Just a few short years ago, the name Stieg Larsson meant little to the English-speaking populace, nor did avid readers and film fans spend hours conversing about a girl with very questionable hobbies. Then came “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” (or “Män som hatar kvinnor” – translating as “Men Who Hate Women” – in Sweden), and the world fell under the author’s – and his protagonist’s – spell. Sadly, Larsson himself passed away in 2004 prior to his novels being published, and long before film adaptations were even conceived. The second effort, “The Girl Who Played With Fire”, received the same positive reaction, with the global population whipped into a frenzy by the time the third, “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest” (or “Luftslottet som sprängdes” – translating as “The Air Castle That Was Blown Up” – in Sweden) made an appearance. As happens with many popular written works, a series of films was commissioned (well, a film and a mini-series initially, with the latter converted to two features in wake of the success of the former), with local acclaim ensuring an international release. With an American adaptation of the initial installment due at the end of the year, and the second offering newly released on DVD/Blu-ray, the final original effort makes its way to Australian cinemas, wrapping up the tale of Lisbeth Salander, the titular girl of many descriptions.
Opening with a brief recap for the uninitiated, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest wastes no time in jumping straight into the action. With events picking up at the conclusion of its predecessor (without any time having passed, unlike the transition between the first and second films), we meet Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace, soon to be seen in the Sherlock Holmes sequel) as she is airlifted to hospital. Surviving the vicious assault waged against her by her estranged father Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov, Father Of My Children) and gargantuan half-brother Ronald Niedermann (Micke Spreitz, Gangster), she is thrust into police custody, charged with the attempted murder of her attackers. With Zalachenko well-connected within the government, a clandestine branch of Sweden’s police force plots to silence the girl and protect their secrets. On the case as always is Lisbeth’s ally Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist, currently filming the next Mission: Impossible offering), with the investigative journalist intent on shedding light on the conspiracy against the misunderstood girl. His quest to clear her name will incite threats against his lover (Lena Endre, TV’s Kurt Wallander) and endanger his sister (Annika Hallin, When Darkness Falls), whilst drawing the attention of the medical and legal professions.
The first two entries of the “Millennium Trilogy”, despite their massive success in the printed medium, were disappointing. It could be the mammoth task of translating the works not only into a foreign language, but into a format that doesn’t always allow for the complexity and subtlety of text. The The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a thriller that hits all the right buttons, it was just that those button had been pressed before repeatedly, and it was hard to escape the feeling that it was ultimatelyMidsomer Murders with anal rape. While the second entry played down this taut sadism, it was incredibly drawn out (despite being the shortest entry in the series). So it is with trepidation that viewers may come to the final part of this tale of political intrigue and a girl who needs to find new ways of passing the time. First up, in case you were wondering, the hornets’ nest is a metaphorical one, and not an actual one, so entomologists need to look elsewhere. Yet more importantly for casual viewers, or those late to jump onto the Girl wagon, the first half of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest will be virtually impenetrable. Yet once we get into the meat of the piece, which is essentially an extended investigative drama complete with its own courtroom scene, the narrative follows a fairly set path.
T trilogy would have perhaps worked best as a television series. Indeed, French pay television channel Canal+ did just that with the extended versions of the three films as a six part miniseries, adding detail through approximately 1½ hours of additional footage. Rapace, as the titular girl, continues to impress with her performance, although here her punk-haired theatrics come off as less edgy than the previous entries, and she seems more like a bratty teenager than the rebellious counter-culture vibe that the film is going for. Regardless, the rest of the cast – in particular Nyqvist as the intrepid journalist – gives an understated solidity to the film, and it is a shame that the pair do not spend more time together in this film. One of the highlights of the previous entries had been their relationship, and we feel very little of that in this film. Anders Ahlbom, as the slimy Dr. Peter Teleborian, continues to be a presence on-screen, with his past sins coming back to haunt him, sins that we see a little too often on-screen perhaps. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest may not succeed in distinguishing itself from like entries in the genre, put it provides reliable thrills.
The Reel Bits: A stronger entry than its immediate predecessor, although those new to the series need not apply. An often overly complex, and occasionally tediously extended, saga is brought to a fitting conclusion in a far more cinematically palatable format.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest is released on March 3, 2011 in Australia by Rialto Entertainment.