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Peter Webber
Gaspard Ulliel, Li Gong, Helena Lia Tachovska, Richard Leaf, Rhys Ifans, Richard Brake, Kevin McKidd, Stephen Walters, Ivan Marevich
Writing Credits:
Thomas Harris (and novel)

It Started With Revenge.

Believe it or not, serial killer/cannibal Hanibal Lecter was once a little boy. During WWII, the young maniac (Gaspard Ulliel) evades both the Nazi war machine and the Soviet menace to grow up relatively peacefully in France with an aunt (Lady Murasaki). But after a chance meeting with some former war criminals, Hannibal begins to develop the darker side of his personality — the much, much darker side.

Box Office:
$50 million.
Opening Weekend
$13.051 million on 3003 screens.
Domestic Gross
$27.667 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 131 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 5/29/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Peter Webber and Producer Martha de Laurentiis
• Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary
• “Hannibal Lecter: The Origin of Evil” Featurette
• “Allan Starski: Designing Horror and Elegance” Featurette
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Hannibal Rising: Unrated (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 17, 2007)

More than 20 years ago, the first film to feature Hannibal Lecter hit screens. 1986’s Manhunter only used Lecter in a small part, though, which meant we got our biggest bite of the serial killer with 1991’s classic The Silence of the Lambs. That movie’s enormous success eventually spawned a sequel, though it took 10 years for 2001’s Hannibal to come to fruition.

That flick wasn’t very good, but its $165 million gross indicated continued interest in the character. Another Lecter outing came via 2002’s Red Dragon. Actually a remake of Manhunter, Dragon worked better as a film than did the crummy Hannibal, but its grosses weren’t as good. Dragon made a mediocre $92 million, a figure that didn’t do much to encourage another flick.

But one came out anyway! 2007 saw the release of Hannibal Rising, a prequel that told us how the boy became a monster. Set in Lithuania circa 1944, we meet Hannibal as a little kid (Aaran Thomas). He pals around with his beloved sister Mischa (Helena-Lia Tachovska) until World War II intervenes too much and the Lecter family must flee their castle. They take refuge at a rural cabin, but problems soon develop.

First a battle claims the lives of the Lecter parents (Richard Leaf and Ingeborga Dapkunaite), an event that leaves Hannibal and Mischa to fend for themselves. Matters get worse when local lowlifes led by Grutas (Rhys Ifans) flee the oncoming Russians and take refuge in the Lecter lair. As the food supply dwindles, they become desperate – and decide to gnaw on a little Mischa.

From there the movie jumps ahead eight years and shows us Hannibal (Gaspard Ulliel) as a teen orphan – in a Soviet-run facility that just happens to be housed in the old Lecter castle. He remains traumatized by the earlier events and refuses to speak, though he screams during his many nightmares.

Before long, Hannibal escapes and makes it out of Soviet territory. He winds up in France, where he seeks Lady Murasaki (Gong Li), his uncle’s widow. She takes him under her wing and educates him in many different disciplines.

All of this serves Hannibal as he matures. The brilliant young man does well in medical school but he maintains other preoccupations as well. Revenge remains on his mind, as he desires to get back at those who chowed on his baby sister. The movie follows this path and related events in Hannibal’s life.

Sometimes when you pay to see a movie, you regret it afterward because you fear that your money may encourage the studio to greenlight another in the series. That’s how I felt when I left a theatrical screening of Rising. Dear God, please prevent those involved from authorizing another Lecter flick, as I don’t think I can stomach another effort as atrocious as this one.

Due to the savage reviews that greeted it, I went into Rising with low expectations. Indeed, if my date hadn’t wanted to see it, I’d not have been there at all. Amazingly, Rising showed that my expectations weren’t nearly low enough, as it excelled only in its inanity and idiocy.

Few films in recent memory left me quite as disappointed as Rising. No, I didn’t expect much from it, but that fact that the Lecter character had – and still has – so much potential meant that Rising itself was a dreadful letdown. How could those behind it take such a fascinating character and make his origins so dull and pedestrian?

Actually, as you watch Rising, you may wonder if you’re screening a remake of 2005’s Batman Begins. Rising usually feels more like a superhero origin story than the tale of a budding psychopath, and that orientation never makes much sense. Of course, if Rising managed to become half as good as Begins, I might forgive this odd trend, but since the Dark Knight’s genesis flick was roughly 100 times superior, the comparisons turned more problematic.

In Lecter as originally depicted, we found a character who fascinated us on a mix of levels. Li’l Lecter here, however, is nothing more than a leering dud. Ulliel bears no apparent resemblance to Anthony Hopkins, though he does look a spooky amount like the Joker in the comic books. He has such a narrow face and a creepy grin that he becomes a dead-on doppelganger for Batman’s nemesis.

Indeed, he’d be perfect for that role if he could act, which I assume he cannot based on the evidence in front of me. Oh heck, for all I know the kid might actually be talented, but Rising doesn’t lead me to believe so. He leers a lot and shows little personality otherwise. It’s a one-dimensional performance for a one-dimensional character.

Occasionally Rising attempts to elicit more depth, though it comes across as hamfisted in that regard. I doubt few will miss the ways that the film attempts to parallel the “origin stories” of Lecter and Clarice Starling. As learned in Lambs, she essentially became a federal agent to help others and silence the screaming lambs in her head. In Rising, Lecter kills to eradicate the nightmares about his poor little eaten-up sister. Ugh!

All of this means a story that could have offered a fascinating glimpse of a young nutbag turns into a simple vigilante revenge story. What purpose does the Lady Murasaki character serve? Little that I can establish other than to be his mentor for physical training. Indeed, most of the story really doesn’t make much sense.

If any of this ever became remotely interesting, I’d tolerate the excesses and stupidity. Unfortunately, Hannibal Rising is as dull as could be. Who knew that a story of eaten children and budding serial killers could be the cinematic equivalent of Sominex? Here’s hoping Rising kills the Lecter franchise.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Hannibal Rising appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not excellent, the transfer usually seemed very good.

Both period pieces and horror flicks these days opt for subdued palettes, so it didn’t surprise me to find severely restricted hues here. Much of the film essentially appeared monochromatic, as the tones lacked much vivacity by design. Within those parameters, the colors were perfectly fine; they replicated the desired cool hues. Blacks seemed dark and tight, while shadows also appeared smooth and clear.

Sharpness offered nice delineation. Despite some light edge haloes, the film remained well-defined, with only a smidgen of softness in some wide shots. Jagged edges and shimmering caused no concerns, and only a couple of small specks appeared along the way. Overall, the image seemed pretty solid.

While not a slam-bang soundtrack, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Hannibal Rising accentuated the material. Much of the flick emphasized environmental elements, though a few scenes brought the mix to life well. In particular, the WWII sequences early in the film and in flashbacks used the five channels to present the sounds of war. A few other action pieces also used the surrounds to good effect, but usually the movie stayed with ambiance, and it did well in that regard.

No issues with audio quality materialized. Music sounded lively and dynamic, with good definition. Effects were also tight and impressive, as the various elements showed nice clarity and accuracy. Speech was concise and natural. Though it didn’t dazzle, the soundtrack succeeded in its goals.

As we shift to the supplements, we start with an audio commentary from director Peter Webber and producer Martha de Laurentiis. Both sit separately for their chats. They discuss casting and performances, nods to the other Lecter flicks and changes made for this unrated cut of the film, differences between the film and the novel, sets and locations, various effects, props and visual choices, and various production issues and details.

Between the two of them, Webber and de Laurentiis offer a solid overview of the flick’s creation. They touch on basic nuts and bolts as well as larger topics like the scheduling problems they ran into with Gong Li. The track moves by quickly and provides a very nice glimpse of the production.

Five deleted scenes fill a total of four minutes, 18 seconds. These include “Boiling the Photo Album” (0:53), “Hannibal Gets Off the Truck” (0:41), “Prison Sequence (Extended)” (0:53), “Hannibal at the Lock Keeper” (1:15) and “Lady M and a Photo of Hannibal” (0:35). Only “Prison” proves even vaguely useful, as it better explains Hannibal’s choice to use the sodium pentathol. The rest offer nothing more than filler.

We can view these with or without commentary from Webber. He explains why he excised the segments and a few production elements. Webber offers good notes about the sequences.

Two featurettes follow. Hannibal Lecter: The Origin of Evil runs 16 minutes, eight seconds as it mixes movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from Webber, de Laurentiis, TVGuide.com senior movie editor Maitland McDonagh, stunt coordinator Lee Sheward, production designer Allan Starski, and actors Gaspard Ulliel and Rhys Ifans. We learn about the story and author Thomas Harris’s involvement in the script, casting and performances, Webber’s impact on the production, stunts and fight training, sets and locations, and some other scene specifics.

Promotional in intent, “Origin” doesn’t offer much concrete information. A few decent tidbits emerge, but the show sticks with its purpose: to sell tickets. Even the better elements don’t totally work because they seem incomplete. We hear of how Ulliel borrowed some traits from Anthony Hopkins but the featurette misses the opportunity to show other film clips to compare and contrast. This is a light and insubstantial featurette.

Allan Starski: Designing Horror and Elegance goes for seven minutes, 29 seconds and features Starski. He discusses how he got the gig as well as aspects of his work on Rising. He provides a quick but reasonably satisfying overview of his influences and choices in this decent little program.

In the Trailer Gallery, we find both the teaser and theatrical clips for Rising. In addition, a few ads open the DVD. We get promos for 1408, Nomad The Warrior, and the 2006 version of Black Christmas.

If there’s any justice in the world, the Hannibal Lecter saga will end with 2007’s Hannibal Rising. A tedious and turgid “origin story”, it does nothing more than serve to obliterate our fond memories of its more successful predecessors. The DVD presents very good picture and audio along with extras highlighted by a fine audio commentary. While I can’t complain about this solid DVD, the movie itself is terrible.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7222 Stars Number of Votes: 18
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