2 December 2010


The final part of the Millennium trilogy brought Lisbeth Salander's story to a close this week, in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. This review will be spoiler-free as far as this film is concerned, but it may contain minor spoilers for the first two instalments, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Lisbeth is in hospital, there to go to police custody just as soon as she's recovered, to be tried for crimes she didn't commit. With the evidence he's gathered, Mikael Blomkvist sets about composing a shattering exposé of her treatment by the Swedish government. A dastardly covert group, the Section, is prepared to do anything to suppress the truth as the case heads for trial. This shit just got as real as it can get.

It's a funny thing, really. I've gone from dreading the idea of an English language remake after seeing the first instalment earlier this year, to really looking forward to it after seeing the final instalment. Two things have changed between then and now. Firstly, David Fincher signed on to direct and had The Social Network, one of the best films of the year, released in cinemas. Secondly, I realised how director Daniel Alfredson effectively pranged the Swedish language version when he took over with the second film.

At the time, I quite liked The Girl Who Played With Fire, even if it inflated the world of the previous film to the point that it wasn't recognisably taking place in the same universe. I felt it built the series to a point that the third film could go either way, and end the trilogy with either a fizzle or a bang, so long as either one was well made and thought out. They opted for a fizzle, and boy, was I wrong. And the very worst thing I can say about the underwhelming third instalment is that The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest makes the previous film look weaker in retrospect.

Here's the problem. The series is called "the Millennium trilogy", Millennium being the trendy political magazine that Blomkvist co-edits. With two films of it being the "Lisbeth Salander is awesome" trilogy, we have to have a film where the Millennium part actually becomes operative. Even after Lisbeth gets out of her hospital bed, she really doesn't have a lot to do in this film. There's a lot to be said for Noomi Rapace's always brilliant portrayal of a woman so damaged and defiant that she can't bring herself to rely on others, and she's fantastic whenever she's given some room for triumph, but let's not understate the fact that it's bloody boring to watch her character relying on others as she does for most of this film.

It's not that Michael Nyqvist hasn't done a sterling job as the minor lead for these three films, but the plot is pretty weak too. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had a compelling whodunnit plot, the reason why many people praised that film in the first place, as much if not more than for Noomi Rapace. The Girl Who Played With Fire is a film about Lisbeth's past, and it should have just been one film about her past. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is only a satisfying conclusion by the measure of showing the distended aftermath of its predecessor, with more exposition than investigation.

The main showcase sequence of the film is the trial, which consists of people arguing about what we already know, and creating false tension by leaving it to the latest reasonable moment to bring in crucial evidence that we, the audience, are already aware of. The new stuff is contrived, referring with an alarming frequency to one character undergoing dialysis, and also bringing in the ominously named Section, labelling them collectively not only for administrative and bureaucratic purposes, but also so they sound more evil than my own previous collective term for the bad guys- "that shower of bastards".

More than that, you have the most ridiculous element of the previous instalment, hulking Aryan Bond henchman Niedermann, just wandering around with nothing to do. He pops up every now and then to remind us that he still exists, attacking random people in much the same fashion as Jaws whenever he's not facing off with Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me or Moonraker, because he's back for the ending. After over two hours of sub-par courtroom intrigue, his reappearance is so extraneous to the rest of the film that it's laughable.

This is not a cinematic ending. Not that it needs more car chases or shootouts, both of which is has in measured amounts, but the ending of this film feels like the ending of a TV episode, and not the ending of a three film undertaking. I plan to read Stieg Larsson's books now that I've seen the films, and I realise that to some extent they must have been bound by the source material, but this is a really weak story to finish on. Part of what makes a David Fincher interpretation so enticing is that the man doesn't have a bone in his body that isn't absolutely cinematic in his approach, so if he chooses to make all three films, this one could stand to be improved.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is an underpowered ending to the trilogy, and all in all, it feels like the afterbirth of The Girl Who Played With Fire. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the strongest of the series by a mile, so the blame must lie at Daniel Alfredson's door. Elements that made the first two instalments good are still there, like the terrific performances and the literary detail that manifests itself so well, but the story is plodding and, at 147 minutes, severely overstretched.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is showing in selected cinemas nationwide. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and The Girl Who Played With Fire arrives on DVD and blu-ray on 10th January 2011.
If you've seen The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, why not share your comments below? If you're wondering what the relevance of the title is, join the club. It would suggest all hell breaks loose for a barnstorming finale, but... really?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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