Previously, in the Millennium trilogy... Lisbeth Salander aka The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
is a bit of a social spaz, but she's an uber-hacker capable of dishing out epic haxx0r pwnage, like a one-girl 4chan. Mikael Blomkvist is a suave investigative journalist who busts cases wide open and has lots of sex because he's not at all representative of the book's author. Lots of people bought their adventures because writer Stieg Larsson died before they were released, which makes them better.
In movie one, Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) and Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) solved a missing person mystery with the power of computers and looking at photographs. In movie two, they uncovered a sex trafficking conspiracy that threatened to put the whole freaking system on trial. Now, in movie three, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, Lisbeth Salander goes full retard and attacks all manner of bee hives and insect larvae, like Nic Cage flipping out in The Wicker Man. Not really. It's basically a continuation of The Girl Who Played With Fire, kicking off with Salander at death's door and Blomkvist sizing up the task of bringing down the Swedish secret police.
Up to speed? Good. Because things are about to sloooow right down.
The Millennium trilogy is genuinely one of the oddest movie trilogies I've ever seen, switching genres with every new instalment. Dragon Tattoo was a standalone murder mystery; an Agatha Christie chin-stroker, only with more smoking, coffee and sandwiches. Follow-up
The Girl Who Played With Fire
changed gear and set the wheels of a conspiracy thriller in motion, albeit one that suffers from driving roughshod over some of the book's intricacies.
Hornet's Nest is essentially the second part of movie two, only instead of a pulse-pounding conclusion, we get a stuffy courtroom drama, in which Lisbeth takes to the stand to prove she's not guilty. Sort of like the last episode of Seinfeld, only with more smoking, coffee and... well, you get it.
Anyone looking for consistency between movies is therefore going to come away dazed, confused and very possibly disappointed. Larsson laid the groundwork with his novels, but the differences between movies is noticeable from the ground up - slick and pacey, Dragon Tattoo was shot for cinemas, whereas Fire and Hornet's Nest were meant for TV and are visibly a little tattier around the edges. However, there's no small amount of charm to be found in all three movies: the Millennium trilogy remains a refreshing cinematic odyssey - a reminder that not all thrillers have to be by the book, so to speak.
Example: the male and female protagonists barely have any screen time together. Granted, Salander and Blomkvist share more scenes than they did in Part II (i.e. more than one), but their relationship consists of more than the usual longing glances, trite witticisms and romantic entanglements. Through pin-sharp dialogue and superb, restrained performances, we know exactly how Blomkvist and Salander feel about each other - and it's a complex relationship to say the least. That's testament to Larsson's prose first and foremost, but the principle cast really were excellent finds - now watch Hollywood ruin them.
Ironically, the series' biggest book gives the characters the least to do - it really is a weighty tome, but thankfully director Daniel Alfredson trims out huge chunks of unnecessary back-story, and with more success than he did last time round (the absent tropical storm would have been the perfect way to kick off The Girl Who Played With Fire). Salander's adventures in court do satisfy, in that same way that all legal dramas do, by piecing together the case methodically and saving a few fireworks for the end. Those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of Team Lisbeth, however, may find proceedings a little drab, and at two and a half hours long, it does hobble over the finish line. Even the courtroom set looks dull and lifeless. That's IKEA for you.
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest doesn't exactly give the Millennium trilogy the explosive send-off it deserves, and stacked against the other two movies in the series, it's perhaps the weakest story of the three. Nonetheless, Rapace remains an incredibly intense presence throughout, concessions for multiplex audiences are few and far between (Bond villain hulk aside) and proceedings remain thoroughly and stubbornly adult at all times. There are worse places to shoot than Sweden, too - external locations twinkle with mystery and exoticism.
It'll undoubtedly make for a better experience when viewed as a whole - the entire trilogy was shown on Swedish television in a six-part mini-series, which makes far more sense and I'd imagine it's a lot more palatable that way too. The Millennium trilogy isn't quite the sensation it promised to be, then, but if nothing else, it whets the appetite further for David Fincher's remake - another stab at the source material which, with the required grit and polish missing here, could end up being better suited to the big screen than the originals.