A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this bloody Silence of the Lambs prequel isn't for kids. Since it's about the "birth" of famously evil character Hannibal the Cannibal, it's no surprise that it's all about brutality (usually involving swords and knives) and cannibalism. Other violent scenes include wartime shootings and explosions, stabbings, decapitations (heads are prominently displayed and bloody), and a drowning (a man is locked in a hospital corpse tank). Villains also drink, smoke cigarettes, and abuse women (bruises on one victim). A few uses of "f--k," plus rude sexual slang.
What's the story?
HANNIBAL RISING traces the beginnings of serial killer Hannibal Lecter. As child in 1944 Lithuania, Hannibal sees his parents die during a fight between Russian tanks and German planes. Little Hannibal and his younger sister Mischa (Helena Lia Tachovska) are beset by starving German deserters, who end up eating Mischa. The memory wreaks havoc with Hannibal's psyche and eventually leads him to seek vengeance against these men, who were deemed war criminals. After escaping a Soviet orphanage, Hannibal (Gaspard Ulliel) finds his aunt by marriage, Japanese wartime survivor Lady Murasaki (Gong Li) in France. Murasaki instructs Hannibal in martial arts. When he kills a butcher to defend her honor, Murasaki worries a little but helps him hide the crime from Inspector Popil (Dominic West). Determined to avenge his sister's grisly end, Hannibal pursues the men who ate her.
Is it any good?
The deaths are grotesque and the blood splatty, but Hannibal the movie doesn't demonstrate the cultural sophistication that Hannibal the character will later develop. (If Silence of the Lambs is any indication, that is.) Here, he's a bitter, anxious boy-man, a medical student who prepares cadavers for other students' autopsies -- discovering as he does so not only his pleasure in such activities, but also his gift. He is a grandly self-absorbed killer. When at last Murasaki begs him to stop, he cannot. His reason always: "They ate my sister." It's a terrible refrain and leads to a revolting psychosis. You can't help but miss Anthony Hopkins, whose sly wit alleviated at least some of Hannibal's thudding brutality.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the effects of trauma on children. How is the monster that Hannibal becomes produced by seeing his sister eaten? How is Hannibal sympathetic as a child? Why can't he satiate his desire for bloody vengeance? How does this movie explain or otherwise reshape the Hannibal the Cannibal story as you know it so far? Is Hannibal as effective a character when he's not being played by Anthony Hopkins? Would you consider this a horror film or a thriller? Why?
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