I haven’t read any of the Millennium books. They’ve always been one of those modern-day bestsellers I hear the name of a lot, but never actually hear anything about them. Having recently took the time to watch through all the film adaptations in preparation for this latest installment, I think I can see what the fuss was about.
Män som hatar kvinnor (2009) was a complete surprise for me. It manages to set up an intriguing murder-mystery, while simultaneous and yet separately developing a singularly fascinating protagonist in Lisbeth Salander. Harrowing, dark, utterly engrossing, one of the best movies I’ve seen recently. The two sequels, Flickan som lekte med elden & Luftslottet som sprängdes (both 2009), were both a step down. Neither featured stories quite as interesting, but they worked because need story doesn’t need to be interesting for the character of Lisbeth to be interesting. David Fincher adapted the first book for English speakers as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). A cut above most American versions of foreign language films, the cast still did a stellar job, and Ficher’s directing was flawless as ever. Although the film itself did feel a tad unnecessary, I still felt it was worth watching.
Stieg Larsson, the author of the original books, died having completed a trilogy. All three books were published posthumously. In 2015, Swedish publishers commissioned a new writer to make a follow-up book, an often-disastrous idea. It was announced that the American adaption of this book would be a semi-sequel to Fincher’s film, with neither Fincher nor any of his cast returning. If this seems to you, dear reader, like good indication that this adaptation would likely fail, then congratulations.
This film was bad. Really, really bad. Taken as it is, it’s an incredibly generic and mediocre action movie, but unfortunately, it has to be compared to the films that came before it. I won’t go so far as saying that the film ruins Lisbeth Salander, but my main issue is that the film doesn’t do anything with her. Here, she’s just a generic brooding action heroine, something you’ve seen a thousand times before.
The writing was truly a special type of bad. Far too many plot contrivances, poor characterization, and it often suffers from the same problem as Sherlock (2010-2017), where it acts clever for solving a mystery the audience didn’t have all the clues necessary to solve it for themselves. Not to mention some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard. I’m not exaggerating when I say the script feels like bad fanfiction. There was often audible laughter in my screening, although I can assure you not from any intended humour. I can comfortably assure you of this, dear reader, because I was the sole attendee of my screening.
And can we talk about the computers for a minute? I want to talk about the computers for a minute. The previous four film adaptations handled the computer hacking stuff well. I can’t say it was entirely accurate, but it was used sparingly and was mostly realistic in its portrayal. This film sadly falls into the Hollywood trap of computers being magic that can do things that are entirely impossible. It serves to kill your immersion, as well as remove any stakes. What’s the point in getting invested when a few keystrokes can save our heroes if need be?
Overall: Surely the nail in the coffin for film adaptions of this franchise. If this is what we’re on pace see more of, I certainly hope it is. The previous four films aren’t hard to find, just spend an evening in and watch one of them instead. Generic and contrived on its own merits, a complete and utter waste in comparison to what came before it.
[Originally published December 7th, 2018]