Whilst Hollywood wastes everyone’s (including David Fincher’s) time with its own version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Sweden’s been busy, pumping out the second adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s ‘Millennium Trilogy’ in the same year as the first.
This time around, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is the focus of the narrative, rather than a secondary character. The film delves further into her history and the repercussions of her actions in the first film. The Girl Who Played with Fire is much more of a thriller than a traditional murder mystery – a pity since one of the reasons I liked the first film was that I hadn’t seen a straight murder mystery on the big screen for quite some time.
The film would be completely nonsensical to anyone who hasn’t seen or read the first instalment, and even so, it’s initially a bit hard to follow when so many characters’ names are thrown at us in the first half hour. I acclimatised pretty quickly, however, and confusion gave way to frustration at the simplicity of the rest of the film. This isn’t a complex murder mystery like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this is more of a revenge thriller. Except without any tension or suspense.
The Girl Who Played with Fire is tonally different, also. Whereas the first film seemed rooted in some semblance of reality, this one has ridiculous villains on par with an old-school James Bond film. In fact, the character of Jaws (from The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker) wouldn’t be entirely out of place here. To top it all off, the villains are pretty dim. On at least two occasions they fall victim to not ensuring that the people they set out to murder are indeed completely dead. These forehead-slapping moments really challenge our suspension of disbelief in a film that clearly isn’t intended to be cartoonish.
Overall this really was a disappointing experience. Where the first film made me want to go out and read the book (which I still haven’t gotten around to), the second did the exact opposite. The performances are fine, excepting for the cartoon villains, and Noomi Rapace really does make the titular role her own – it’s hard to imagine how Rooney Mara will be able to do any better in the remake – but the film is at worst, silly, and at best, frustrating.
Of course, Lisbeth was always a wonderful character, and this remains the case here. There are also a couple of extended fight scenes which are entertaining, one featuring boxing, something which I haven’t seen since… well… Rocky Balboa. Other than this, the direction feels lacklustre and the film clumsy.
Here’s hoping that the third film can turn this franchise around, because The Girl Who Played with Fire is shockingly disappointing after the strong first instalment.Rating: