The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest – Extended Version (2009)


2016.73: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest – Extended Version (Blu-ray)

So the Millennium Trilogy draws to a close with this the final film. This extended version features about an half-hour of extra footage, so the difference is more akin to that of the first film than the substantial additions to the second one. That said, watching the films in quick succession really benefits this final entry. References are made to characters and events from the two previous films and I must confess that when I first saw this film years ago, it left me rather non-plussed;  not really a fault of the film but as a non-reader of the original books, a lot of it was lost on me having had so much time between movies. Its clearly an advantage to serial-based films such as this when watched as part of a complete boxset.

Having watched the three extended films now, its been something of a surprise to me how prescient some of the themes and fears raised by these films have been. What began in the first film as a dark murder mystery with subversive sexual undertones has by the end become an almost existential crisis of conspiracies and abuse of power, finally undermined by investigative journalism and the efforts of a lone individual outside ‘ordinary’ society. Its also rather a critique of sexual politics, of the abuse of women by men and the rising power of women to fight that abuse. A far cry from that dead/missing girl in that first film (and I do wonder how on earth Hollywood would have approached these last two films).

Indeed I do think the trilogy, especially in its ‘complete’ extended form, is a major piece of work and it’s sad to think it’s probably more valid now than it was even seven years ago.

As with the previous two films, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire, this film is surprisingly non-conformist in structure and how it tells its story. Tellingly, the two protagonists are again pretty much separated throughout the film, and for what seems most of the film Lisbeth Salander is confined to a hospital bed. By this time of course the characters are pretty well established and this film benefits from the shorthand granted by having two previous films set things up. The film is tense and full of twists and turns, and unfolds the layers of mystery in the same fine fashion as the previous two films did. Its a great, very adult, thriller and a fine conclusion to the series (if it is a conclusion; I heard whispers years ago of further unpublished work by the deceased author Stieg Larsson, but as it never since arose I assume this is it unless some American studio gets away with making a spin-off tv series or some other calamity).

As usual for these films it is the characters that are triumphant, for all the horrors and scandals that the films depict. These are adult characters, life-worn and beaten, victims and villains, heroes and saviours. Integrity and goodness seems to triumph, but is this only because of where the film chooses to end? We have the impression of life moving on, the world rolling onward, and have to wonder how long it will be before there are fresh corporate and political monsters to be uncovered in the shadows.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- Extended Version (2009)

drag22016.71: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- Extended Version  (Blu-Ray)

Packaged as part of the Millennium trilogy box, this is the first part of the trilogy and the only one of the books/films currently to have been (ill-advisedly) remade in the West. As I haven’t read the books, and having seen the theatrical cut some years ago now,  I couldn’t tell you what the real differences are between that edition and this extended one, other than note something like thirty minutes additional running time. Its just been too long since I saw that original edition. Some scenes certainly seemed new to me but I couldn’t be sure- at any rate the film doesn’t at all drag even with that extra half-hour so that should be some indication to how well implemented the extra scenes are and how integral they are to the plot. Of course, part of my confusion no doubt results from memories of David Fincher’s later remake; there are two previous versions floating dimly in my memory with different casts and locations, a uniquely confusing situation. Indeed, watching this extended original has me rather keen to revisit that Fincher version to compare the two.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is based on the bestselling novel by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, the first of three books (and now films) in the “Millennium Trilogy”. Larsson was a journalist who turned to novelizations late in his career,and who died from a heart attack at the relatively young age of 50, adding a certain mystique to the author and the books, which became something of a publishing phenomenon.  Screen versions were inevitable, but it was rather fitting that before Hollywood came calling the Swedes got to make their own version, pretty much filmed in the same locations as the book was set. With a native cast and language, the films were pretty much definitive and faithful, particularly in their full, extended versions as presented here.

rag1Some years having now passed since those heady days of publishing-world hysterics when everyone was reading the books or watching the theatrical editions of the film versions, its easier to evaluate the achievement here. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a fine, taut thriller with a compelling mystery and great central characters, and surprisingly dark for a mainstream piece. Indeed, it’s the characters that are the most rewarding here, making for rather unusual protagonists- a middle-aged journalist and an introverted, antisocial 24-year old computer hacker.The investigation is almost incidental; the plot is clearly servicing the characters and their dynamics, setting things up for the later books/films, so in some ways it’s actually difficult to judge this film as a seperate entity.  Inevitably that lends this version an advantage over the Fincher remake that failed to get its own sequels. That one perhaps stands forever isolated, while this one leads to The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest, two films filmed back to back soon after the first (all three made over a year-long period).

At any rate, this is an extended version that does seem to add to the original edit and it certainly doesn’t suffer from a slower pace or dragging scenes/superfluous nonsense that some extended cuts suffer from. It all works so well you rather wonder how they managed to edit things down for the theatrical cut, or indeed what was cut at all. So yes, this does seem to be the superior version, and is thoroughly enjoyable (albeit it remains a rather disturbing slice of humanity, so maybe ‘enjoyable’ isn’t really the right word).