Film Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest ends the Millennium trilogy much the way it began; like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the film moves at a sedentary pace for the most part, and lacks credibility as a serious crime thriller.

Lisbeth Salander is recovering from her multiple injuries in hospital when she is charged with the attempted murder of her father. Mikael Blomkvist and his sister Annika face an uphill battle to defend Lisbeth against the charge, while others would be only too happy to see her committed. To complicate matters, Niedermann is still at large…

There is little action in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest until the final quarter. For the most part, the duration is filled with Blomkvist and his associates struggling to find evidence to help Lisbeth, and The Section attempting to silence her and cover past discretions. Given the numerous characters invested in the case, there is a lot of exposition before Lisbeth’s story progresses.

Part of the problem of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is that for a large part of the film the central character is incapacitated. Either stuck in hospital or in a jail cell awaiting trial, Lisbeth is out of the action, waiting for Blomkvist to find evidence to clear her name. Lisbeth was so central to the investigation in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and pivotal to the action in The Girl Who Played with Fire. Here, she is demoted to helpless victim for much of the film, relying on others to fight for her.

Despite her portrayal as a strong and independent woman in the first two films, Lisbeth’s fate lies in the hands of male hero Blomkvist. Stieg Larsson and screenwriter Ulf Ryberg have given a rather archaic depiction of genders in these films. Crimes are solely perpetrated by men, with women and children frequently victims. Despite Lisbeth’s independence, it is ultimately a man who swoops in to save the day. Men are both heroes and villains, while women always have to rely on men.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is almost two and a half hours long, and unfortunately this duration is really felt. There is such a long build up to the court case and the Niedermann storyline, that when each narrative reaches its climax both feel rushed as a result. Furthermore, the two protagonists’ personalities start to grate in this film. Lisbeth appears uncooperative and ungrateful to those who are clearly trying hard to help her, while Blomkvist appears cruelly indifferent towards the threats to his co-workers.

Not a fantastic crime series my any stretch, the series is riddled with plot holes. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is a perfunctory ending to the patchy trilogy. It will be interesting to see how David Fincher fares with Larsson’s material.

Film Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire

The second installment of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire ups the pace from the first film, creating for the most part a more immediately engrossing thriller, but one with more flaws than its predecessor.

Journalist Mikael is investigating a sex-trafficking ring when three people connected with the case are murdered. Computer hacker Lisbeth is accused of the murders and, with Mikael’s help, must clear her name by finding the real culprit…

The main drawback with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was that it took too long to really get going. The Girl Who Played with Fire doesn’t suffer with this affliction, and is more instantly engaging because of this. Furthermore, some of the mysteries of Lisbeth’s past (introduced in the first film) are revealed in this installment, making it more satisfying to this end.

With much of the character development taking place in the first installment, director Daniel Alfredson is free to concentrate on the action of the case itself. It is just a shame that the mystery in this film isn’t as interesting as the case in the first film. The missing teen and the family empire of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo presented a more fascinating series of events than this case of a trafficking ring, which is never really investigated in any depth. Instead, the plot shifts to clearing the name of Lisbeth, which entails more action but less investigation.

The Girl Who Played with Fire presents a very clear depiction of women as victims and the perpetrators of crimes as solely male. Whilst Lisbeth may not be a typical heroine, she appears to fit in with the other main female characters in that she is a victim of violence. This rather primitive representation of genders detracts from the mystery aspect of the crimes, in both installments of the trilogy.

As with the first film, The Girl Who Played with Fire builds the tension to the climactic sequence. Although the climax is exciting, it also lacks credibility. Whilst the film has an overall basis in reality, events in the final scenes betray this with an absence of believability.

Casting for the American adaptation of Larsson’s books has recently been announced. It will be interesting to see how closely they resemble this Swedish attempt.