Thomas Harris' novel Hannibal Rising came out on bookshelves nearly 18 years after The Silence of the Lambs was published, and 15 years after the movie made Hannibal Lecter famous. So does anybody really care anymore? Sure, Anthony Hopkins was creepy as hell as Dr. Lecter, and his character's proclivity toward cannibalism was disturbing and fascinating. But c'mon—do we really need to know every step Hannibal took leading up to the day when Clarice Starling showed up at his cell? Or does it just smack of greedy book and movie franchising?
Okay, so let's just admit that money was the central motivation behind creating both the Hannibal Rising book and movie. So, in spite of that, were Harris (who adapted his own novel for this film), director Peter Webber, and actor Gaspard Ulliel (playing a young Hannibal) able to pull off a decent film? The answer: sort of.
Both Hannibal Rising and Ulliel's creepy performance are entertaining, despite the ridiculous plot. Hannibal is a young, innocent, loving kid growing up during WWII, when his parents are killed and he and his sister become prisoners of the Russians. This is no fun for either of them, but soon enough Hannibal is rescued. Sadly, though, he can't let go of the painful experiences that took place during his brief time as a prisoner—so instead of moving on, Hannibal dwells on the past every day, becoming a psychopath.
When you look at Lecter's life, though—besides that war stuff—it's pretty damn awesome. As a teenager, he moves into a fancy French chateau with his uncle's super hot widow and spends his days learning martial arts. As a young adult, he attends medical school, has a nice apartment, and enough money to travel. Why then, does he waste his life seeking revenge against everyone who's wronged him? Well, there's no real reason, really, and that's where Hannibal Rising fails. So if your motivation as a viewer is to find out what really makes Hannibal Lecter tick, you're out of luck. But if you're just looking to enjoy a couple hours of gratuitous cannibalism? You've come to the right place.