saying “shot in the spine”).
Most of the film’s like that. Nonsensical nonsense written by Harris and bodged into something resembling a film by Weller, who should know better. Far from getting an insight into how a monster is made, we just get an insight into Harris’ deteriorating creative mind - really, one good book (Red Dragon) and he’s managed to drag it out into a giant, golden mountain of cash. Incidentally, you’ll have noticed I didn’t mention Silence Of The Lambs as being a good book - that’s because it’s essentially Red Dragon with the killer’s nickname changed. There are whole passages the same.
Possibly this particular steaming turd would have been better if Harris had just kept to recycling the good bits from earlier books/films. As it is, at best, it’s an excuse to get your mates round for some beers and belly-laughs.
Read more I Sat Through That? right here.
Gerry Hayes is a garret-dwelling writer subsisting on tea, beer and Flame-Grilled Steak flavour McCoy’s crisps. You can read about other stuff he doesn't like on his blog at http://stareintospace.com or you can have easy, bite-sized bits of him at http://twitter.com/gerryhayes