There was a point while watching Batman Begins that I said to myself, "I didn't know Batman trained as a ninja." The very same thing happened while I watched Hannibal Rising, a film very similar in that it attempts to explore the early years of an established and well-known character.
Unfortunately Hannibal Rising is a rather pedestrian film that does little to shed any light on the Hannibal Lecter mythos, and frankly, leaves more questions than it does answers.
After a CGI Stukka kills their parents, young Hannibal and Mischa Lecter are taken captive by a small band of Lithuanian collaborators. The unforgiving Baltic winter forces the group to cannibalism and little Mischa ends up on the stove.
Years later Hannibal escapes to France, where he trains in the Japanese martial arts with his aunt and eventually accepts a scholarship to medical school. But Hannibal is haunted by nightmares of his sister and her murder. The only way to make things right is to get revenge on her killers.
This isn't a dark, psychological thriller, but a cheap Death Wish knock-off. The plot here is nothing that hasn't been covered in half a dozen Steven Seagal films. Hannibal does, a couple times, eat his victims' flesh, though no real explanation as to why is really offered. Perhaps the audience is supposed to accept that it's just what Hannibal the Cannibal does.
By the end of the film Hannibal's aunt is taken prisoner by the Lithuanians and it's up to him to rescue her, making this just like 9000 other movies ever made. Of course, Hannibal ultimately saves her and gets his revenge, chewing off Rhys Ifans's face and destroying his white-slavery operation (don't ask) before escaping into the night.
If it sounds silly, that’s because it is.
Hannibal Rising is a not very good film, an unnecessary prequel that asks us to sympathize with a character that is, in the context of the rest of the series, intended to be wholly unsympathetic. Turning the villain into a hero only works if the character is able to redeem his or herself, which is clearly not possible in a prequel. There are three Star Wars films that prove that.
Directed by Peter Webber • R • 2007 • 117 minutes