Sunday, November 14, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest: The Movie'

** Given that this is the third film in a trilogy, spoilers ahoy for the first two parts and for this film! **

My sincerest apologies for my lack of updates recently; schoolwork is again taking over my time and I haven't had as much time to read or update. I saw this last week, so this review is incredibly delayed. It is my hope (as it always is) to resume normal updating speed shortly.

And so a week has passed since I saw this and the Swedish side of the Millennium craze has officially passed in the States. I do feel quite a bit of sadness at seeing it go; now we must wait until December 2012 for the American remake starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, which is currently filming in Sweden. Until then, I shall live in my books and the DVDs of the original films, and should any interesting news come up about either the films or the mystery-shrouded fourth book, I might throw out a mention on here.

With that being said, this is of course the final film in the Millennium trilogy and it's been quite a ride to get there. We open with Lisbeth and her father Zalachenko being rushed to the hospital, both of them nearly dead. Zalachenko has been attacked with an axe by Lisbeth; Lisbeth has been shot in the head and buried alive by her half-brother, Niedermann, a blonde giant who can literally feel no pain. The day was saved by Mikael Blomkvist, Lisbeth's once-lover and partner in crime-solving, but their problems are far from over. Lisbeth faces a grueling recovery and then a trial that will determine if she is guilty for three murders and if she can finally be declared legally competent. Unable to truly help herself, it will take the combined efforts of Mikael, the Millennium staff, Mikael's lawyer sister Annika, and Lisbeth's hacker friends to try and bring her to a victory.

To start with, this film had a lot to do and a short space to do it in. It has to wrap up an ongoing story in two and a half hours, and it has to do so while managing a lot of characters and relationships. Overall, I felt that the books were a more rewarding and cohesive experience, simply because there was no way that the movies could do the fairly vast web of characters justice. Some subplots were omitted and some scenes were altered or deleted entirely. Out of all the adaptations, I found this one to be the least satisfying as an adaptation of the book, but it was still great as a movie and a satisfying conclusion to the films.

This film continued to do the things Played with Fire did that I felt improved upon the books. We see more of Millennium than we did in the first film (it was omitted over here), and Christer and Malin get a lot to do. Erika and Mikael as a couple get more screentime; their relationship is fairly important so I was glad it made the cut (again, the cut of the first film that was shown over here omitted this). Some of the subplots that got the axe were Mikael's relationship with Monica (no tears shed by me, as I never did feel that was necessary to the third book) and Erica's tenure at Aftonbladet and relationship with her husband. (I was a little sadder about this one; I'd really wanted to see her own storyline in here, but one part of it--the threatening messages--was twisted to fit this storyline. Her husband is omitted entirely.) This film cuts down on the book's many, many characters and makes the story more manageable.

The performances are still top-notch. Rapace has less physical things to do this time around, as Lisbeth is still rehabilitating for most of it. Instead, we see her dealing with her limited abilities and with the people around her who must help her. Primarily, we see her interact with Annika (Annika Hallin), and there's some sweet, flirty little scenes concerning her and Jonasson, her doctor, played by Aksel Morisse. It was interesting to see the other, calmer side of Lisbeth as played by Rapace, as she finds herself having to deal with people asking her questions she has never wanted to answer. Michael Nyqvist gets a lot to do as Blomkvist; he has his action scenes and then his in-command position at Millennium. I still really enjoyed the way he captured Mikael's devotion to Lisbeth and his hellbent nature when it comes to finding the truth. Teleborian, as the main villain this time 'round, was played to fantastically creepy perfection by Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl.

The supporting characters also turned in good performances. Lena Endre, as Erika, is yet again the normal, grounding force in Mikael's life, and her concern for him shows through nicely. I also liked that the film decided to show the conflict in their relationship that arises from Mikael's occasionally reckless actions; it was nice to see the other side of the coin. Annika Hallin's performance as Annika Giannini was occasionally hit or miss for me--I believed her as a lawyer full-stop, but when it came to her reacting to circumstances, some of her reactions felt overdone (i.e., when her bag gets stolen, when she tells Mikael about the shooting at the hospital, when she sees the tape of Lisbeth and Bjurman). Some humor is brought to the whole thing by Tomas Köhler as Plague, who is used as a stand-in for the whole Hacker Republic that was present in the books.

On the whole, the film does what it's supposed to do: it wraps up the story of Mikael and especially Lisbeth, and it gives the viewer closure. It condenses the book into something manageable and although the amount of names could get unwieldy (I'd read the books and yet couldn't remember until a few days after seeing the film who Bjorck was!), the story still manages to be cohesive and not overly hard to follow. The film cuts down on the talky aspects of the book by interspersing it with bits of action--i.e., Niedermann slowly making his way to a safe haven.

I enjoyed some of the screenplay's adaptational choices more than others. I really liked the little flirtation between Lisbeth and Jonasson; it added some levity and made me smile. As I said before, I liked the decision to show the tension in Mikael and Erika's relationship. I did miss some of the communication between Lisbeth and Mikael; there wasn't as much of that here as there could have been. But all of the book's relationships were preserved well, for the most part.

Then again, some of the things that were omitted really made me wish they'd been kept in, and that's why I will say that overall, I found the books better than the films. I really wish the film had stuck more closely to the book's ending, in particular. We see Lisbeth's confrontation with Niedermann; that's all intact. Where the movie strays from the book is Lisbeth's reconciliations with Miriam and then with Mikael, which really disappointed me. I don't even think Miriam got a mention, which is sad considering the effort Played with Fire made to show their relationship.

And then there was the thing that really, truly bugged me: the change to the final scene with Mikael and Lisbeth. The book ends on the beautifully symbolic gesture that gives real closure to the trilogy: Lisbeth letting Mikael into her apartment, symbolic of the fact that she'd let him into her life, cut him out, and is now letting him in again. Instead, here, she says thank you to Mikael when he comes to her apartment, and it basically ends with them saying "see you around." I had really wanted to see that final gesture on screen; it was what made the book feel really complete to me, and what made me feel it was really over. I read an interpretation that stated that the ending of the book was more ambiguous due to the potential of more books--there will be more adventures, hence why Lisbeth lets Mikael in--whereas the film trilogy itself is more finite, with no possibility for a continuation, which is why the reconciliation doesn't truly happen. I can see that point, but the fact that the one tiny little gesture wasn't concluded threw me more than it should have. I just wish the film had given us more closure to the Lisbeth/Mikael partnership than it did.

Overall, I enjoyed the film's valiant effort to preserve the final chapter of the trilogy in a manageable form. I did not receive all the closure I had hoped for, but I still got a film with great performances that provided a satisfying end to a phenomenal trilogy. The books do a better job at telling the overall story, but I recommend these films to any American Millennium fan who wants to see it all done right (I've shown them to three of my fellow book fans so far and all of them have loved them). Rapace and Nyqvist are basically the essential Lisbeth and Mikael, no matter who might take the roles in the future. I give a big thumbs up to this installment and the trilogy as a whole, and here's to Sally and Kalle, some of my favorite literary friends.

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