When I recall the classic 1991 movie, The Silence Of The Lambs, I automatically think of Mrs. Film Geek. The flick wasn't the first we saw together as a couple, but we did catch it in the theater early in our relationship. Popcorn can be hotter and tastier early in a great relationship, and even an average movie can feel like a classic if shared with the right movie-mate. But Lambs really was that great; an instant classic, with timeless and colorful characters who carry out a remarkable screenplay.
After the first Hannibal Lecter film Manhunter (1986) flopped financially, Hollywood worked to distance Lambs as a sequel. Adding a brand new cast, hiring a top-notch director and ponying up a larger production budget would go a far piece in helping an audience forget the original movie, most of which hadn't seen the original anyway. Producers who value dollar signs rather than artistry have since tried to catch lightning way too many times with these characters. Hannibal (2001) and Red Dragon (2002) were disappointments. So they tried again, with Hannibal Rising.
Hannibal Rising seeks to explain how serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lecter becomes the sociopath the audience was so drawn to in The Silence Of The Lambs. While his back-story is traumatic--it involves Nazi's, war, and the tragic loss of family--it's Lecter's revenge seeking that is really the draw of this movie. One by one Lecter hunts down the men responsible for the horrific death of his sister. And one by one he murders them through inventive, torturous ways.
The pace of Rising is noticeably steady, and quite slow. I suspect the director is trying to establish the methodical, calculating manner in which the young Lecter goes about his mission. If so, the director allows the film to suffer a bit for the technique. There is no sense of urgency to the film or it's characters, and that allows the audience to become a bit restless. Rising also struggles with the explanation of how Lecter became a sociopath; while the trauma he encountered is clearly haunting and a reason to seek out revenge, it doesn't fully explain how an otherwise emotionally healthy young man's converts to sociopathic thinking and behavior.
What it does do is establish Lector as an anti-hero: a person who does whatever it takes to right a wrong, even if the whatever-it-takes is morally reprehensible.
Hollywood seems lost on the fact that it was the chemistry between The Silence Of The Lambs actors coupled with a terrific thriller of a story that helped that movie become a classic. It wasn't all about the supporting character, Lecter. I don't need to see Lecter movies any more than I need to see a movie about the life of Ratzo Rizzo, or Garth from Wayne's World. The characters are great because of the context in which I met them.
Change that context, and you change the character.
Here's the scoop on Hannibal Rising: Mrs. Film Geek and I know Hannibal Lecter. We courted while watching Hannibal Lecter. We've been entertained by Hannibal Lecter. Rising, you are no Hannibal Lecter.