The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

2010-12-11 11:29
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
What it's about:

After the events of The Girl Who Played With Fire, Lisbeth Salander is bloodied and broken but even as she undergoes intensive physical therapy, she still has to prove her innocence in the three homicide charges brought against her. As her trial quickly approaches, it is up to her journalist friend/ex-lover Mikael Blomkvist to clear her name – even as he himself becomes the target of desperate men with dark secrets to conceal.

What we thought:

Between the disjointed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the misjudged mediocrity of The Girl Who Played With Fire, the celluloid adaptation of Stieg Larson's Millennium trilogy ends with, if not a bang, then at least with a mildly satisfied sigh of relief. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is far from a resounding triumph but it is a noticeable step up from the previous instalment in every way.

Many of the same problems remain – most especially the shallow characterisation of everyone except Lisbeth and, to a much lesser degree, Mikael – but this final part of the trilogy has one thing going for it, something that its stodgy predecessor was sorely lacking in: a sense of fun.

The disturbing sexual violence that plays such a large part in defining both the basic plot of the series and its central character, calls for a certain amount of sobriety in tone and the past two films have very much heeded this call. The problem is though, that however delicate the subject matter may be, the solemn earnestness of the way it is handled effectively puts an end to any real fun that could be had with the story's many silly thriller trappings. This was especially annoying in the second film, where the focus had clearly shifted away from anything but the most superficial of glances towards the series' trickier subject matter, and towards the more generic thriller elements.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest
, on the other hand, goes some way towards addressing this imbalance. Yes, Lisbeth's abusive past is treated with all the disgust, outrage and gravity that it deserves but there is a much greater emphasis placed on pure entertainment for the rest of the film. The first twenty-or-so minutes still have the stink of The Girl Who Played With Fire on them but the film soon relaxes into itself as it shifts its focus between Mikael and Lisbeth, making the most of both.

Mikael's section of the film, dealing with the complex conspiracy that has Lisbeth at its centre, is solidly engrossing as a good, old-fashioned conspiracy thriller. However, the film really shines when it returns its focus to Lisbeth. She may be constrained to hospital beds, jail cells and courtrooms throughout most of the film but these limited settings actually provide ample opportunity for the rebellious, anti-authoritarian aspects of her personality to shine through.

We move from the increasingly affectionate and trustful, though cautious, rapport that she develops with her doctor to the utter contempt she displays towards her prosecution – but by far, the best parts of the film take place during her trial. The trial itself brings triumph and tragedy, frustration and elation into the proceedings but it is her impudent, prickly and yet mischievous punk-rock-chick manner that makes this section of the film such a pleasure to watch.

Such a pity then that these scenes are not allowed to be the film's climactic moments as things quickly descend into an unnecessary and perfunctory extended coda. The elation that would have been felt had the trial ended the film is instead replaced by the bitter after-taste of the film's final twenty minutes that deal largely with Lisbeth's redundant, Bond-villain-reject brother and needlessly tying up some not-very loose ends.
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest may be significantly less than the sum of its parts, as it doesn't add up to a whole lot in the end, but it's a perfectly decent ending to an OK film trilogy that is a perfectly acceptable way to spend two and a half hours at the cinema. Just don't go in expecting much more than that though.

The final instalment of Stieg Larson's Millennium trilogy is a vast improvement on the previous one.
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