The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is almost a perfect way to end the film trilogy. Not only does it go against the formula that was set by the previous two films, it also gives us more depth into one of our leads, despite the fact that she’s in the film far less than before. Almost everything we want to know, we learn, while there are no further questions that we ask when the film concludes. Well, there is one, but we don’t require an answer. You’ll see what I mean when you watch it.
I mentioned that it goes against the formula seen in the previous films, and this is true. Before, we got about 30-60 minutes at the beginning of the film prior to the actual plot beginning. Here, we don’t get that. The plot also takes a different turn this time around. It begins almost directly after the events of The Girl Who Played with Fire, making it the first in the series that requires you to watch the earlier films. And the plot is not a mystery this time around; it’s an attempt to prove the innocence of Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). The difference from last film is that Lisbeth has actually been charged and is in custody, instead of just being suspected of crimes. A small, but important distinction.
The way that the film tries to prove her innocence is by having her largely uninvolved with the plot. She wakes up in the hospital, and is told that the bullets that were in her body have been removed. She’ll take weeks, if not months to recover, and spends the entirety of this time in a weakened state in a hospital. For reasons that we never fully understand, her friend from earlier, Mikael (Michael Nyqvist), has decided to take it upon himself to clear her name. She’s been charged with attempted murder after taking an axe to her father’s skull.
There’s no central mystery for either character to solve this time. The majority of the plot concerns both Lisbeth getting healthy and ready for her trial, and Mikael going around trying to find out what really went on many years ago when a 12-year-old Lisbeth was committed to a mental asylum. Finally, we are getting the truth behind Lisbeth’s past. We got some answers in the last film, but Hornet’s Nest seems to be concerned with giving us every last detail that could have any importance.
Let’s just say that it was really compelling. Even without a mystery to solve like a missing girl or determining who committed some murders, we are given more than enough information to keep us involved in the film. In fact, at times, it almost seems like we’re given too much information. It’s all technically relevant to the plot, but involving an organization that we’d never heard of before this point in the story made for a bit of oversaturation on the information front.
There’s also a problem in the ending, in which it brings in a character that hadn’t shown his face in about an hour. It seemed like it ended that way just to close a loose end that we had long since forgotten about. The five or so minutes that this plot thread takes to tie is entertaining, but we needed to have more reminders of this character still being there in order for it to be used in the most effective way. Since this doesn’t happen, the ending feels like it comes out of nowhere.
If I had been told going in that we would get less of Lisbeth in the present than we got in the previous films, I would have been disappointed. She was easily the highlight of the previous two films, and getting much less of her character seems, on paper, like it would make the film lose energy and intrigue. This doesn’t happen though. Since she’s almost always at the very least the topic of conversation, it feels like she’s still a bigger part of the story than she is. And since we’re learning more about her past with each scene, we remember earlier moments in the series with fond memories and a greater understanding of her motivations at the time.
Actually, the only major complaint I have about The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is that the plot does get a little hard to follow at times. It should all make sense by the end, but with so many characters included — some of which we had never seen before this entry — it can be difficult to keep track of everything that’s going on. The other films had a lot of things to keep track of as well, but their basic plot was simple enough that you could just wait for a character to fill you in on what’s happening. That doesn’t happen this time; you’re on your own, so be sure to pay attention. This isn’t a film to watch when sleep deprived, although I’m sure someone will take that as a challenge and prove me wrong.
To me, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is just about the perfect way to conclude the film trilogy. It deviated enough from the previous films to make it feel fresh, but it also tied up any loose ends that had been left over. We finally get (more or less) all of the answers that we wanted about Lisbeth Salander, even though she wasn’t as heavily involved in the plot this time. This is the first film in the series that didn’t feel padded, and I’m glad that the trilogy goes out on as strong a note as it does.