Originally posted on Row Three.
The Millennium Trilogy of films has been a bit of a rollercoaster for me – first chapter The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo remains among my favorite films of the year, while its follow-up The Girl Who Played With Fire left me cold and disappointed. Going into the final film in the series, I was pretty much just hoping I would like it better than I did The Girl Who Played With Fire. And I did, though how much of that is due merely to tempered expectations I’m not entirely sure. In any case, if you did like The Girl Who Played With Fire, you’ll probably quite enjoy The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, as it’s a really good sequel to that film, though still not up to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for me in either story or style. Okay, enough with the trilogy comparisons. I’m tired of typing these titles out.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest picks up right where the previous film left off, with a badly injured Lisbeth Salander being taken off to the hospital by a medivac crew. But her troubles aren’t over yet – she’s to stand trial for the murders pinned on her in the second chapter, plus the attempted murder of her father Alexander Zolochenko. Yeah, he didn’t die, though he’s in pretty bad shape, too. While she recovers in the hospital before her trial, Mikael Blomkvist returns to Millennium to put together a special issue intended to prove Lisbeth’s innocence as well as reveal her mistreatment at the hands of the state throughout her life. In a way, it covers similar plot ground to the second film, but more so, and to an actual conclusion.
A lot of this film is taken up with a conspiracy within the Swedish government to protect Russian defector Zolochenko, and the lengths the remaining members (most of whom are aged, as the group was formed in the sixties) go to in order to maintain their cover and silence both Zolochenko and Lisbeth. I’m not sure if I missed some important subtitles somewhere along the line or if there’s a bunch of exposition somewhere in The Girl Who Played With Fire that I forgot, but I had some trouble figuring out exactly what this whole conspiracy was about, what they were trying to do, and why Lisbeth was so important to them. I’d be curious if this is any clearer from the books, but I haven’t read these two – perhaps someone who has could at least let me know if it’s worth reading them to answer all the “but…why?” notes I wrote while watching.
In any case, it may be a positive sign that I still found myself invested in the film and caring what happened. All the courtroom scenes are fantastic, and perhaps show Lisbeth’s particular way of handling herself when she’s forced to interact with other people better than anything in the whole series. She’s sporting a new look for them, too, as you can see in the screencaps (she only adopts the punk look for the trial, part of her general no compromise stance – and it looks awesome). I also quite liked the subplots dealing with Millennium itself and Mikael’s relationship with Erika, which was kind of skimmed over in the other films. The callbacks to previous events are nicely handled as well.
However, as this one does follow right on the heels of The Girl Who Played With Fire, it still has many of the same elements that disappointed me in that film – it’s still wholly focused on Lisbeth, while I preferred the first film’s thematically-related but distinct mystery, and it still has Lisbeth and Blomkvist working largely separately throughout the whole film. In addition, I wanted Lisbeth to have a little more agency than she does – unfortunately, she’s fairly passive this time around, only given some real action toward the end. On the other hand, some of her character moments shine the brightest here, and I really appreciated some of the quietness after the almost comic-book-action-hero Lisbeth we got in the second film.
In addition to the conspiracy not really being that clear, there are other plot issues that had me scratching me head a time or two wondering how exactly we got from there to here, but like I said, lowered expectations probably helped a lot, and it finished off the story begun in The Girl Who Played With Fire pretty well. I still don’t think either film compares with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but perhaps thinking of that one as a standalone and these two as a separate two-part story will make all three of them rate a little higher. In any case, Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyquist continue to play their characters with conviction that makes them rise above whatever issues the film has, and they will be what you remember.