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Hannibal Rising

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Jan
Hannibal Rising
from Film Forum, 02/15/07

In 1991, Hannibal Lecter faced Clarice Starling, smiled, and even before he could say anything he became one of the creepiest, most memorable villains in movie history.

And it wasn't just his spree of his spectacular murders in The Silence of the Lambs that made us fear him. It was the mystery. How could such an intelligent person become such a dreadful killer? And who could possibly find a way to kill off such a brilliant menace?

It turns out that Hollywood has learned just the right trick to killing Hannibal and burying him for good. They've made three sequels now, and the latest—Hannibal Rising (technically a prequel)—continues to spoil the mystery and ruin the intrigue. Where The Silence of the Lambs was a challenging portrait of evil and the kind of character it takes to contend with it, the sequels appeal to audience appetites for lurid spectacle. The first film was about evil; the subsequent ones are celebrating it. Hannibal has become just another hero for moviegoers who enjoy "revenge porn." Each film has tried to outdo the others by shocking us with even more disgusting acts of cannibalism, and any trace of redemptive storytelling has vanished.

Hannibal Rising is a misleading title, because this series is sinking farther and farther from its legendary beginnings.

Bob Hoose (Plugged In) says it's "technically well-done but physically, emotionally and spiritually … cannibalistic. This is a lurid Faustian opera that throws a morgue full of twisted pop psychology at a killer's backstory in an attempt to make us feel sympathy for the devil. … Can any redemption be found in exploring the why of it all? Not here."

Christian Hamaker (Crosswalk) says, "If Hannibal Rising isn't bad enough to kill off this franchise, nothing will do the trick. Ghastly and often disgusting, the film somehow manages also to be dull, all the while providing a strange but not entirely convincing impetus for Lecter's taste for human flesh."

He adds, "Why is the public fascinated by Hannibal Lecter and with these tales of visceral revenge? God tells us, 'A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom' (Proverbs 10:23), and, 'Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully' (Proverbs 28:5)."

Jenn Wright (Past the Popcorn) says, "Hannibal Rising is about as suspenseful as eating a day-old warm mayonnaise sandwich: you know you're eventually going to throw up, it's just a matter of when. The latest Hannibal Lecter release holds no true surprises, no thrills, nothing but blood and gore at its basest and most unentertaining. And anyone with a lick of Psych 101 could figure out how the boy Hannibal became the monster cannibal in three easy steps. The series of 'revealing' traumatic flashbacks to war crimes doesn't make the character any more or less sympathetic—just pathetic."

Mainstream critics are chewing it up and spitting it out. Bill Muller (Arizona Republic) made my favorite Lecter-related remark: "The movie succeeds on some level, but the series has definitely begun to eat its own with Hannibal Rising."

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