Reviewer:Glenn Heath Jr.
Rating (out of 5): *½
“The Millennium Trilogy” adapts Stieg Larrson's uber-popular books series into a cinematic war of attrition, a languishing, trite, and plodding trilogy of films so laborious the thriller tropes that should be exciting quickly turn to narrative quicksand. Occasionally harrowing and always slimy, The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo offers promising first shots across the bow, introducing journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) as an extremely oddly-matched duo investigating a string of serial murders. The Girl Who Played With Fire loses the first film's chilly aesthetic for a more bland television look, digging narrative trenches and expanding the front to include Lisbeth's dangerous familial past. Finally, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest prolongs the crummy boob tube craftsmanship while merely repeating the convoluted patterns and devices hammered home in the first two entries. While so much is said and done throughout this bloated train of side tangents and red herrings, absolutely nothing substantive happens.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest remains the most effortlessly inert of the bunch because unlike its predecessors, it doesn't even clearly address the brutal creed defining the series: Vengeance against men who hate women. Lisbeth, the series' most unstable and unique character, is relegated to a prison cell for most of the film, rendering her almost useless. Mikael blunders his way to key information about a secret service group inventively dubbed “The Section”, cranky old men who are willing to kill anyone to cover up past indiscretions.
Yet the film is devoid of tension since the group's evil whims aren't uniquely perpetrated against women (a motivation that made Lisbeth's calculating heinousness in the first two films interesting). It's clear early on that the focus of “The Section” is just to continue their puppet-master status, representing just another faceless form of fascism that doesn't expand past faceless goons and curmudgeons.
Director Daniel Alfredson glorifies every twist as profound cinematic storytelling, holding on close-ups and cuing musical crescendos with more pitch-perfect timing than any Spielberg film. Logic is thrown out the window on a consistent basis, and even laughably questioned by some characters in the film. After a shooter attempts to assassinate Lisbeth in the hospital room, one of the nurses asks a colleague, “You'd think the police would be on guard.” The inanity of the plot is even apparent to the fictional characters traversing the languid screenplay.
Ultimately, the film dives into so many vast and unnecessary corners of the story that certain trivial moments take up entire sequences, ballooning each subplot in the process. So instead of relishing its B movie whims, Hornet's Nest plays it safe, endlessly building to a paint-by-numbers court case that simply answers the questions any keen audience member has already solved hours before. This amateurish finale pails in comparison to even the most remedial Law and Order episode.
When The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest finally wraps, the titular hive of evildoers go out not with a bang, but with a whimper, showing once again how the filmmakers fail to deliver on even the most basic promises. Conspiracies are thwarted, murderers caught, yet Lisbeth and Mikael stand exactly where they were when the trilogy began. This is not a commentary on the futility of love or heroism, but a pristine example of how the film's thematic wheels fruitlessly turn forward, never realizing the entire series is permanently stuck in reverse.
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