It’s easy to spot what went wrong with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the third film in the Millennium trilogy. To put it quite simply, it’s not a complete film. It is merely a continuation of the second film in the series and, as such, it feels disjointed and perfunctory — as though everyone involved has the attitude that they need to serve up an ending, so let’s just get this over with. By the end of the film, I felt the same way.

For those of you who haven’t seen the first two films, there’s no point in reading any further. The plot I am going to describe will make no sense and will contain spoilers concerning the first two films in the series.

As Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) recovers in the hospital from the injuries she received at the end of The Girl Who Played With Fire, a shadowy government organization is putting the pieces in place to frame her for the attempted murder of Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov), her despicable father. At the same time, Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) is hurriedly preparing a special issue of Millennium magazine that will expose the treacherous figures in Lisbeth’s past that have led to her emotional damage and forced her into a corner. While all of this supposed intrigue is happening, Niedermann (Mikael Spreitz), Lisbeth’s murderous half-brother, is still skulking around the edges of the film, waiting for his opportunity to finally kill Lisbeth.

The reason that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo worked so well is that it was a self-contained film. There were some peripheral characters of some importance to the plot, but for the most part, it focused on a missing person’s case that Mikael and Lisbeth were investigating. At the same time, it delved into the fragile psyches of both of its main characters. Once the central mystery was solved and the villain punished, the film ended. But with Fire and now with Hornet’s Nest, the writers and producers forgot much of what made Tattoo such a satisfying film.

As the conspiracy at the heart of Hornet’s Nest takes shape, dozens of characters are introduced. After an hour, I felt that I needed a flow chart to keep track of who each of them was and how they plugged into the increasingly convoluted story. Even worse, Lisbeth, easily the most compelling character in the film, is kept on the sidelines for much of the running time. The performance by Rapace suffers with the lack of interesting notes to play. She goes between looking sullen and confused, depending on the scene and who she is paired with. And unfortunately, she’s barely paired with Nyqvist at all. Their off-kilter chemistry went a long way to making Tattoo as good as it was, but apart, their performances and their characters are far less interesting as they just become chess pieces to be moved around the board.

By the time the third act takes on that laziest of old clichés — a trial — I had quit caring, which was a surprising thing for me to discover. The end of Fire had given me just enough new wrinkles in Lisbeth’s character to look forward to this film. But after two plus hours of the leaden conspiracy plot, I no longer cared what happened to Lisbeth. This is the greatest failing of the film and makes it one of the most disappointing endings to a film trilogy since The Matrix Revolutions.

Matt Wedge is a writer and film critic currently doing time in the suburbs of Connecticut.

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