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 Who Played with Fire – Extended Version (2009)

fire12016.72: The Girl Who Played with Fire- Extended Version (Blu-ray)

Following on from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this film digs more deeply into the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander and her own mysterious past that unfolds here in a similar manner to the murder/incest mystery of the first film, but benefits by being more ‘personal’. Its another great performance from Noomi Rapace that clearly demonstrates how wasted she has been in Western movies since. Again, as with the first film, whatever the merits of the mysteries and crimes that are examined, the real reward here is in the characters and their fascinating arcs.

And with this extended version, there’s simply more of it, indeed a lot more, as I believe this version is close to an hour longer than the theatrical edit originally released over here. There was clearly a lot of material cut that frustrated fans of the book. Interestingly, the two leads, Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist, are separated pretty much throughout the film, which is an interesting if non-traditional dynamic that is rather at odds with how film dramas are usually constructed. They approach the central mystery from opposite points of view, and both investigations unfold seperate from the other and nonetheless inform each other from the audience point of view.

General opinion ranks this film significantly lesser than the first film, but I rather liked it, particularly in this ‘fuller’ version that somehow made more sense and is richer for the additional details. I thought in the first film the central mystery was almost incidental to the more interesting character dynamics, and with this story more closely concerned with Salander and her mysterious past, this mystery feels more rewarding and intimate.

Watching the films over successive days also helps keep the various arcs and plot threads fresh in your head too, so I certainly got more from this film than did when I first saw it several years ago (and months after the first film). The reveals regards Salander’s tortured past informs events and actions in the first film too. So yes, it’s a very interesting central film in the trilogy, and greatly improved by the extended running time.