When last we saw Lisbeth Salander, the Goth anti-heroine with a dragon back tattoo had risen from being shot in the head and buried alive by her abusive KGB defector father to clock Daddy in the head with an axe and nearly kill her Aryan, pain-impervious half-brother. You know, that old yarn.
So, as the curtain rises on The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) is recovering from her injuries while trying to prove she is innocent of attempted patricide against Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov). By the film's midway point, Lisbeth is still recovering from her injuries while trying to clear her name. And, in the final act, Lisbeth works to show her innocence while coping with ... you get the idea.
The kinetic energy, character development and Greek-tragic underpinning that fueled The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, evaporates in this third and final adaption of the late Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy. In their place, director Daniel Alfredson assembles a tepid political caper, a courtroom drama so preposterous it would make Hollywood blush, and cartoonish misogyny that bastardizes the critiques of Swedish culture permeating the previous two films.
Confining Lisbeth Salander to a hospital room for the majority of a film would be like leaving Secretariat in the stables ... or making a Jason Bourne movie without Matt Damon. Instead, it falls to Lisbeth's erstwhile lover, eternal ally and increasing sourpuss Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) to cajole his sister, Annika (Annika Hallin), into taking action. Her task is to act as Lisbeth's lawyer and marshal the rest of his unmerry band of investigative journalists to root out a shadowy League of Geriatric Pervy Gentlemen that used to run Sweden, and which aims to recommit Lisbeth to a mental hospital before she can disclose state secrets that nobody under the age of 70 seems to care about.
Ultimately, two-plus hours of marking narrative time resolves with one fortuitous computer hack and a reprise of Lisbeth's Dragon Tattoo rape. When Lisbeth strolls into court sporting a mohawk, black leather, eye-liner and incalculable piercings, it feels like we are watching a parody. And when the filmmakers find one final excuse to put a nail gun in Lisbeth's hands, it's less a hornet's fury than ham-fisted homage, signifying the final nail in the coffin of an otherwise popular, entertaining series.