How the mighty have fallen even before they set off on their career? Confused? Well I certainly was when I went through the first few scenes of ‘Hannibal Rising‘ that played on a movie channel last night. The movie is intended as a prequel that explains Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s transformation into the ‘monster’ that he is made out to be later in life.
Where Silence of the Lambs gave us what I consider one of the greatest villains of all time in Dr. Lecter, ‘Hannibal Rising’ destroyed that perception in the fist few scenes of the movie. Almost halfway through I was wondering whether I was watching Karate Kid or Three Ninjas Hit Back set in the 1940s. You had this young and earnest (too earnest i say) German actor trying to emulate Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal and dump in standard characters who follow the same old quirks – Japanese woman (who’s life centres around orientalism and some mysticism), former Nazis (caricatured as unrepentant ruthless killers), well I can go on with the cliches. This movie stank of cliches and caricatures.
Wikipedia’s entry on this movie explained that Thomas Harris, an otherwise intelligent writer, had against his wish been forced to complete this book as the copyright owners of the franchise threatened to find someone else to take forward the Hannibal franchise. If ever there was an instance of corporate greed destroying art this was it.
Silence of the Lambs and even Manhunter (1986), the prequel, gave us Hannibal as he should be – intelligent, calculating, mysterious, with a murderous streak that always was backed by clear reason (without sounding like a ‘Death Wish’ vigilante). For me, Hannibal was a protector of class and intelligence, he loved a challenge and in turn a worthy challenger (as he saw in Clarice Starling). At the same time it was never easy to define him. Hannibal is a question mark that yo cannot fathom. Trying to understand Hannibal is like trying to pry the secrets of the UFOs, or the Nazca lines or whatever swallows up ships in the Bermuda Triangle. I don’t think Thomas Harris himself was confient of deconstructing what he had created.
A Psychiatrist by profession Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s ascent as shown in ‘Hannibal Rising’ was a pitiful attempt to explain every little quirk of this character. The explanations were too convenient and this is where the movie fails. Nothing is convenient in the life of Dr. Lecter or the people who surrounded him.
Now that I have flogged this movie, I guess it’s time for this franchise to retire. One, I can never see anyone other than Anthony Hopkins play Lecter. Two, Hopkins has made comments that have led many to believe that his days as Lecter are over. If that is so, leave the character alone. Silence of the Lambs and its far inferior sequels would be better off packaged in DVD stores and relaunched in aniiversary collections rather than creating new monstrosities such as Hannibal Rising.