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Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, The

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 10/19/10 12:20:54

"Finishes the trilogy, but not in fine fashion."
3 stars (Average)

It's somewhat apt that, in giving the novels and films in the "Millennium" trilogy similar titles in English-speaking parts of the world, the names given second and third wound up being phrases that essentially mean the same thing. They are, more or less, the same story, with the new film serving as an epilogue that is somehow longer than the one whose loose ends it is tying up.

When we last saw Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) and Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), he was calling the police and EMTs and she had been shot three times by her evil, Soviet-defector father Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov) and impervious-to-pain half-brother Ronald Niedermann (Mikael Spreitz) - though she did do a number on daddy with a shovel. Now, while she recovers in the hospital, the police still plan to arrest her for murder; the old men who have covered up Zalachenko's crimes for thirty years plot to silence her, either via assassination or by having Dr. Peter Teleborian (Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl), the psychologist who declared her incompetent, do the same; and the missing Niedermann wants revenge. Fortunately, Mikael's sister Annika (Annika Hallin) is a lawyer, and he plans to devote the next issue of Millennium to proving Lisbeth's innocence, though his editor and sometime lover Erika (Lena Endre) worries about his obsession.

Sounds exciting, right? And it really should be. But remember how the second film, The Girl Who Played with Fire, basically tossed the chemistry that Lisbeth and Mikael had out the door by having them barely come into contact with each other? Hornet's Nest takes it to the next level by not just separating the pair, but by barely having Lisbeth do anything at all. She spends the first half of the movie sitting in her hospital room, barely moving; when Mikael manages to smuggle a cellphone in, she doesn't help her defense by whipping out some quality hacking, but by writing her autobiography - essentially, recapping things we already know. She changes back into her leather outfit from the first movie in order to look incongruous at her trial, and gets an action scene at a moment when the story needs it least. One can't fault Noomi Rapace's work in this movie - she embodies this person full of anger and distrust just about as well as anybody can, but it becomes an unusually literal and frustrating example of a talented actor not being given anything to do.

That the series' most charismatic character is rendered completely passive for the length of the movie's running time time is bad enough; what's worse is that when people are doing things, it's frequently things that don't make any sense. The movie occasionally cuts to Niedermann killing people, apparently doing his bit to keep the action content up, but it's not a pattern that makes any sense (if anyone can explain why the guy by the water with the bicycle gets it, referring only to what we see in the movie, I'd really like to hear it). Stolen evidence reappears without any explanation. The trial seems downright nonsensical. That Teleborian is allowed to be the only person evaluating Lisbeth when part of her defense is accusations against him seems ridiculous, but then, I know basically nothing about the Swedish court system. Still, it seems that Annika spends an awful lot of time trying to prove that Nils Bjurman raped Lisbeth in the first movie, despite the fact that his murder, the one count where it might be relevant, is one where Lisbeth isn't even pleading self-defense.

It's not all bad, of course. For all that original novelist Stieg Larsson was considered to have his faults as a writer, the man knows his conspiracies and secret government agencies. The shadowy "Section" that has been hiding hiding Zalachenko feels both appropriately sinister and fragile, hitting the sweet spot between omnipotence and being small enough to hide. The sequence where they attempt to kill Lisbeth in the hospital is a nifty one, and as extraneous as the film's other action piece is, it's also well done. And while Rapace has always had the flashier of the series's two lead roles, Michael Nyqvist gets a chance to shine here: This is really his story, and while director Daniel Alfredson doesn't manage to make journalistic research as engrossing as Niels Arden Oplev did in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Nyqvist and the cast around him in the Millennium offices do a fine job of playing up Mikael's possibly unhealthy obsession and involvement with Lisbeth's case without pushing that angle too flagrantly.

Much of that relationship goes unresolved, of course - Larsson left two other Salander/Blomkvist novels in various stages of completion (and with their ownership disputed between his longtime companion and family), so he figured to have more time to play it out. The mysteries that have played out over the first two tales are solved and put to bed here. It's a shame that its own story is so weak that the movie is not much more than an extended wrap-up, but that beats having things left up in the air.

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