Evokes notions of LIL’ HITLER, or THAT DARNED GENGHIS! Whether nor not this film (about the early days of Hannibal Lecter) is any good, I’m thinking a different title may be in order.
Here’s Atreides with a look at the recently test-screened YOUNG HANNIBAL: BEHIND THE MASK (god...now it sound like a VH1 special!)
This is a rather nice write-up; we’d like to thank Atreides for his thoughts and effort.
Here’s the report…
HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
I was, fortunate to get a free test screening for the newest entry in the ever bloated Hannibal Lecter series, Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask at the Edgewater Multiplex in Edgewater, New Jersey. The screening was your standard test screening with lots of studio reps, and an older fella who looks strikingly like a certain producer, Dino DeLaurentis; but I may be wrong on that. Anyway, here's the basic premise of the film with spoilers.
The film starts off in Lithuania in 1944, where we are introduced to a 10 year old Hannibal Lecter and his baby sister Mischa playing by the lake next to their ancestroal castle. They get startled by a bunch of explosions and see some Nazi planes flying overhead and are forced to leave their home with their parents to their neighboring cabin with their servants and such. Before they leave, Mama Lecter puts some letters and pictures away in some drawer *this kinda sets stuff up a bit later* So they arrive at the cabin and life is good again for the Lecters. Mama Lecter puts some jewel's away in this hanging boar's head, and little Mischa takes a bath, that's about it.
Meanwhile, the Nazis have taken over the castle and harass the Lecter's Jewish cook and a group of Lithuanian Miltia Nazi sympathizers, yeah that's right, join up with the Nazis in hopes of becoming SS. This group of six is going to be the focus of the film's A-Plot.
Winter comes along, and the Eastern Front of the war finds the Nazis in retreat by the Soviets. Some village is being burnt to the ground from artillery blasts and the Nazis are just taking whatever they can and trying to evade the Soviet tanks. Oh, and that group of Lithuanian Nazi Wannabes, yeah they shoot and kill their SS commander since he never let them become real SS; oh well. So before they are killed by the Soviets, they escape in an ambulance….truck thing.
Back at The Lecter Lounge, the family hears the battle and this huge Soviet tank just rolls on in scaring the bejesus out of the family. Seems the Soviets just want some water or gas or something, and command the Lecters, minus Hannibal and Mischa, to remain outside.
Well, the Soviets spot a Nazi plane swooping by and open fire. There's a firefight where Hannibal 's father is unceremoniously shot to death in the crossfire. Just when you think it was bad to lose one parent, the plane is shot by the tank and loses control until it crashes into the tank making this very big, and probably very expenisive explosion, killing everyone around it, including Hannibal's mama. Mischa and Hannibal are left to fend for themselves in the cabin as winter rolls on in.
So those Lithuanian Nazi guys, they drive pass the cabin and see that someone is inside. They break the door down and terrorize the children. These guys are starving and a bit on the homicidal/cannibalistic side and not soon after they have little Mischa for dinner.
Flash forward to 1952 in Soviet occupied Lithuania, back at Castle Lecter, which has been converted into a Soviet orphanage where a mute and traumatized teenage Hannibal spends his days as a prisoner in his own home. The resident bully picks the wrong fight with Hannibal and ends up with a fork in his hand. The headmaster thinks something is up with this Hannibal kid, since he's no "take no bullshit" punk and is upsetting the Soviet "peaking-order". The bully drags Hannibal into the catacombs of the castle and locks him up as punishment, but since this was Hannibal's home he knows how to get around. He breaks out of the castle but not before taking those letters and photos that his mom left years before.
The letters are from his uncle in France and since his whole family is dead, he sneaks on a train and makes his way there to his uncle's chÃ¢teau. Unfortunately, his uncle died in the war but his ultra hot Japanese wife, Lady Murasaki, still owns the property and welcomes the last surviving Lecter into her home. She becomes a sort of mother/teacher/romantic interest in the film for him. One night, Hannibal finds Murasaki praying to her ancestors, or something, in this makeshift shrine in the cellar. Of course there are masks, katana swords, and a set of samurai armor with a face mask that looks amusingly enough like his famous security mask from Silence and Hannibal. Oh foreshadowing!!! She teaches Hannibal to channel his childhood trauma into power, and in typical revenge movie fashion teaches him the ways of the samurai. So we get a montage of Hannibal learning how to fight with Kendo swords and other weapons and he begins his obsession with the facial mask.
They seriously should have called this Hannibal Begins.
Anyhow, the first time he kills a man is pretty humorous I must admit as he slices and dices some fat French butcher who insulted the honor of his Japanese surrogate mom with a samurai sword.
After that we find Hannibal training to become the world renowned physician he is remembered for and spends his nights playing with dead bodies and learning the intricacies of the human body. But Hannibal still cannot shake the memories of those six evil dudes so one night in order to make himself remember exactly what happened to Mischa he injects himself with some Sodium Penethol and after a trippy Kill Bill/The Crow flashback sequence he returns to the cabin in Lithuania. Little does he know that one of those evil dudes has become some Soviet cop/bureaucrat and sees Lecter's name on some passport form. He goes after Hannibal only to get knocked out and tortured by him before he confesses the whereabouts of his comrades. Then…he gets his head eaten by Hannibal.
Well anyway the film goes into the whole Revenge-movie territory where Hannibal treks across France finding and collecting information and going after the guys who ate his sister. Well he finally tracks down their leader, Gruta, who is living in France and runs a female slave ring with his fellow evil Lithuanian compatriots. So just to run it down Hannibal's Japanese lady love is kidnapped by the Gruta so Hannibal tracks him down to his personal freighter, which is trying to get out of France. Well once Hannibal finally bests Gruta, he has that last choice on whether or not to turn him over to the authorities to be tried as a war criminal or take his revenge- you can guess which route he takes. It's pretty nasty too but warranted….oh and there is a twist but you could maybe see it coming but the reaction by Hannibal was pretty chilling. In the end, Hannibal winds up in Canada going after the last man who ate his sister, who just so happens to be running a taxidermy shop in some town with a population of like 100. That's basically it…his death is implied as Hannibal drives away.
I hope that held your attention. Honestly the film is a mixed bag and there could have been so much more as we are seeing Hannibal Lecter in his prime. The acting is all over the place with some really great performances and some really lame ones. Gaspard Ulliel, who plays Hannibal Lecter, is quite good though at some points was pretty hard to understand because of his accent; the actor is French ya know. He hams it up at points, but so did Anthony Hopkins. Li Gong, she was in 2046, as Lady Mursaki couldn't be more A-typical as she just breezes through the movie with one expression and speaks with nothing but a whisper but she's eye candy and she is very hot Gruta is played pretty well and is menacing but takes it a bit too far and it comes off comical and that's a pretty big problem. We have some French Inspector named Popiel, who tries to fit in with this whole tracking Hannibal's revenge plot but seriously you feel nothing for him and he brings nothing to the film…he's a vestigial toe.
The film was an incomplete cut, the music was a temp track and I recognized certain themes from Bram Stoker's Dracula and the special effects in the tank/plane crash were a bit unfinished. After the movie was over we were given our little scorecards and had to rank it. The general consensus was that while the film had a somewhat positive reaction, the title was just panned by everyone and I couldn't agree more. Young Hannibal: Behind The Mask sounds like a really bad Fox Tuesday Night Movie.
I get the feeling though this film is going to be marketed in the wrong way. The horror fad for the last few years has been that "survival" horror with the likes of Saw, Hostel, See No Evil, and the Hills Have Eyes remake as the faces of that type of horror film. This is a very European style film which could hurt it. It's a revenge movie, but only does this plot really kick off until the middle of the film. Hannibal's story is a tragic one but when you start feeling sympathy for a character who is supposed to be the modern equivalent to Sherlock Holmes' arch nemesis Moriarty then it gets weird- I donno shades of Episode One I guess.
I have no idea when this film is going to come out but it can use some work, but overall it was entertaining and certainly a step up from Hannibal and Red Dragon but no where near Silence or even Manhunter.
It would have been nice though to see maybe a two minute Epilogue with Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal in the 1980s when he was a criminal psychologist working with the FBI and him having a certain census taker for dinner. You know, just to bridge the gaps in this ever folding Star War….Hannibal saga.
Anyway these are just the grumblings of a fan boy so take it as you will and thanks.