Released internationally earlier this year, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest was the final installment of the late author Stieg Larsson's popular Millennium Series of novels. Now the film adaption is also hitting U.S. theatres, wrapping up the rapid import of the Swedish series that began this past March with the release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Eleven months is quite possibly some kind of record for overseas delivery. With David Fincher already helming an English-language remake, it may also be some kind of record for Hollywood co-opting a foreign phenomenon.
A scant eight months later, the arrival of Hornet's Nest feels more like an anticlimax than a triumphant finish. Though better than the middle installment, The Girl Who Played with Fire, the conclusion doesn't quite have the same snap as the original. It is a long way from the murder mystery of Dragon Tattoo, with the story of Lisbeth Salander now part of a full-blown government conspiracy reaching back before she was even born. It's dry stuff, lots of paper shuffling and some very old spies sitting around reminiscing about the Cold War. Not exactly the blood and gore of ritualized murder that got the whole thing going.
It also doesn't help that the series' main attraction is sidelined for much of this third film. Played once again by Noomi Rapace, Lisbeth spends the first half of the movie in a hospital bed, and most of the second half behind bars. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest may have the championship team back together, but the star player is on the bench.
For those wondering, the plot goes something like this: after the brutal showdown at the end of Played with Fire, Lisbeth has barely survived and is now charged with attempted murder. Her intended victim in all this, as it turned out, was a Russian spy being hidden by the Swedish government, and his re-emergence into the public eye has gotten his handlers worried that their own covert operations might be exposed. These men have been responsible for most of the tragedy that has befallen Lisbeth in her life, and this may be her one shot at getting revenge. Investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is hellbent on clearing his friend's name, and he is devoting his magazine and resources to exposing the conspiracy and getting Salander's story to the public.
And that is what Hornet's Nest mainly focuses on: digging up dirt and analyzing said dirt. Like Part II, the third one is directed by Daniel Alfredson, working from a script by returning screenwriter Jonas Frykberg and new scribe Ulf Ryberg, and this time the team takes a procedural route: lots of sifting through files, lots of talking over the facts, and very little action. Add to that the fact that the whole movie is set in the gray of autumn and paced like an early-morning tea, and you'll begin to understand why, though it's not particularly bad, Hornet's Nest is not all that memorable. For a series that started with a bang, it ends not with a whimper, but a stifled yawn.
Noomi Rapace continues to be the main reason to stick the trilogy out, even if she does have much less to do. Here she shows us how the hard case Salander begins to soften. With even less dialogue than previously, it's a mostly physical performance, with the main action centered on her face. Rapace does most of her acting via expressions rather than gestures or vocal inflection. There is never a moment where she breaks character, and as a complete performance, the arc from Dragon Tattoo to Hornet's Next is remarkable.
It's just too bad the story couldn't have maintained the same rigor. Word to the wise, too, anyone who hasn't seen the first two films will find The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest utterly impenetrable. Alfredson makes no attempt to stand the movie on its own two feet. If you are curious about the Millennium Series, go back to the start and work your way in this direction.
The indoctrinated, on the other hand, will be fine sticking it out and seeing The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest through to its end. You will be left with a sense that it could have been and should have been better, and despite the fact that it won't have Noomi Rapace, we can maybe keep our fingers crossed that if the U.S. take on the franchise makes it this far, they'll come up with the movie we hoped this one would be.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with JoŽlle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent project is the comedy series Spell Checkers, again with Jones and artist Nicolas Hitori de. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.