Lisbeth Salander is back, and she’s as pierced and tattooed as ever in the third installment of the Swedish films adapted from Stieg Larsson’s best-selling series.
“The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”
At the Michigan
Music Box Films
Not only is Salander (Noomi Rapace) an outstanding hacker with a photographic memory, but she seems to be some sort of superhuman. The film opens right where the second left off, with Salander surviving a shot in the head and digging her way out of her own grave. Sadly, she digs her way out only to face charges of attempted murder. It’s up to Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), Salander’s journalist friend, and her lawyer, Annika Giannini (Annika Hallin), to save the day and unravel the government conspiracy in which she’s been tangled up.
Though engrossing and packed with assassination attempts, threatening e-mails and nerve-racking undercover investigations, the plot is sometimes hard to follow. This may be because its subtitles are packed with names and places that read like something out of an IKEA catalog.
While the story manages to engage viewers beyond its occasional incomprehensibility, the most captivating character, Salander, is out of commission for pretty much the entire film. In the past two movies, Salander was established as a cool heroine with a major attitude and anti-social tendencies. “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” is actually somewhat of a misleading title. The film doesn’t really end up being about the girl; it’s more about the wonder-boy journalist who tries to save her. Ordinarily, the switch from heroine to hero wouldn’t be that problematic, but the purpose of the books was to establish an alternative to the Nancy Drew-type female detective. And, in the past films, Salander has delivered a feminist message that has the same strength as her punches.
But this time around, Salander spends a lot of her time in a jail cell or recovering from her head wound and obviously can’t be out hunting down the bad guys. The book itself is guilty of relegating Salander to the background as well, but onscreen her absence is more evident simply because she isn’t present in the majority of the scenes. Also, the books provided alternative storylines for Salander that highlighted women’s issues including stalking and sex-slave trafficking. But these storylines have been left out of this film adaptation altogether, leaving Salander and the story with less power.
Some of that power is regained in Salander’s climactic trial scene in which she returns to form — platform combat boots, Mohawk and studded leather jacket. She swaggers in and flops angrily down into her chair, and the judges in the courtroom seem to automatically assume she’s guilty. Her appearance screams “homicidal problem child.”
Yet it is during that scene that Salander and her lawyer make fools of everyone in the courtroom and expose their shallow judgments. She’s not what her appearance suggests at all. In fact, rather than a murderer, she’s a victim of both society’s cruel assumptions and the labels forced on her as a result of the way she chooses to dress and the life she chooses to lead. Her trial is the most gripping scene in the movie because of its message: It’s not just about stakeouts and gunfights — the trial emphasizes the feminist roots the rest of the movie has left behind in order to become a more traditional action movie. But as the final chapter, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” should have resonated more with it’s original message and stuck with what had distinguished it in the first place.