“Hannibal Rising” falls short of its predecessors

When “Silence of the Lambs” was released in 1991, it brought Dr. Hannibal Lecter, then played by Anthony Hopkins, to the silver screen for a second time, after Brian Cox played Lecter (spelled Lecktor) in “Manhunter” in 1986.”Silence” won five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Hopkins. Since then, Lecter has been considered one of the greatest film characters of all time.

Because of the greatness achieved by its predecessors, it is a pity to see what has become of the Lecter franchise in its newest installment, “Hannibal Rising.”

“Hannibal Rising” was written by Thomas Harris, who has written all four books concerning the life of Hannibal Lecter, including “Hannibal Rising,” which came out less than two months before its film counterpart.

Because of Harris’ script, his first attempt at a screenplay, and Peter Webber’s direction, his second attempt at a feature film, “Hannibal Rising” falls flat after only a few minutes, leaving the audience constantly glancing at their watches and wondering just how long it will all drag on.

The film begins with Lecter as an innocent eight-year-old child in Lithuania in the winter of 1944. Alongside his family, he is trapped in the violent eastern front of World War II.

After escaping to a small cabin in the woods, Hannibal and his younger sister, Mischa, are orphaned when a firefight between a Russian tank and a Nazi plane kills both of their parents.

Later, a group of wannabe Nazi thugs stumbles across the cabin and soon find themselves stuck with the two children and no food or escape from Soviet forces.

Mischa soon comes down with pneumonia and, desperately hungry, the soldiers kill her, cook her and eat her, a horrific experience that transforms Lecter into a mute and violently insubordinate orphan.

The rest of the film explains how Lecter grows from this lost boy into the famous, monstrous cannibal on the prowl in Canada and searching for the men who ate his sister. He is ultimately transformed into the same thing he is out to kill – a bad guy who eats people.

The film is, in all, nothing more than decent. Peter Webber’s OK direction and Harris’ OK writing is combined with OK actors and an OK plot and, of course, the final product amounts to nothing better.

After Hannibal digs into his final feast of the film, an act nearly two long hours in the making, the only question I could think of was, “Why?”

Why was this movie made, and why did I pay to go see it?

Both questions have the same answer: Hannibal Lecter is one of the best and most popular movie or novel characters of the last three decades and is even ranked by Premiere magazine as the 15th greatest movie character ever.

The premise seemed promising.

Just as I was duped into seeing Darth Vader’s (ranked all the way back at number 84) fall to the dark side, I once again fell into the trap expecting something high-quality in return.

All I got was something decent, and soon I realized why I was really disappointed in the movie.

Instead of the elegant Chianti, liver and fava bean dinner I had expected, I was forced to settle for a mundane cheek-and-mushroom shish kabob in the woods.