By Adam Spunberg

Is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest the final chapter in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series?  It may be, depending on what happens with the book rights to the fourth part (see http://www.stieglarsson.com/biography-the-legacy”>here for the disturbing details).  With that in mind, director Daniel Alfredson gives the “trilogy” a strong sense of conclusion while also leaving plenty of things open to future interpretation.

In this third installment, Alfredson picks up directly from where the previous two films left off, digging deeper into the mystery behind Lisbeth Salander’s (Noomi Rapace) mysterious childhood.  Rather than pander to a new audience, Hornet’s Nest assumes its viewers have already seen the first two and want desperately to watch their favorite characters continue the quest.  For that reason, I highly recommend that you see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire before purchasing tickets to this one.

In my review of the prior films, I called Lisbeth Salander, “probably the most kickass, coolest, baddest, awesomest, Gothic heroine ever,” and had this to say about her, which is as true after three films as it was two:

“Rapace plays the enthralling Lisbeth Salander, a hacker extraordinaire with a vicious past and a secretly soft heart.  She may be tough as adamantium on the outside, but it’s the tiny morsels of femininity that ignite her charm. Resourceful, cunning, and bristling with vengeance, she exacts her revenge with a face of stone, yet speaks sweetly and sincerely.  She is lost but perfectly independent, abused but in need of no help, fearless except when it comes to love, the one thing she has been famished of throughout her existence.”

If I have one complaint about Hornet’s Nest, it’s that it focused too heavily on periphery characters, which took much-desired attention away from Salander.  Imagine a movie about the sun called, “The star with the yellow coloring,” and yet the majority of screen time is devoted to Neptune, Saturn, and some clunky asteroids you could care less about.  We do get plenty of Mikael Blomkvist (probably Earth in this analogy), which is scintillating filmmaking in its own right, but I still longed to see more of Rapace, dazzling viewers with her unique persona.

Though the movie extends beyond two hours, the pacing is lightning quick, leaving you constantly intrigued and discouraging filmgoers from checking their iPhones for the time, as an unwelcome spectrum of light blasts before your eyes.  Much of the film centers around a contentious trial, where winsome and hateful characters play their roles in bringing about or preventing Salander’s demise.  Personally, I found these scenes chokingly suspenseful, and Alfredson does a fantastic job of encouraging viewers to feel invested in the process.

As for the ending, I leave that for you to decide.  I refuse to be a spoiler, especially when the opportunity of seeing Rapace and company parade upon the screen for two-plus hours is spoiling enough.  Go see it and be ready for some exciting post-credit discussion.