The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest: A Final Installment With Stieg Larsson's Lady In Black

When we first see Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the final adaptation of Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy, she is being transported to a hospital in Gothenburg, bloodied almost beyond recognition, the result of a bullet put in her brain by Zalachenko, her barbaric father, at the very end of Part II, The Girl Who Played With Fire. Her pummeled, gore-covered body was a recurring image in Hornet's Nest predecessors, particularly the first, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which seemed to get more sick kicks out of depicting the sexual and physical violence done to Lisbeth by the Men Who Hate Women (Larsson's indelible original title for Dragon Tattoo) than condemning it. Hornet's Nest quickly dispenses with the obligatory scenes of its tiny heroine's traumatized body, including extreme close-ups of a small rectangle being cut out from her noggin on the operating table. Its bloated running time is filled up instead by a convoluted procedural whose plot hinges on the opening and closing of MacBooks, and an abundance of indistinguishable old and middle-aged evil, pale patriarchs in ties and sweater vests.

As in Played With Fire, which, like this film, was directed by Daniel Alfredson, the heroes of the trilogy — bisexual computer hacker Lisbeth and her infatuated savior, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), co-editor of the muckraking Millennium journal — are apart for almost all of Hornet's Nest's 148 minutes. Lisbeth recovers in her hospital room, where she narrowly escapes being killed by the First Sinister Old White Man, before resuming friendly chats with her benevolent doctor ("It's understandable that you're tired") and makeshift strength training with a surgical glove. Once better, she's remanded to a prison cell in Stockholm, awaiting trial for attempting to murder Zalachenko; Lisbeth and her attorney, Annika (Annika Hallin), Mikael's sister, will plead self-defense. And Mikael will insist to the three other people on Millennium's masthead, when they aren't deciding what kind of sushi to order for lunch, that they print the latest issue — which will uncover the vast conspiracy that led to Lisbeth's repeated abuse by the state — before the judges hear her case.

That malevolent network, called "the Section" — a rogue group of politicians, law enforcers, and psychiatrists formed 30-plus years ago, dedicated to protecting Soviet defector Zalachenko — committed Lisbeth to a mental institution at age 12 and would now like to return her there for good so that they can continue raping, sex-trafficking, and consuming child pornography with impunity. "It's like a classic Greek tragedy," someone not wearing a sweater vest says about the increasingly implausible plot threads (which also includes Lisbeth's jumbo half-brother, still at large and out for blood, and Serbian assassin brothers).

Lisbeth's wrath: Noomi Rapace, still scowling in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.
Lisbeth's wrath: Noomi Rapace, still scowling in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.


Directed by Daniel Alfredson. Written by Jonas Frykberg and Ulf Ryberg. Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson. Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, and Annika Hallin. Rated R.

Those who have been stirred by Lisbeth's wrath and wiry might in the past will this time have to settle for a few minutes of her doing calisthenics while in stir, a bit of nastiness with a nail gun, and her biggest fuck-you to Scandi propriety: dressing in full leather fetish wear with Aqua-Netted mohawk and Clockwork Orange-inspired eye makeup during her trial. Limited to the facial expressions of perma-hate throughout the trilogy, Rapace has given her chiseled cheeks and coal-black eyes, burning with the intensity of a million midnight's suns, a thorough workout. (If The Social Network's Rooney Mara, who will play Lisbeth in David Fincher's Dragon Tattoo remake, can't scowl as effectively, she at least comes with brand recognition: The Girl Who Inadvertently Inspired Facebook.)

Having never read a page of Larsson's books, I can make no claims to Hornet's Nest's fealty to its original source. But, like the first two Millennium movies, this final installment feels thoughtlessly put together, its script unpruned and rushed through, all to capitalize on the staggering worldwide popularity of its dead author. "We have not been able to process all this new information," the judge overseeing Lisbeth's case says after Annika lays out the Section's evils. Maybe she's speaking on the filmmakers' behalf.

My Voice Nation Help

And now that I've seen the third movie in the trilogy, I will say that as a free standing movie it is probably confusing. Since I already knew the characters and the general story outline, I was not lost. But someone, say Ms. Anderson, unfamiliar with the story thread would undoubtedly be put off by the multiple small story arcs and the many people. In that sense the film is probably not worth seeing without first seeing the other two.But, if you know the first two, I think it brings the entire trilogy to a more-than satisfying conclusion. The bad guys get their just desserts and Salander stays true to he own moral values. Watching Teleborian disintegrate is worth the price of admission alone.So, NewTimes editors, please don't assign reviewers to sequel movies as you did here unless they are familiar with what has gone before. I'm sure Ms. Anderson can do a good job when she hasn't been denied the backstory as she was here. These films and novels are a single story, even though its parts are disconnected both by the author's design and the fact that the publishers/producers chose to trifucate them. Eventually, both the movies and the novel(s) hang together very well as a whole, though it is easier to jump in with the novels, as Larsson made some effort to allow the books to have natural break points. Yet it is unfair to judge the movie as a separate piece as Ms. Anderson did here. The sum of all three is definitely greater than the individual parts.


I haven't seen Hornet's Nest yet, though I've read all three novels and have seen the first two movies.

As a result Ms. Anderson, I see you are unaware that the novel(s) are in fact all written as one book, artificially broken into a trilogy by the publisher after Larsson's death. In addition, the three movies were all shot continuously in the same fashion, but broken into three by the producers.

Your failure to recognize that fact and your failure to read all three means you are making judgments about this movie which are based on ignorance of both the author's and the producers' effort to get this cold-war-begun epic to market. It is a remarkable tale about the a socially-damaged young woman victimized by a cruel and hateful father who not only overcomes her victim-hood, but prevails against the injustices levied upon her not only by the father but by the corrupt men who took advantage of her for their own purposes. Larsson takes his time getting there, but this is all part of the character development of both Salander and Blomquist.

You can't really write intelligently about the third movie or book without understanding the first two. In my opinion, you do your readership a disservice by trying to do so, and in making that misstep, you have missed the entire story Larsson was trying to tell.

He has written a book that, much like LeCarre, tends to wander through complex people and facts to create multiple perceptions from the same fact pattern. That's what a good storyteller can do and did here.

And, yeah, I should have seen the third movie before writing this. But at least I have a basis for understanding what's happening that you do not.


Now Showing

Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

Box Office Report

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!