Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

"Staten kontra Lisbeth Salander"
"The Girl with the Dragon Tat 3"

The final film of the Swedish versions of the "Millennium" series* satisfies, but in the same way that most final films in a trilogy satisfy: loose ends get tied up, the story concludes, we get to say good-bye and leave.

But The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (aka Luftslottet som sprängdes or "The Air-Castle that Blew Up"**) is the least of these films (the last two directed by Daniel Alfredson, the first more atmospheric one directed by Niels Arden Oplev), partially because the source novel by the late Stieg Larsson is full of detail and waiting for an outcome, and not much else.  Also, its lead character starts this one (its story begins mere moments after the last entry's finish) suffering from the horrors she endured in the last quarter of The Girl Who Played with Fire.  With a bullet in the brain and the long recovery that entails, the audience is left in the waiting room, for its star attraction to do the voodoo she does so well.  But the fine-grinding gears of the plot, and all the complications the series has set up, tends to gum up the works and makes it all seem like a slow-moving version of "Law and Order: Special Victim's Unit." 

It is what the novel is, but the book has the advantage of throwing surprises at you all the time, keeping you busy thumbing back through it to keep the details straight.  The movie plods along with everyone talking about the one thing that has made the series shine, but is kept somewhat off-stage with only tantalizing glimpses now and then: goth-girl/hyper-hypenate Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace).

That character (and the way Rapace plays her) is what the audience cares about.  It's why the "Millennium" series, when it was published in America, replaced the oblique Swedish book-titles (like the first's, which translates aptly as "Men Who Hate Women") to focus on "the girl with the dragon tattoo."  It is also why Rapace (though it isn't evident from posters and IMDB listings) is top-billed in the film over her more accomplished co-star Michael Nyqvist (I wonder if Rooney Mara will be so lucky to eclipse Daniel Craig in the English-language versions).  She's the ace in the hole, but the film keeps her comatose, cloistered, incarcerated, and quiet for 3/4 of its lengthAs Rapace 's performance is so interior anyway, one is focussed on every twitch of her lips, fashion statement, or flicker of an eye to sustain interest.  

Meanwhile the rest of the world is running around, dealing with conspiracies, death-threats, assassinations, dances with automatic weapons, car-chases, and cartoonish muscle-men in an unsuccessful attempt to compete with the smallest Salander reaction.  After two movies watching her running rough-shod out of those who get in her way, the film-makers should have known they couldn't fight their own creation.  Only a Final Heat with a Loose End gives the audience its requisite amount of brutal grrrl-action.

Worth seeing, if, like me, you got hooked on the sordid Swedish underpinnings of the story, but don't be surprised if you want to see more when it's done.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is a Rental.

* Even as I write this, David Fincher is directing the Big Hollywood version of the first book with Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgård, and Christopher Plummer.

** We'll get into these translations later, but if that title confuses you Englishers, substitute "The Ivory Tower" for "Air Castle" and you'll get the idea.

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