Home > Reviews > HANNIBAL RISING – Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi

HANNIBAL RISING – Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi

February 9, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Clark Douglas

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a franchise fall as far as this one. “Silence of the Lambs” is often unfairly labeled a horror film, it is so much more than that. It’s a brilliant character study featuring one of the most fascinating characters ever to grace the movie screen. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, as played by Anthony Hopkins, was nothing short of pure evil, magnetic and seductive, a layer of intelligent charm covering the terrifying monster underneath. When Hopkins played the role in two sequels, “Hannibal” and “Red Dragon”, the character lost a bit of fascination, but watching Hopkins play the character was so enjoyable that those movies were tolerable, particularly “Red Dragon”.

But now, the series has fallen, and fallen far. Not only is “Hannibal Rising” a horribly bad movie, but it’s the sort of movie that’s so bad it actually makes all the other films in the series seem worse. By trying to explain Hannibal’s roots, what caused him to become a murderous cannibal, the film makers effectively manage to completely de-mystify the character.

The story goes something like this. It’s 1944, World War II is still raging. Mom and Pop Lecter are killed in the crossfire of a brief battle. Cute little boy Hannibal Lecter and his even cuter little sister Mischa are the only survivors of this skirmish, and hide out in their house. Some VWM (Very Wicked Men) looking for shelter from the harsh winter show up, and they’re hungry. After discovering that all the food is rotten, the VWM decide that the cute little girl must be eaten. They grin wickedly, cementing their rotten teeth in Hannibal’s memory, and the camera thankfully cuts away… to eight years later.

Hannibal is now a brooding and silent teenager, played by Gaspard Ulliel, who looks nothing like Anthony Hopkins. He’s being kept at an orphanage, but decides to escape (sticking a fork in a boy’s hand in the process… doubtlessly foreshadowing things to come). Hannibal runs off and finds his uncle’s Japanese widow Lady Murasaki (Gong Li), and decides to live with her. They develop a friendship/romance that goes too far when Hannibal decapitates a butcher who insults Lady Murasaki.

Rather than being sent to his room to think about what he did, Hannibal goes to medical school, where he learns all sorts of interesting things about the human body. He uses his knowledge not to help people, but to hurt them, as he hunts down all the VWM that ate his sister so very long ago. As he dispatches them one by one, he starts eating them. “You ate my sister? Well, now I’ll eat you! Ha!” The final hour of the movie is essentially a series of murders, with a cranky police chief and a very stressed-out Gong Li getting more and more distraught over what’s happening.

The movie would be laughably bad if it was merely a horror film, but as a part of the Lecter series, it’s downright offensive. It would be easy to dismiss it as the work of a hack, but I recoiled in horror to discover that the dreadful screenplay was actually written by Thomas Harris, who so memorably penned the Lecter novels to critical acclaim. His latest book has been dismissed by critics, but it can’t be nearly as bad as his screenplay. Not only does his new version of Lecter completely fail to fit in with his original take on the character, but his dialogue is painfully awful to listen to.

He’s not the only one at fault. Director Peter Webber, who made the solid “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, is incompetent when it comes to scenes of suspense and horror, none of the film’s supposedly terrifying scenes have any tension whatsoever. Perhaps Webber was attempting to match the blend of sophistication and terror reached by the original film. Perhaps he thinks that the film is not about horror, but the psychological development of a serial killer, and that is where the focus should be. He’d have a point if the “psychology” presented here didn’t seem like it was offered by a child… his parents were killed, and his sister was eaten, so now he’s going to kill people and eat them. The movie is as subtle as a sledgehammer, spelling out every single thing that we might have missed via portentous statements… “the little boy Hannibal died years ago… now all that’s left is… there’s only one way to describe it… a monster.”

Adding to the self-important feel of this ridiculous movie is the musical score, provided by up-and-coming composer Ilan Eshkeri and noted Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi (who provided the scores for “Curse of the Golden Flower” and “Jet Li’s Fearless” in 2006). The music is a bit like the less interesting cousin of Kilar’s “The Ninth Gate”, often working with sluggish repeated phrases quoted heavily by a large string section. The score’s most interesting moments come early on, as a solo female vocal lends an air of mystery and beauty to a number of cues. The music is generally above-average for a modern horror score, but that’s not saying much these days. The second half of the score is a little on the mundane side, often simply growling and rumbling to provide an air of ominous gloom to the proceedings. In terms of style, the score seems to feature an equal amount of elements from Howard Shore’s “Silence of the Lambs” and Zimmer’s “Hannibal”, without quite matching the quality level of either of those scores. One neat musical tie-in: at one point in the film, Hannibal listens to Bach’s “Aria da Capo”, which he played on the piano during one scene of Hannibal”.

“Hannibal Rising” is a watchable movie, but it’s watchable like a train wreck is watchable… it’s horrible, and there’s nothing you can do about it, but you don’t look away. The performances are mostly quite terrible, especially Ulliel as a young Lecter. He gives what may be the worst leading performance I’ve seen in a recent motion picture, and has absolutely none of the charisma or terrifying intelligence that made the Hopkins version so compelling. His accent sounds like a bad Bela Lugosi impersonation. The movie won’t be appreciated by fans of “Silence of the Lambs”, gore hounds will find the movie lacks tension and horror, and those simply seeking an interesting drama can surely find much better at the movies right now. Your best bet is simply to rent “Silence of the Lambs”, and try to remember that Hannibal Lecter was once one cinema’s most memorable villains.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Escape (3:59)
  • Requiem (1:06)
  • Agnus Dei (2:40)
  • Rescued (1:11)
  • Lie Detector (2:06)
  • Ropekill (3:49)
  • I Found Them (1:20)
  • Kolnas Cafe (2:06)
  • Boatyard (0:47)
  • Laboratory (3:29)
  • Formaldehyde Tank (3:27)
  • Deposition (3:17)
  • Bathroom (2:19)
  • Samurai (1:39)
  • Craving (2:55)
  • Agnus Dei Reprise (1:24)
  • End Credits (7:32)

Running Time: 45 minutes 13 seconds

Promo (2007)

Music composed by Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi. Orchestrations by Julian Kershaw. Recorded and mixed by Andy Richards. Edited by Andy Rae. Score produced by Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi.

  1. August 23, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Please tell me, this soundtrack have been released on CD? Or at least one promo CD?
    Because I understand it exists only in the format of the web release. Sincerely, Vladimir.

  2. Phil wheeler
    April 22, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    I just finish watching it for the third time and just started the night before, do I need to say more how much I like it.

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