Hannibal Rising: Unrated – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com


Peter Webber


Gaspard Ulliel Hannibal Lecter
Gong Li Lady Murasaki Shikibu
Rhys Ifans Grutas
Dominic West Inspector Popil

DVD Release Date: May 29, 2007
Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 131 Minutes

The Movie

It is the middle of the forties and World War II is causing destruction all over the world. Hannibal Lecter was only a mere boy at this time and he lived a very good life in a castle with his parents and sister Mischa. Due to the intense fighting and chaos all over the place, they retreat to a small cabin in the woods where they can ride out the war and stay safe. Only their safety is not guaranteed anywhere and soon the children’s parents become casualties of war leaving Hannibal and Mischa alone and scared.

Defending themselves and living as only they can figure out how, the children believe they are free from danger. For some time through the cold bitter winter, they fend for themselves and begin their life. But soon, Russian soldiers happen upon the cabin and take matters into their own hands. Hannibal has already had his parents taken from him and now Mischa is gone in an act committed that would change his life forever.

Hannibal has grown a little when he is next seen and he is back in his castle home, but under much different circumstances. The castle is now under control of the Russians and is an orphanage where many children whose parents were lost in the war now reside. He does not feel as if he belongs in a place run by those who destroyed his life and took his family away from him.

Escaping from the orphanage Hannibal makes his way to the only family he knows may help him. As he arrives at the home of Lady Shikibu who is his aunt; she takes him in even though she is now a widow since Hannibal’s uncle has passed away. She takes him under her wing and teaches him about life and the things he never got a chance to learn from his parents. It of course wasn’t their fault, but he still had to do without. Lady Shikibu educates Hannibal and sends him down the right roads in life as he even enrolls into medical school. He is finally starting to live his life right.

Hannibal will never forget his family and won’t let their memory die. He is trying to move on and live a semi-normal life, but that soon proves to be impossible when he crosses paths with the men who did the awful things to Mischa. It is then that thoughts of revenge begin to circle throughout the mind of young Hannibal. Certain other things begin to enter his mind as he learns more and more about what is boiling inside of him. The feelings of hatred, vengeance, hunger, and pure evil which would in turn create one of the most sinister killers in human history.

As far as prequels go, Hannibal Rising gives an excellent look into the transformation from Hannibal Lecter the young child to Hannibal Lecter murderer. Mind you his intense hatred and evil thought process didn’t come long after he left the throngs of childhood behind so it all happened rather quickly. With most horror film prequels, we are usually presented with a bloody mass of murders from whichever character (Leatherface for example) we are learning about but merely at a young age. With Lecter we get a full story and back history of his earliest days of exposure to his ways all the way through to when he became the man he is today. It was a nice change to learn something about a character then just to see the same thing from the character when he’s younger.

The one thing that may bug many of you though as it did me is that for years we have watched Anthony Hopkins portray the malicious and horrendous Hannibal Lecter. Showing a calm and callous method of acquiring his victims and killing them. Hopkins showed us a Lecter that could be the nicest person in the world during a dinner party but the entire time we could still feel the evil flowing from behind that smile and wink to a friend. What wasn’t enjoyable about Hannibal Rising is that it showed Lecter was once weak. Even over time when he knew what evil capabilities he possessed inside of him, he still showed signs of backing down or being frightened. As good as the film was, those traits took a lot away from the pure evil I have seen in Hannibal Lecter for over fifteen years (not counting Manhunter where Hopkins wasn’t involved).

The Video

The film is shown in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and it truly is a beautiful sight to see. The filmmakers did an excellent job in choosing the shooting locations, but one-upped themselves with the great camera work and quality with which they delivered the film. The rare non-dark color is bright when it needs to be and the shadows are dark, but not too much. Truly a masterful looking piece of work.

The Audio

The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and works well for the film. The surround sound isn’t really used quite often except in some of the scenes during war or when Lecter is doing what he does best in hardcore fashion. The dialogue can be heard fine and the musical score never is too loud so you have to keep fiddling with the volume. All works nicely.

Special Features

Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary) – Five scenes in all that don’t really do much or would have helped the film any. One in particular is quite strange where the Russian soldiers take a photo album found in the cabin and boil it in their soup. The commentary doesn’t add much either because the scenes are rather short.

Hannibal Lecter: The Origin Of Evil – Totaling up to a little over fifteen minutes, this feature is basically a “making of” featurette. The cast, crew, and even some critics and editors give their thoughts on the film and how it was to tell the history of the madman Hannibal Lecter. The most interesting of all is Gaspard Ulliel who plays Lecter in the film. It was rather enjoyable listening to what he thought about playing a man who has such a feared reputation.

Audio Commentary – Director Peter Webber and producer Martha De Laurentis give very detailed insight on the film although they don’t do it together. They take turns speaking and actually don’t have any back and forth banter, but it still is worth an immediate second watch of the film. But this is quite possibly one of the most in-depth commentaries I’ve ever heard as not only do they go to great lengths to discuss the story, locations, and actors, but they also talk about how this film fits into the series of Lecter films already on DVD.

Designing Horror And Elegance With Production Designer Allan Starski – A short look at the different sets and locations that Starski created and chose for the film. While there are many beautiful locations in the film and it is absolutely gorgeous at times, this feature is rather boring and not even worth the eight minutes it takes to watch it.

Theatrical & Teaser Trailers

Trailers1408, Nomad The Warrior, and Black Christmas

The Inside Pulse

As much as it may seem a prequel was needed in the Lecter series, I wish it could have been done a tad bit better. While the film was enjoyable and told a lot of history, the weakness shown in Lecter completely damaged the character that had been built up in numerous other films. The special features only provide about thirty extra minutes of viewing (not including the commentary) and aren’t really that interesting. They give some great insight but nothing that can’t be found out in the much more listenable commentary and then some. Well worth a rental because the information learned from the film really does give great insight into what turned Hannibal Lecter into the demented freak he became. Hopefully, though, you won’t find the same disappointment I did Clarice!

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Hannibal Rising
(OUT OF 10)