Monday, October 25, 2010

Larsson's Millennium Trilogy closes with GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST

Stieg Larsson's world-famous Millennium Trilogy -- "The Girl..." novels and their respective movie versions -- finally draws to a fitting finish with this week's opening of THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST. The trilogy's 429-minute movie-marathon length (just over seven hours), putting to shame the mere 330-minutes (five-and-one-half hours) of the tri-part Carlos, may have seemed like easier going, due to the length of time audiences had to wait between each feature's release. Although the glossy and gorgeous first of the series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was made for theatrical release, parts two (The Girl Who Played With Fire) and three were made for and shown first on Scandinavian television.

While a difference in "quality" certainly shows up, this is in no way a bad thing, for the aforementioned quality resides only in the glossiness of number one. In terms of content and originality, while all three sections are awash in cliché, the most overused tropes, themes and villains are to be found in "Dragon Tattoo."  "Played With Fire" & "Hornet's Nest" offer by far the more interesting variations on stereotypes, and their grittier look and feel better fits the dark and nasty goings-on. (Oh, yes -- and Scandinavian TV is clearly closer in style and content to American cable television than it is to our network TV.)

The director of parts two and three, Daniel Alfredson (shown above) knows his way around pacing, performance, style and sets -- not to mention grunge and sleaze -- so consider yourself in good hands with this final episode, just as you were in Part Two. And though each film has a separate story, characters and villain(s), there is even more overlap between the second and third films than there was between the first and either of its follow-ups.

You no doubt  figured out, as Played With Fire drew to its close, that you'd be seeing more of a certain beefy blond (above) who feels no pain. He's back, all right, but even more interesting are certain other new naughty boys like the fellow with flowers (below), who wins my vote as the best, most surprising, and certainly the most "elderly" bad guy of the year (so far).

The title character and heroine (in all three movies) Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace, below, left) is more subdued here, since -- nearly dead by the end of Part Two -- she takes awhile to recuperate, under the caring and fortunately very smart mind and hands of her sympathetic doctor (below, right). And our hero, crusading reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist, shown two photos below, and not much seen in Part Two), is back again in spades -- which is all to the good.

If you're one of those, like me, who prefer seeing the movies to reading the books, I'll give nothing more away about plot or characters -- except to say that the threat here is from not just some very scary villains, as in Parts One and Two, but also from a more insidious power source. I'll also say that I wish that the late novelist Larsson, along with his filmmakers, could have shied away from using so many nick-of-time escapes and convenient coincidence -- of which a very little goes a long way.

Still, by the finale, you may feel as did I that justice, at long, long last, has been served. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest become the best of the series simply by virtue of providing proper closure and fulfillment to our "Girl's" long search. And in its handling of the relationship between Salander and Blomkvist, it offers a depth and maturity that few other movies of this type achieve. I still don’t find this whole series to be any great shakes. But it's good shakes. And that should be enough for most fans.

The movie, distributed, as are all three in the series, by Music Box Films, opens nationwide in a very large limited release this Friday, October 29, and will expand to many more venues in the coming weeks. You can find all playdates with cities and theaters, listed here. Simply click and then scroll down.

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