One of Hollywood’s most fearsome killers returns in the fourth installment of the Hannibal Lecter franchise, “Hannibal Rising.” Penned by author and series creator, Thomas Harris, this latest film examines the origins of the renowned cannibal and killer.
The story opens at the end of World War II, where young Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel) and his family are living in war-torn, eastern Europe. He witnesses the death of his parents – and then it gets really bad. While protecting his baby sister, Mischa, rogue Russian soldiers break into his family home and – let’s just say invite themselves to dinner – and the children are the main course! This revelation fuels Lecter’s revenge and helps him evolve into the man that he becomes (at least in the latter three films).
Placed in an orphanage, Lecter escapes to France to find his uncle. He arrives to discover that his uncle is dead, but his aunt, the lovely Lady Murasaki Shikibu (Gong Li from “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Miami Vice”), now occupies the castle. She teaches young Lecter samurai-swordplay, immersing him in ancient Japanese culture. One day while shopping at the market with her, Lecter observes as she is disrespected by a lecherous butcher. Before long, Lecter hunts down the butcher, and with fine “Ginsu” precision, slices him down. The killing brings him the unwanted attention of Inspector Pascal Popil (Dominic West of “The Wire”) who is in charge of the case. The two of them share the unfortunate experience of losing parents in the war, and Popil hopes that connection will help Lecter trust him. While Popil wants to use the law to go after the “alleged” war criminals, Lecter has other ideas.
Lecter has identified the men who “disposed” of his sister and begins to hunt them down. Lady Murasaki knows his plan and tries to bring the impending carnage to a halt. Inspector Popil is also on to Lecter, but he needs more proof to stop him. Will the two them of them succeed in stopping his thirst for blood?
After “Red Dragon,” there did not appear to be an overwhelming amount of interest in continuing this series. The filmmakers, seem to miss the larger point about Lecter – that he becomes less, not more, interesting when further explored.
On a side note, Ulliel is groomed to be Anthony Hopkins later in this story, but “Prison Break’s” Wentworth Miller played a young Hopkins in “The Human Stain.” I have to research to see if any other actor has that “type” of versatility.
If history is any indicator, the film should do solid opening-week business. In horror franchises, nothing succeeds like gore, and no upcoming film has as much to “chew on” as “Hannibal Rising.” Hopefully, Lecter has had his fill so that he can push back from the table and let us all move on with our lives.