I don’t think I’ll ever understand the popularity of The Millennium Trilogy. I’ve always thought of it as the “Twilight” of middle-aged feminists. But then again, what do I know? I’m one of those American sloths who are too impatient to read the novel (which may turn out to be the greatest thing to happen to American literature since the “Harry Potter” series – just kidding, I don’t read that smut either). But the first installment of the Swedish film adaptation, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” just didn’t appeal to me. It seemed like a case of a great message butchered by inept character development and brutal on-screen action. Admittedly, I went into the sequel, “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” with a bad taste in my mouth. Surprisingly, the film, which was directed by a completely new team but acted by the same cast, sported more depth in its characters — which marginally increases the film’s overall worth but not enough to constitute a recommendation.
Picking up from where “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” left off, this new installment has Noomi Rapace reprising her role as Lisbeth Salander, who is significantly less “hardcore punk” in this installment, but I would assume that being accused of three murders would make her forget about her fashion sense. Aside from these accusations, Lisbeth is also tracking down a sex trafficking organization which handles seedy politicians and underage girls. Of course, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nygvist), the owner of the Millennium, a magazine which specializes in exposing the crooked practices of Swedish bigwigs, is also on the case and the two are once again connected through an underworld that spans generations.
I must compliment the screenwriters for elaborating on Salander’s character. She definitely felt more human this time around. On top of that, the feminist symbolism that the character embodies is still intact. With a stronger script (at least in the realm of character development), Rapace has more breathing room and thus flourishes more in this installment.
However, director Daniel Alfredson fails to maintain the film for long. It quickly falls apart on-screen and becomes a complete bore plagued by several superfluous plot devices and a few implausible plot twists. It’s frustrating to see a second act fail so horribly when the first act turned out to be semi-decent and even enjoyable.
I wouldn’t recommend “The Girl Who Played with Fire” to anyone except the bookworms who actually read the novels. However, in the realm of cinema and perhaps even all works of art, just because something claims to be a meaningful message doesn’t mean it can’t be horrible – just like at “The Passion of the Christ.”
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