So I had a completely smug moment when I went up to pay for our tickets and said, “Two adults for The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, thanks,” and the cinema person said, “You know, you’re the only person who’s managed to say the title correctly.” Little did she know I’d sold five billion of the book, read it in a frenzy the day it came out, and attacked all customers who bought it afterwards with “I finished this yesterday/last week/a year ago! It is SO GOOD.” Anyway, while the title makes sense, especially within the context of the whole Millennium trilogy (deep breath): number one, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, followed by The Girl who Played with Fire, then ending on The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, it’s still true. Long titles are difficult to remember, like the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (aka “The Potato...Jersey...book” to customers) and A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian (“Uh, The Story of Tanks in Brazil?”). So while they’re quirky, publishers shouldn’t do it. And while we’re on the topic of things that are ridiculously long, the film The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, at more than two and a half hours, is ridiculously long. It’s mostly worth it, but you’ll be too distracted by the need to pee to pay attention to the last half hour.
In the third and probably final title in the Millennium Trilogy—there are rumours kicking around of a fourth that is mostly written, and that late author Stieg Larsson was intending to write ten—we pick up from where The Girl who Played with Fire ended. Feisty heroine Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace, now ridiculously and deservedly famous) is in the emergency room in hospital after being shot in the head and hip and shoulder, her completely vile father Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov) is down the hall in a room with a Salander-inflicted axe wound to the head, and Lisbeth’s half-brother Ronald Niedermann (Micke Spreitz)—the “blonde giant”, and someone who can’t feel pain—is on the run. Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), journalist at Millennium magazine and champion of Salander’s cause, is doing the very best he can to save Lisbeth from the media storm worked up by the frenzied attacks at Zalachenko’s house, and the residual hype around her from the murders she was accused of in the second movie. Now she is accused of the attempted murder of her father, as well, an accusation aided by her attempted murder of him years earlier as a twelve-year-old defending her abused mother, and supported by master bastard doctor Peter Teleborian (Anders Ahlbom). Yes, it’s all very dramatic. And when it involves politicians from the very highest parts of Swedish society, it’s about as dramatic as you can get. And it makes the ending all the more delicious.
Most of Salander’s screentime is spent with her locked up—first in a hospital room, aided by her hot and all-round fantastic doctor Anders Jonasson (Aksel Morisse); then, in a jail cell; and finally, in a courtroom, assisted by Blomkvist’s pregnant lawyer sister Annika (Annika Giannini). We also follow Blomkvist, and the rest of the Millennium team, as they try to find links between Zalachenko and parliament, despite numerous death threats and Blomkvist’s single-minded approach. Along with the police, aided by Blomkvist, and the bad guys themselves, who basically sit around shitting their pants, we also have the displeasure of watching Niedermann’s grotesque escape route, as he kidnaps and harms everyone in his path.
I have a lot of goodwill for the books, and the brilliantly cast movies. And I enjoyed The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, and it was fabulous to see virtually everything wrapped up. You can’t help but get completely involved with Lisbeth Salander and want desperately to see her free from the horrific life she’s had to live through since she was a child. The movie has a very satisfying black-and-white way of looking at the world, where all the good people are wonderful (though Blomkvist makes some bad decisions, it is ultimately for a greater good) and all the bad people are snivelling monsters who deserve all they get.
Still, this movie was not without its flaws. The police force came across as completely incompetent—too slow-moving to defend against the lumbering Niedermann, unable to figure anything out without the help of a journo, and in one eye-bleedingly cheesy scene, driving along a pavement and almost hitting a woman wheeling a pram (a pram! Wasn’t that trope done and dusted after the bit in Speed where Sandra Bullock hits a pram and it’s full of cans?) Despite the time lapse between the start of the movie and the end—Lisbeth has brain surgery, grows her hair out, becomes stronger—Annika remains just as heavily pregnant throughout the entire film with no actual mention made of the fact that such an integral part of the team may burst into labour on the courtroom floor. If you haven’t seen the two previous movie, it’s really not worth seeing this one, as you’d spend most of it trying to remember what the hell is going on, what happened in the past, and who that middle-aged guy on screen is. Hell, I’ve read all the books and seen the movie and I still had trouble cottoning on sometimes. The courtroom aspect ends neatly but leaves you thinking, “Wait, what was the crime being discussed, and why, despite what just happened, was this the outcome?” It felt that often one little sentence was all that was needed to make a confusing aspect make sense. But they didn’t happen, and so I sometimes sat there with a perplexed look on my face dribbling my Pepsi out the side of my mouth. And seriously, I cannot state this enough: it’s too long.
I’ve mentioned this with the previous movies but it bears repeating: one of my favourite parts of these films is the casting, not just because they’re talented actors (they are), but because all the people are just so damn normal. Blomkvist is handsome—and I adore him—and has a mid-life belly and a rough-skinned face. Erika, his blonde and beautiful editor, wears the same clothes over all the movies and has wrinkles and fuzzy hair. Salander punks up for her courtroom scene in more silver jewellery than a Kmart full of teenagers, and doesn’t really make it sexy deliberately, even though she’s gorgeous. Everyone is just wonderful in their everyday way and it makes movies so much more believable when they are. Of course, they’re all speaking Swedish which just reminds you that American/Australian/British movies have a long way to come in this regard.
In Summary: Meets Expectations. A fine thriller with a dash of politics, a sprinkle of action, one and a half teaspoons of schadenfreude, and sixteen cups of length. It missed out on some parts of the books I was hoping for—the relationship between police officer Monica Figuerola and polyamorist Blomkvist, for one—but did a fairly good job of containing the important parts. May have made a better television series—ten episodes per book or something—and apparently were actually filmed as telemovies in Sweden anyway.
GIVEAWAY! Want to see this, but not sure enough to fork out full price on it? Well I have a handful of two-for-one passes for The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest valid Australia-wide, so if you’re keen, comment here about what you think the fourth book should be called, and if you’re lucky (chances are supremely high) I’ll send you one out!