Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hannibal Rising (2007)

What I like about the Hannibal Lecter movies is similar to what I like about the Resident Evil ones. They feature the same elements from film to film (in this case, Hannibal), but they don't just keep remaking the same film over and over; each one has a distinct flavor.

Manhunter/Red Dragon (they get lumped together because I don't prefer one over the other; they both have their strong and weak points) are a psychological thriller. Silence of the Lambs pretends to be, but it's really more of a traditional mystery. It's the Red Dragon-based movies that really get into the head of the killer.

Hannibal is nothing more than a love story. I say "nothing more," but I'm not implying that it needs to be more. I actually like it a lot taken for what it is. It's only when I want it to be like Silence of the Lambs that I'm disappointed in it.

Hannibal Rising is sort of like that too, but I sort of intuited that going in. I haven't read any of the books, but I must've read about this one somewhere to expect that there's no real mystery. What it is is a revenge story and a pretty straightforward one at that. It's a bit more gruesome than your typical one, and there's some pleasure knowing that this character will eventually become Anthony Hopkins, but that's all it is.

And for a revenge story, it's pretty good. I don't care for revenge stories as a general rule, but the villain here is despicable and it's easy to root for Hannibal to get him. Also, the guys Hannibal has to go through to get to the main guy are varied and some of them are even sympathetic, so there's some nice conflict that you don't usually get in a revenge flick.

There's also a subplot about Hannibal's aunt (the widow of his mom's brother) played by Gong Li whom I fell in love with in Miami Vice. At first, Aunt Shikibu is all for Hannibal's revenge scheme, but he starts to carry it further than she wants and tension builds. It's really a mundane sort of development, but it's played so nicely by Gong and Gaspard Ulliel (Hannibal) that it feels fresher than it is.

And that's sort of my feeling on the whole film. It's a beautiful presentation of a bland story. My one complaint about the presentation is that Hannibal begins his plans by putting on a Japanese mask that closely resembles the restraint mask he wears in Silence of the Lambs. I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean except to remind us what character we're watching and foreshadow future events in Hannibal's life. In Hannibal Rising, the mask is a symbol of power. In Silence of the Lambs, it represents Hannibal's impotence. Maybe there's some deep meaning there, but I'm not getting it. It just felt like a cheap, meaningless homage to me.

Other than that though, it's a decent movie. I honestly didn't miss Hopkins like I expected to. Ulliel is just as creepy in his own way and he carries the movie well.

Three out of five bowls of people stew.


Anonymous said...

"played by Gong Li whom I fell in love with in Miami Vice."

Isn't most of the world in love with her? Yum.

Michael May said...

"Isn't most of the world in love with her?"

The sane part is. :)


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