The Swedish Millennium Trilogy got off to a gripping, stylish start with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The second film, The Girl Who Played With Fire, was a little ridiculous, but still moderately entertaining.
The trilogy crashes headlong into the side of a mountain in a massive ball of noxious flames with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, a tedious ruination of what was once a good thing. All of the Millennium films were released in the United States this year, giving the series the dubious distinction of containing both one of the year's better films and one of the year's worst films.
Fans of Lisbeth Salander, played by the beguiling Noomi Rapace, could skip this third installment altogether and miss close to nothing. The film relegates Lisbeth to hospital beds, jail cells and courtrooms, giving her little to do; the life is squeezed out of the character.
The movie picks up where Fire left off, with Lisbeth heading to the hospital after a confrontation with her despicable father, Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov), and extremely large half-brother, Ronald Niedermann (Mikael Spreitz). Lisbeth spends the film's first 75 minutes in a hospital bed, occasionally typing her autobiography on a smart phone and taking a few bites of pizza. That's as exciting as the action gets in the first portion of this 147-minute fiasco. As hypnotic as Rapace can be, it's still a slog to watch her in the hospital scenes.
Things don't get much better when she is released from the hospital and placed in police custody in preparation for her attempted-murder trial (for smacking her dad upside the head with a shovel). The action ratchets up a notch as we see her doing pushups, running in place and occasionally washing her face.
While Lisbeth sits around looking as if she would rather be bowling, we are treated to a slew of monotonous, confusing subplots involving an evil gathering of old geezers who want Lisbeth stopped for nonsensical reasons. There are also laughably bad sequences involving Niedermann driving around and terrorizing people on some sort of vengeful mission to kill his half-sister.
Things actually get worse in the courtroom, as Lisbeth wears a spiked-hair punk outfit and acts stoic. Apparently, she's incarcerated in a pretty easygoing prison, where massive quantities of face piercings are available for those who want to annoy legal types.
This is not a standalone film; in order to follow the goings-on, you must have watched the two prior movies. Actually, you might want to watch them twice and take notes. I'm not saying this will make this film anything close to meaningful; I'm saying you need to watch the prior films to make some sense of this film's total nonsense.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo gave Lisbeth a meaningful story arc as she worked with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) to solve a missing-person case. It also featured her fending off subway assholes with broken bottles, as well as some selfish sex scenes with Mikael. In short: It contained her character interacting with the world around her while brandishing a splendid "don't fuck with me" attitude.
Fire, in which the story became more about her and her past, saw Lisbeth on the run, leading to a showdown with her abusive dad and bigfoot brother. Yes, it got a little ridiculous at times, but the movie's pulse remained strong.
Daniel Alfredson directed the final two films (but not Dragon Tattoo), and the damage he does with the final chapter is comparable to the atrocity committed when John Boorman shat out Exorcist II: The Heretic. This is one of the worst sequels to a good movie ever made.
I haven't read the Stieg Larsson novels upon which the films are based, so for all I know, the final book totally blew, and Alfredson is just being faithful. Alfredson tries to make up for the film's lack of pop with a tacked-on finale featuring Lisbeth and the lumbering Niedermann facing off in an abandoned warehouse. It's clumsy, and too little, too late.
Rapace is starting to garner some Oscar buzz for her work in Dragon Tattoo. I just watched an interview with her by Charlie Rose, and she has a nice command of the English language, so expect to see her in American-made films soon. She's been cast in the Sherlock Holmes sequel, and is rumored to be up for Ridley Scott's Alien prequel. But she will not, through no fault of her own, get Oscar consideration for Hornet's Nest.
David Fincher is currently at work on an American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, starring Rooney Mara as Lisbeth and Daniel Craig as Mikael. It's set for release next year, and Mara is under contract for possible remakes of Fire and Hornet's Nest.
Hopefully somebody is already hard at work in giving the possible final installment a little more substance. Larsson can't help; he passed away before his novels were even released.