The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Creating little buzz: With heroine bedridden, trilogy finale takes a while to ramp up
The final movie based on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium bestsellers, a.k.a. the “Girl Who Does Stuff’’ trilogy, arrives in theaters today. This time it’s “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,’’ and it’s all anticlimax. For one thing, “the girl’’ — Lisbeth Salander, the moody, ultra-fit, punk-goth cyber genius — doesn’t kick anything until the final 10 minutes (the movie is almost 2 1/2 hours). She’s laid up in a hospital, recovering from both a gunshot to the head and having been buried alive by her croaking father and gigantic half-brother.
As superb as the Swedish actress Noomi Rapace has been up to this point, there’s nothing she can do to bring craft or excitement to the act of texting. Whenever the camera pulls in close to stare at her pressing away on the little device that’s been smuggled into her room, the movie dies a little. Yes, she’s nudging the plot forward, but she’s also being the girl who holds up the line at
The first of these movies, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,’’ which was released last spring, was also full of shots in which the camera pulled toward or spun around people typing. But an entire trilogy of this begs for parody. When the camera backs away from close-ups of Salander’s most adoring defender, super-journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), sitting at his laptop, there’s exasperating suspense: Mac or PC?
That’s about as tense as it gets in “The Hornet’s Nest.’’ This is a department-store thriller. The medical scenes give way to a police procedural that yields courtroom drama. It’s never boring. But rarely does it achieve the salacious flash points of the book. This movie is one long closing argument: Lisbeth Salander has been too abused! Even the streamlined liberties taken in this adaptation feel dutiful. By the time Larsson got to his third installment (he died before completing a fourth), he’d concocted a rather entertaining indictment of old Europe. Salander was meant to be a cool, state-of-the-art, progressive — tattooed, pierced, bisexual. Her tormentors were graying white guys — entitled, conservative, corrupt, stodgy with evil, terrified of change.
Only the first film picked up on those contrasts. The second, “The Girl Who Played With Fire,’’ was released during the summer and at least retained the strain of Larsson’s lurid preposterousness that carried a whiff of contempt. Daniel Alfredson directed the second movie and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,’’ from Ulf Rydberg and Jonas Frykberg’s script, and he’s more interested in trees than forest. To be fair, Larsson’s narrative tried to get a lot done. A movie of the third book doesn’t need a director, it needs a lumberjack.
The film’s principal problem is also the novel’s: Why is Salander bedridden for so long? When she is out of bed, she’s a bystander at her own murder trial. You’d expect a woman who comes to court dressed, more or less, as Edward Scissorhands to do some cutting. With her out of commission, the movie loses its only interesting character. It’s true that everyone else is working either for (or against) her. But you get the sense that both the character and the woman playing her share our frustration: She’d rather be working for herself. Once Salander is free, the movie tacks on revenge, a dish Alfredson thinks is best served from the microwave.
As diminishing as the movies’ collective returns are, what’s happening to them in North America is rather cruel. The world now knows that David Fincher has begun filming an English-language version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’’ with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. On some level, the extensive attention paid to a movie that started shooting only last month negates the existence of the three Sweden has already given us. But this native send-off is robotic enough to leave you eager to see what an artist might do with a reboot.