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February 13th, 2007

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09:41 pm - A Hannibal film that lacks bite
Went to see "Hannibal Rising" today. I've been awaiting the return of Dr. Lecter for quite a while, ever since I'd heard Thomas Harris was writing a prequel to the story as told so far.

Gaspard Ulliel chewed scenery throughout the movie, much as Anthony Hopkins had when playing Lecter, albeit with much less elan. In fact, most of the movie could be said to be lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, not all of which was due to the lack of Mr. Hopkins' presence.

The plot springs from a set of scenes that showed up in the book "Hannibal" that never made it into the movie version. It sets up the basis of Lecter's cannibalism and sadism as he becomes Nemesis incarnate, but there's something that seems to be missing. I'm not quite sure what it is -- salt? Herbs? Ah, yes -- spice.

This version of Lecter lacks the subtle humour and casual malice that permeated both Hopkins' and Cox's portrayals of the character. I'm not quite sure if this is a fault found only in the movie or if it is in the text as well, not having read the book, although Harris is credited with the screenplay. Hannibal has always been a rather clever villain, and here he often seems a bit ham-handed. Perhaps this can be attributed to his fledgling status as a serial killer, but there were some plot continuity issues with the rest of the series as well, since in "Silence of the Lambs" and "Red Dragon" it is obvious that Lecter had never been suspected by the authorities of murder before his initial capture by Will Graham, which is not the case here. The only remotely plausible reason I can use to cover up this huge series plot pothole is that Detective Popil decided to "look the other way" since those on Hannibal's "to do" list were war criminals, the detective's own favorite prey. Frankly, I expected better of Harris -- this plot has "Hollywood hack" and "product" written all over it.

One of the things I'd found most annoying in the plot is something that seems to be becoming a bit of a movie cliche -- the Asian or Asian-influenced mentor teaching martial arts to the young anti-hero, most recently seen by me in "Batman Begins". Heck, in these two movies the training scenes even shared a locale, being both shot outside in snowy winter scenery. How dull -- almost as unimaginative as the clumsy foreshadowing of later films by use of the samurai armour facemask and playing of Glenn Gould's performance of the aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations. (They used the 50s recording, so they stayed in period at least, but still . . . )

The only bit the moviemakers got right was the use of the song "Ein Männlein steht im Walde" which is a German folksong used by Engelbert Humperdinck in his opera "Hänsel und Gretel". As in that work, there are a brother and younger sister who are under threat by cannibalistic adults, so I liked that cultural reference, the only evidence of cleverness I could find in this movie, which was rather disappointing for me, since I enjoy Lecter's sardonic sense of humour, twisted though it may be. Hannibal is fun, or at least he used to be -- his dry wit and devilish charm were sorely missed in this film.
Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
Current Music: "Ein Männlein steht im Walde" by Engelbert Humperdinck
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(Eat a pomegranate)

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