Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest Lacks Sting

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's [sic] Nest

Directed by Daniel Alfredson

Swedish, 147 mins. Rated R (for scattered unpleasant references, violence)

* * 1/2

Novelist Stieg Larsson left behind most of a fourth “Girl Who” sequel when he died in 2004, and plot synopses for a fifth and sixth book. But, if parts two and three of the film adaptations of Larsson’s books are any indication, this may not be a good thing. Although Larsson was, at his death, the world’s second biggest-selling author, it appears to me that the franchise has pretty much played out the string. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest has only made about $4.4 million in its U.S. release thus far and it’s hard to envision it earning much more--it’s simply a so-so movie that deserves its so-so response.

At the end of part two--and don’t even dream of seeing this one unless you catch parts one and two on video--our anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) was being flown in for emergency surgery--covered in filth and gore and with a bullet lodged in her brain. Well, of course, she survives or there is no part three! The title of the third installment is, however, curious. Lisbeth doesn’t do much kicking because she’s in a hospital room or a prison cell for nearly the entire movie. Part three really centers on crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and his obsession with clearing Lisbeth from the attempted murder charges that hang over her. Opposing his efforts is a secret rogue security force determined to keep a dirty Swedish government secret, even if it means either killing Lisbeth, or putting her back in the nuthouse forever. There are several other baddies floating about, including a neo-Nazi motorcycle gang, Lisbeth’s father, and her half brother, the monstrous Ronald Niedermann (Micke Spreitz).

The plot is thin and largely revolves around whether Blomkvist will release a Millenimum Magazine exposé before the good guys get killed. This segues to a rather standard courtroom drama, complete with the sort of last-minute revelations you’ve come to expect in such movies. Only toward the end of the film do we get action sequences in keeping with the first two films and even here Rapace lacks the fire she’s previously exuded. She plays the part of a woman who is defiant, but definitely worn down by her various ordeals. She plays the part well, but a vulnerable Lisbeth simply isn’t as enticing as what we’ve come to expect. Put it this way--there’s a world of difference between watching the diminutive Lisbeth kick a motorcyclist’s butt and waiting to see if she’ll ever use the phrase “thank you.”

Director Alfredson dropped the ball on several subplot themes that could have beefed up the thin script, including a deeper probing of the affair between Blomkvist and publisher Erika Berger, and more background on the motives of Lisbeth’s psychological tormentor, Dr. Peter Teleborian. And Spreitz was completely wasted in this film, wandering around more like Lurch gone bad than as a fully developed character.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest isn’t a bad film, merely a pedestrian one. Completists will wish to see it, but don’t be surprised if you feel more anti-climax than resolution. After seeing all three I can say that I was thrilled by the first film and diverted by the second and third, but it’s time to put this series to rest. In my view, Hollywood is making a mistake by recasting it and launching an Americanized version of the franchise. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest is a classic metaphor for a concept that’s lost its sting.--LV