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Genius Products presents
Hannibal Rising (Unrated) (2007)

"I've come to collect a head."
- Hannibal Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: June 27, 2007

Stars: Gaspard Ulliel
Other Stars: Gong Li, Rhys Ifans, Dominic West, Helena-Lia Tachovska, Aaran Thomas
Director: Peter Webber

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (strong grisly violent content and some language/sexual references)
Run Time: 02h:10m:37s
Release Date: May 29, 2007
UPC: 796019802413
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B DAB+ B

DVD Review

When a franchise is already on life support, can anything justify another dip in the well? Apparently the chance to rake in more box-office dollars was justification enough, as early 2007 brought us another chapter in the Hannibal Lecter saga. This time, we get a look at the cannibal as a young man, as director Peter Webber's Hannibal Rising chronicles the doctor from a tragic childhood event through his teenage years. Unfortunately, this is mostly a mess, and nowhere near as compelling as even the lesser entries in the series.

World War II is ravaging Lithuania in 1944, and the Lecter family is right in the middle of it. Their life of luxury is abruptly interrupted by a group of ruffians on the run from the Russians. This rag-tag bunch is led by Grutas (Rhys Ifans), and, after surviving an aerial attack, has taken over the Lecter castle along with survivors Hannibal (played as a child by Aaran Thomas) and his baby sister, Mischa (Helena-Lia Tachovska). Starving, Grutas and his men make a devastating decision as to what to use as food. Hannibal eventually escapes their clutches, and winds up in an orphanage. Not one to be kept captive, he heads to France, where he meets his uncle's widow, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li). He soon discovers that her teachings and his growing maturity might be the key to finding Grutas and avenging the brutality bestowed upon his beloved sister.

After a genuinely intriguing, dare I say gripping first act depicting Hannibal's childhood, the wheels fall off once he matures into a young adult. After an hour or so, it dawns on me that basically nothing of any interest has happened to move the story along. The remainder of the film is a collection of meandering set pieces that wear out their respective welcome far too fast.

The aforementioned compelling setup has the potential to provide a fitting back story for the cinema's most infamous serial killer. Instead, the plot devolves into a standard revenge tale, which is formulaic, to say the least. One by one, young Hannibal hunts down a group of those who wronged him as a child and offs them in typical slasher movie fashion, completely going against what this character is all about. This could just as easily have been Freddy Krueger or Jason doing the killing, which works for those characters, but not for Lecter. Gore hounds will be pleased to see that this is the most gruesome Lecter tale, but graphic special effects do not an effective horror film make, at least on most occasions.

We're almost meant to feel too compassionate for Lecter. The central life-changing moment is slowly revealed via flashback, but these do more to inspire sympathy for the character than convince us this is how he came to be a cold-blooded killer. The basis of the flashbacks is also way too much to stomach for most audiences as well. Anyone with a child or small sibling will cringe at these scenes, making it difficult to get through them, and therefore, much of the movie.

Despite an intriguing cast, the film is littered with pedestrian performances that, sadly, fit right in line with the weak script. Young Gaspard Ulliel is an awful Lecter; looks don't make a successful younger version of a character, mind you, but when the other aspects of such a performance don't work either, the physical embodiment, or lack thereof, stands out even more. The supporting players, led by excellent character actor Rhys Ifans, are simply going through the motions. His lead villain is never menacing, and the gorgeous Gong Li is completely wasted as well. The cast is only a small part of the laundry list of problems here, but a better effort from the performers might have lent this at least a slight bit of credibility.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: D

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is always pleasing, delivering consistently sharp and detailed images throughout. This very dark film still exhibits wonderful colors, most notably during the opening half hour or so. The slightest bit of grain crops up, but this is mostly a blemish-free presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 track packs a nice punch, but could have been a bit more aggressive at times. An explosion near the end of the movie isn't as lively as expected, but the rest of the action benefits from active surrounds and tight bass. The dialogue is always crisp, blending well with the rest of the mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring 1408, Nomad, Black Christmas
1 TV Spots/Teasers
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Peter Webber and producer Martha De Laurentiis.
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Some good supplements begin with an audio commentary by director Peter Webber and producer Martha De Laurentiis. This pair isn't in the same room during the talk, but they go over quite a bit collectively. Almost every technical aspect of the production is discussed, and they even mention the other Hannibal movies, albeit not very often.

There are also five deleted scenes, with optional commentary by Webber that total just over four minutes of running time. Only one of these scenes is really worth a look, as it gives more of an insight to one of Lecter's chemical weapons of choice.

Hannibal Lecter: The Origin of Evil is a 16-minute documentary chronicling the production of Hannibal Rising. We hear from much of the cast and crew, with the most interesting discussion involving this being Thomas Harris' first attempt at adapting one of his Lecter novels himself.

Allan Starski: Designing Horror and Elegance takes seven and a half minutes to explore the work of the film's production designer. This is a sit-down interview with Starski, during which he talks about how he got the gig and various elements of his work on the movie.

Finishing things up is a trailer gallery with the theatrical trailer and teaser for Hannibal Rising, as well as previews for other films.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Hannibal Rising was a bad idea from the start, despite being based on another book by Thomas Harris. A boring screenplay coupled with disappointing performances make this an early candidate for many worst films of the year lists. The DVD rises above the film, though, thanks to excellent audio and video presentations, and a nice extras collection.

 


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