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I have been a fan of Thomas Harris’ writing for a long time, discovering it with the release of his iconic novel, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and then delving into RED DRAGON and BLACK SUNDAY. I eagerly awaited the release of HANNIBAL and even though it was not as great, I still enjoyed spending time with his characters, esp. his master creation Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
His fourth book to include the iconic serial killing cannibal was HANNIBAL RISING and it was tied to the movie of the same name. Unfortunately, both the book and film (which Thomas Harris wrote the script) are truly a let down.
HANNIBAL RISING introduces us to young Hannibal and his toddler sister Mischa. They are caught in the middle of the fighting between the Germans and the Soviets in Lithuania during WWII. After their parents are killed in an attack, they become prisoners of some despicable soldiers who resort to an unspeakable act against Hannibal’s sister that forever changes the course of his life.
Many years later, Hannibal escapes from a Soviet orphanage to live in France with his dead uncle’s Japanese wife. Lady Murasaki (Gong Li) takes Hannibal under her wing and teaches him about the ways of the world. She also gives him the means to exact revenge on the soldiers that killed his sister.
It’s an intriguing story, but it comes across so flat and uninspired that it’s hard to imagine that this is the young man who will one day become the legendary serial killer. It almost works better as a prequel to NBC’s exceptional HANNIBAL TV series than a prequel to the film series. I can visualize Gaspard Ulliel’s Hannibal becoming Mads Mikkelsen, more than becoming Anthony Hopkins.
Because Harris is such a gifted and meticulous writing, I expected much more from this story and the harshest criticism that I can levy is that it’s just so mundane that you hardly care. It also feels so disconnected and alien to the rest of the Hannibal films that it might as well not exist.
I don’t hate the movie; I’m just dismissive of it. Thanks God for NBC’s HANNIBAL as that is doing a fine job of keeping the mystique of Hannibal Lecter alive and well.