Punk-Goth computer hacker Lisbeth Salander is such a fabulously spiky character – on the page and on screen – that it’s a crying shame her film adventures should conclude so limply.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, adapted from the first of Swedish writer Stieg Larsson’s posthumously published Millennium trilogy of crime thrillers, did an excellent job of translating the author’s fiendishly intricate plotting, burning social concern and iconic characters to the screen.
The blame doesn’t just lie with the pedestrian direction of Daniel Alfredson, the hack who took over for the second and third instalments from the first film’s assured helmer Niels Arden Oplev. No, to tell the truth, Larsson himself is partly culpable.
In print, Larsson’s books are such compelling page-turners that it’s easy to overlook their flaws, which became more pronounced as the series progressed. On screen, the weaknesses become much more glaring – and Alfredson doesn’t have the directing chops to overcome them.
Hornet’s Nest’s biggest problem is that the restless, prickly Salander – played again by Noomi Rapace – is out of action for most of the plot. (Spoiler warning: the following gives away some of the plot.) To begin with, she’s laid up in hospital, recovering from the wounds she received at the hands of her despised father, former Soviet agent and defector Zalachenko, at the end of The Girl Who Played with Fire. Then she’s in jail, awaiting trial for attempted murder, and after that she’s in the dock. Patient, prisoner and defendant – all of them uncharacteristically passive roles for the feisty Salander.
While Salander is incapacitated, it’s left to her ally, crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), to do all the legwork as he gathers evidence against the rogue wing of the Swedish secret service, known as The Section, that has been protecting Zalachenko for years.
Now, the ageing members of The Section may embody all that Larsson felt was rotten about Swedish society, but these grey geriatric villains make pretty feeble adversaries on screen.
Admittedly, Salander’s half-brother, Niedermann, makes a more formidable foe, but this hulking, homicidal freak who is impervious to pain is actually a pretty ridiculous villain, like a baddie out of a Bond movie.
To the film’s credit, Salander is at her barbed best when she turns up for court in full Punk-Goth regalia of piercings, chains, leathers and Mohawk; and she does get to go mano-a-mano with Niedermann at the climax. But to get to these treats you have to endure more than two hours of plodding and padding.
On general release from 26th November.