The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

I come to watch Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest having read the three novels and seen the previous two films. The first film actually convinced me to read the novels, and I was not disappointed. Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy” is great. Complex but not needlessly so, and filled with rich interesting characters, it was a joy to read from the first time Lisbeth Salander appears on the page. It was a double win, because the Swedish film version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is one of the best novel adaptations I have ever seen. The screen shows perfectly what makes the novel such a great read without shying away from parts that would make American audiences stay out of the multiplex or reworking the plot to give Lisbeth and Mikael more screen time or more romance. It will easily be near the top of my “Best of 2010.”

The two following films, however, do not garner  as much praise. Both The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest suffer in that the first film is almost perfect, and that the plots of the second two novels are both more complicated (with more character subplots) and with sparser action sequences. Being the third film, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest suffers from this the most, in part because I would estimate a good fifty percent of the book has been more or less left out, including some things I would have really enjoyed seeing on the screen.

Admittedly, a lot of the “action” in these books comes from people reading or talking, but overall it seems that the choice of parsing down the novels to films was done on the basis of focusing on Lisbeth’s character. With Noomi Rapace’s career making performance, I can hardly blame them for proceeding from that point. However, one of the reasons the book works well even with such a silent heroine is that we are privy to her thoughts. As they are complex and detailed, there are limits to how this is portrayed on film, and Lisbeth does not have the benefit of extensive dialogue, unless she becomes a Ferris Bueller-sequel Fourth Wall breaker. For the film’s sake, it would make sense to focus more on Blomkvist, a character much better equipped to translate to film, as he speaks frequently.

The intense focus on Salander also has other detriments. By cutting out Erika’s move to the editor’s desk at a big Swedish newspaper and dropping the storyline focusing on Dag and Mia’s work on sex trafficking (which sets off the course of events in the second two novels), it dilutes Steig Larsson’s thematic enterprise, demonstrating how poorly women are treated even in ‘advanced’ Western democracies (like Sweden). It makes viewing the films a shallower experience by showing Lisbeth as a single case, whereas the novels are able to construct her as a horrible case study in the discriminatory treatment women across the West receive.

While the film does have these shortcomings, it is still a well put together and well acted film strongly in the European vein. The danger feels real, and the film takes the time to break down the case against Lisbeth. While not as much of a triumph as Dragon Tattoo, it’s still a highly enjoyable film.

And I can’t wait to reread the novels for David Fincher’s upcoming adaptation!

Hello all! Jill here-I thought I would add in my two cents as a viewer coming to these films having not read the novels. I know I should probably read them, but for the first time in my life, I am more or less satisfied with the movies (probably because they’re European :-)). Because I did not read the novels, my view of the films is a little different from Ryan’s. I thoroughly enjoyed Dragon Tattoo, and even the second film Plays with Fire. However, I felt the third film treated the ending of the series as an afterthought. I expected a lot more courtroom drama, and alas, there was none. There was very little conflict between characters, when at this point in the series, I felt it should have been at its highest.

In the courtroom, Lisbeth easily gets the judge on her side and is able to vanquish her oppressors in one swift maneuver-by showing the recording of her rape. It’s the one piece of evidence that turns the tides, and it was a plot device used in the very first film. Justice also comes quickly for those villains we were introduced to in the second film. Lisbeth’s father is killed while recovering in the hospital, and after a short run-in in an abandoned warehouse, Lisbeth’s half-brother meets his doom at the very end of the film. I think it’s of note to add that although Lisbeth is indirectly linked to the deaths of her father and half-brother, she herself does not “pull the trigger.” An interesting thought for the audience when we remember back to the first film and even the second film, where she was able to torture those who inflicted pain on her. No matter how justified their deaths may seem, it is a small victory Lisbeth wins for herself as she slowly pulls away from her destructive and violent tendencies.

Although I felt like little actually happened, the film was still over two hours long, and I have to say, it didn’t really feel like it. Kudos to European filmmakers who can turn even the most expository plot into something that at least holds the audience’s attention. And that’s the interesting part of the whole experience. I didn’t really think about the lack of a climatic resolution until after the film was over. I was entertained enough during the film. I just wish they spent as much time resolving Lisbeth’s story (and the stories of other characters) as they did setting it up.

Listening to Ryan discuss the numerous omitted plotlines from the book, I am a little intrigued, and may end up reading the books at some point. But for now, I’m relatively content with the screen’s version of events. Let’s hope David Fincher can add yet another colorful layer to this story.