Killer Queen

Lisbeth Salander wraps things up in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.


There's no mystery about why Stieg Larsson's three Millennium novels have sold some 40-million copies worldwide. The late author's anti-corporate politics and stern feminism must resonate with many readers, especially in Europe, and his juicy genre plot trappings—murder, sex, conspiracy, revenge, and, what the hey, vintage Nazis, too—are certainly an even bigger draw. But what's really catapulted this sprawling trilogy onto the misty heights of international bestseller-dom is its unforgettable central character—the bisexual psycho-punk cyber sleuth Lisbeth Salander, girl of our twistiest dreams.       

Noomi Rapace, the actress who plays Salander in the three Swedish films made from Larsson's books—The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest—is uniquely effective in the role. She's wiry, guarded, and entirely iconic, and it's hard to imagine anyone else playing the part. (We wish Rooney Mara well in David Fincher's English-language remake of the first film, currently underway.) Rapace, with her deadpan stare and flat-black thatch of goth-girl hair, easily carries all three movies; but like the books on which they're based, the films are of variable quality. Dragon Tattoo, released here earlier this year, offered the unrepeatable thrill of introducing Salander in full kick-ass form, although the story was so crowded with contending characters that you missed the scorecard to which your tickets should surely have been affixed. It was a terrific beginning, though.

The next two pictures, however, put into production before receipts from the surprise-hit opener came pouring in, were shot for Swedish television, with a new director, Daniel Alfredson, taking over the mini-franchise from Niels Arden Oplev. Salander was more central to The Girl Who Played with Fire, which opened here last summer: We were drawn deeper into the brutal childhood trauma that consigned her to a mental institution, and Rapace remained a gripping presence. But the movie felt like a TV rush job, trashy-looking and awkwardly-made, and it didn't seem to bode well for the concluding installment.

So it's a happy surprise that The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is such a rousing wrap-up. The movie is a straight-ahead thriller, filled with corruption, perversity, and smash-bang action scenes, and it almost—although not quite—justifies its two-and-a-half-hour runtime. It opens (need I say "spoiler alert" here?) where the last film left off, with the bullet-riddled Salander being airlifted away to a hospital after having taken an axe to the vicious Russian Cold War spook Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov), who, adepts will recall, is actually her detestable father. The diminutive avenger is now in a classically tight spot, unjustly accused of murder, menaced by a sicko shrink who wants to put her back in the bin, and targeted for termination by Zalachenko's shadowy controllers in the Swedish intelligence service. And still lurching about around the edges of the action is the murderous goon Niedermann (Mikael Spreitz), who's most unfavorably disposed toward Salander himself.

Fortunately, her quasi-partner and protector, the crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nykvist), is determined to clear Salander by publishing her alarming life story—filled with appalling sexual abuse and dark political chicanery—in a special issue of his investigative magazine, Millennium. This further inflames the intelligence heavies, and soon the story grows thick with deadly assassins, bent medicos, excitable bikers, a considerable amount of courtroom cat-and-mousery (and lamentably talky hospital interludes), and a heavy-duty nail gun that's put to startlingly inventive use.                     

It's fitting that this final Salander movie doesn't end in a burst of sunny transformation and high fives all around. The conclusion does, however, leave open the possibility of a sequel, and one can imagine the temptation of cutting Salander loose from Larsson's books and launching her into a series of unrelated films in Bondian perpetuity. This seems unlikely to happen, though. Rapace has already been cast in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes sequel, and there are mumblings of her possible involvement in Ridley Scott's Alien prequel. The actress is moving on. The character, now headed for Hollywood, may not be so lucky. 

Kurt Loder is a writer, among other things, embedded in New York.

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  1. They’re making an Alien prequel? That’s kind of awesome.

    1. We’ll see. Ridley has done some great work, but he’s also done Hannibal. You just never know with him.

      1. Can you detect a pattern? Is it possible to predict which films will suck?

        I do find that his later films, even the decent ones, don’t map up well to his earlier, funnier movies. For instance, Gladiator was a decent movie, but it has some rather silly moments and I think that it doesn’t stand up so well on a second viewing. Though I hesitate to criticize anything with Oliver Reed in it, who was too cool for criticism.

        1. The bigger the hype and budget, the more likely they are to suck. I for one am not a fan of Legend, and that was a huge budget at the time. Hannibal, Gladiator, G.I. Jane; they were also big budget and very hyped.

          But his stuff like White Squall, The Duellists, Alien, Blade Runner; those were surprises and had relatively low budgets.

          Stuff like Thelma & Louise, Black Rain, Blackhawk Down, American Gangster, etc. is all fine, but doesn’t make me freak out. I haven’t seen Robin Hood or Kingdom of Heaven, but that’s because they follow the big budget pattern and I don’t think they’ll be very good.

          So, after all that: a prequel to Alien will be both big budget and hyped, which does not bode well for Ridley making it good.

          1. I finally saw Kingdom of Heaven–meh. It did have Dr. Bashir as an Arab dude, which was strange for a moment.

            I’ve heard that Robin Hood was okay, so I may watch it at some point.

            1. Re: Pro LIbertate,

              I finally saw Kingdom of Heaven–meh. It did have Dr. Bashir as an Arab dude, which was strange for a moment.

              The director’s cut is much better than the theatrical release.

              1. Does it have Sisko and Worf?

              2. I started watching the Director’s Cut of Kingdom a few weeks ago. I’m wondering if it’s finished yet. IOW, it was way too fucking long (and gay) to keep me interested. Like the ending(s) of the LOTR films, of which there were at least a dozen.

                And remember this when you’re talking about directors. Wolfgang Petersen did Poseidon. Nobody’s perfect.

                1. Kingdom of Heaven was dumb.

                  Orlando Bloom as the heroic leader who … surrenders to Saladin.

                  We’re supposed to get excited about that?

                  Note to producers. If you want to make a morally ambiguous or complex film about Christian-Muslim relations, in which the Christians lose, you don’t cast Orlando Bloom as the lead.

                  Okay? Thanks.

          2. Kingdom of Heaven was…long. Very, very, very long. I saw it in the theater and if I remember right, it was about ten years long.

          3. a prequel to Alien will be both big budget and hyped

            But what will he call it?
            Alien: The Teenage Years?

            1. The Young Alien Jones Chronicles. It will star Sean Patrick Flannery as the young alien.

              1. Young Alien only bleeds vinegar.

                1. Lemon juice. He makes an amazing Bloody Mary mixing his blood…and Yaphet Kotto’s.

                  1. I’ll accept your revision.

                    Yaphet Kotto also has experience exploding.

    2. As much as I hold out hope for the promise I think the Alien franchise and universe contains, prequels tend to suck.

  2. I’m only now reading Dragon Tattoo – I think I may be the last literate adult in America who hasn’t read it.

    It was interesting from the very beginning, but for a while I was thinking – ok, not bad, but not addictive. Why couldn’t people put this down?

    Then I hit that point in the book, and now I can’t put it down. I’m glad I got it on my Sony so it’s always in my purse. I’m reading at stop lights.

    1. I’m reading at stop lights.

      OK, that’s disturbing. BEEP! The light’s green. Move it!

    2. Make that the second to last literate adult, etc.

      1. Third (though my literacy is often called into question).

        1. 4th. It’s popular and therefore the hipster in me refuses to read them. I’ll read them ironically in 10 years or so.

          1. I hear it has a rape scene in it; all us Rand fans ought to love it.

          2. 5th . . . watched the movie though

    3. I don’t even know what that is, and I’m not kidding.

      I got The Da Vinci Code as a gift and tried to read it. About fifteen pages in, I decided that I just couldn’t take it anymore. Amazing what crap becomes popular.

      1. It has to be better than anything by Dan Brown. It has become something of a personal vendetta, but I suffered through his book “Digital Fortress”, so he brought it on himself.

        Worse than becoming popular, people actually revel in discussing how deep his work is. South Park took this on in their episode on “Inception”. “Just because something is complicated and convoluted, that doesn’t make it deep.” In the case of Dan Brown it doesn’t make it well written or entertaining either.

        1. Matt and Trey really tore Inception a new one last night. Brutal. And they tied it to The Dark Knight with Cartman’s Coon superhero, so it was all Nolan for that whole episode.

          They were not kind.

          1. I’m thinking there are better targets. Following, Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins are all good to excellent. He’s by no means perfect, but there are some real fucking shit directors / producers out there. Why don’t they call out Jerry Bruckenheimer?

            1. They rip on Michael Bay all the time. Remember, Bruckheimer is a producer, not a director.

              1. It’s much to the 13th degree better than Brown.

                [Note: I read Angels and Demons, not Da Vinci, but Angels and Demons was plenty crap enough. Whenever someone professes surprise that I read romance novels – cause, you know, they suck and everything — I ask if they read The Da Vinci Code and if they get all “Oh my God yes! I couldn’t put it down! bleatbleatbleat” I slide my glasses down my nose and say, “You, madam, are an idiot. Good DAY.”]

                The narrative is kind of choppy – a lot of the characterization is done through telling instead of showing – then again, it’s a translation and I bet a lot of the narrative flavor is lost that way. But whatever. The story is a page turner and Lisbeth Salander is a fascinating character. Plus Daniel Craig is going to play Blomkvist in the English language movie so, you know. YUM.

    4. I think I may be the last literate adult in America who hasn’t read it.

      Isn’t it some kind of stupid “chick book”? I think I’m boycotting it because the late author’s girlfriend didn’t get any royalties thanks to Ronald Reagan invading Grenada. Moynihan did a post about it here.

      1. It’s airport bookshop paperback fiction. I don’t know anyone who has read it.

      2. Here you go. I remember it well because my quip got the most positive response of anything I’ve ever written here.

    5. Wait until you get about 90% through it and you realize it kind of sucks.

      Spoiler Alert!!

      I enjoyed the book but it had the potential to be a classic. Instead it turned into a Hollywood slasher script. And once you realize that most of the villains are corporations and heads of corporations and they are BOTH Nazis and serial killers, you begin to realize you have seen this kind of script before.

      I thought it would be more interesting and original and be more like a Ten Little Indians kind of mystery.

  3. I’m beginning to enjoy Kurt Loder’s articles.

  4. I haven’t read any of the books (you’re not the last one, stubby) and I might never see any of the movies, but Kurt Loder is a helluvagood reviewer

    1. Dragon was very good. He’s right too – it is all about the girl. She carries the movie completely, and it involves her look as much as anything. There’s quite a bit of nudity and her particular physique perfectly matches the character and enhances the story. She’s not Hollywood perfect, despite having a nice thin frame. There’s real miles on that chassis and it shows – not in a bad way, just in a way that adds to the authenticity of the moment and enhances the sadness underlying some of the scenes. I can’t imagine the Hollywood hottie of the moment playing this character. It just wouldn’t work at all.

      1. What? “Dragon” wasn’t all about the girl. The protagonist was the writer dude.

        1. Point was that the writer dude was bland and no one gave a shit about him. The horribly vindictive son-of-a-bitch in me approved of Salander’s take on justice.

  5. Saw the first two movies. They were fine. Euro trash anti-capitalism is good for a chuckle, and surprisingly entertaining when mixed with violence and sex.

  6. The first book was quite good, hit just about all the sweet spots of thriller fiction. The last two, unfortunately, sucked. They got bogged down in lengthy, uninteresting meditations on politics and feminism, and lacked the thrill of the first.

    1. Re: heller,

      They [the last two books] got bogged down in lengthy, uninteresting meditations on politics and feminism, and lacked the thrill of the first.

      You mean they let loose their Swedishness . . .

      1. It’s all been downhill since Jankau.

      2. Basically.

    2. The last two, unfortunately, sucked.

      Maybe that’s why he died.

  7. I want to bear Noomi Rapace’s children. Just for the musculature in her shoulders she beats any other female.

  8. Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes sequel

    Of course. His first one was hideous (and I liked his other movies). So of course they’re going to do it again.

    1. Was it godawful? I had thought about watching it, despite my fears that it would suck ass.

      A bad moment for me was when I talked myself into watching that Count of Monte Cristo crapazola that came out in the early Aughts. It was so awful, and I just got ill at the liberties taken with one of the great novels. Bastards!

      1. It was quite bad. I don’t recommend it.

        1. Okay, then!

          1. It’s Robert Downey Jr. Therefore, it cannot suck completely.

            1. it was more kung fu than sherlock holmes. i cam away bored.

      2. Was that with the guy who played Jesus? Ugh, it was fucking horrible.

        You gotta go with the Chamberlain version with Tony Curtis (who’s daughter is a hermaphrodite, btw), Donald Pleasance and Trevor Howard. Best version in color by far.

        1. Jamie Lee Curtis has a dick? First I’ve heard of that.

          1. It was all in the news after Rod Stewart had his stomach pumped and before Richard Gere got that gerbil stuck in his ass.

        2. I saw a French version with G?rard Depardieu. It was a miniseries, and I thought it was pretty decent.

          1. Here’s the IMDB entry.

        3. I preferred the anime version of The Count of Monte Cristo.

          I’m pretty sure that no tentacles or schoolgirls were harmed during the making of it…

  9. The books — I haven’t seen the movies — offer a fair amount to like on a political level for libertarians, too. They’re definitely liberal, not libertarian, but they’re liberal of the “distrust authority” form. There’s a lot of “government secrecy hides abuse of power,” a lot of, “the police can’t be unilaterally trusted,” and a lot of, “I’m free to do whatever the fuck I want and if you don’t like it then fuck you too” attitudes.

    This is particularly true in books 2 and 3, which are, in part, a rousing celebration of free speech, freedom to behave in different ways from your society, and an intrusive, nosy press that doesn’t just repeat press releases.

    1. There are quite a few nice attitudes , unfortunately combined with the two mintues of hate against speculators – the refuge of business community haters who realize criticizing every employer generally is not going to find wide approval.

      But I found the books position on how things should work quite wrongheaded. The old businessman in Hedeby was great because he put his employees first, the journalist was a hero because he didn’t care about money or fame, same with Salander.

      Systems that require large scale self sacrifice to function are doomed. Claiming that everything will work fine once everyone gives up ambition is a fool’s approach.

  10. The late author’s anti-corporate politics and stern [?] feminism must resonate with many readers[.]

    Yeah. It must . . .

    Where’s that trashcan? I need to puke my guts out.

  11. “stern [?] feminism”

    Like the stuff on Jezabel? Maybe?

    1. Stop looking at my titties, mister.

    2. Or maybe Kurt Loder meant a Howard Stern feminist and the editor dropped the word Howard to make it resonate with a larger audience.

  12. We’ll see. Ridley has done some great work, but he’s also done Hannibal.

    Hannibal is a the best serial-killer movie ever?buried inside a stupid cop show. If the events happened in a closed triangle of Lecter, the burned guy, and the cop Lecter kills?just strip the FBI off the thing?it’d be fantastic. But instead it’s sirens and damsels and shit and sucks. It’s infuriating.

    The Alien movie will probably be fucked up the same way.

    SPACE COP: We’re running out of time!

    1. Absolutely. You can only really blame the writer for that. He should have thrown out Clarisse from the story altogether, perhaps only reference her by having Hannibal put flowers at her gravestone with no explanation. The Italian part of the story was well done, but the FBI aspect was peculiar kind of retarded that did not fit.

  13. Is this the same Kurt Loder that was on MTV when they had…like fucking music on MTV?

    Damn, he must be 60. No 70.

  14. I’d like to see someone do a bio-movie about Stieg Larsson. I haven’t read the books yet either, but Stieg Larsson’s life story is pretty fascinating. I’m not so thrilled about the fact that his inspiration for creating Lisbeth Salander was his failure to stop his friends from gang-raping a 14 year old girl, but the rest of his life was spent documenting and exposing Swedish extreme right and racist organizations which exposed him to serious danger.

    I’d pay to see this story.

    Unless they pick Matt Damon to play Stieg.

  15. No, that was a different Loder on a different MTV.

  16. “The actress is moving on. The character, now headed for Hollywood, may not be so lucky. ”

    MAY not be lucky? I am quite sure the character WILL not be lucky.

    I’ve never seen a remake match the original.

    There is a nice interview of Noomi Rapace over at Charlie Rose.

    1. It happens. The Maltese Falcon was the third filming of that story.

  17. I’m not complaining or anything, but has anyone noticed that H&R’s threads have tended recently to be more interesting and intelligent, and more troll-free than usual? Has Reason installed an anti-retard filter? If so, can one of you genius programmers/code-writers steal it and install it internet-wide? Thanks.

    1. Nah, the big “Stuff White People Like” rally is this weekend, and most of our trolls don’t have internet access outside of mom and dads house so……

      1. Maybe 99 weeks of unemployment ran out and the solar-rainbow-pigshit energy “research” grants haven’t kicked in…so their internet got turned off.

  18. alt text: The Girl That Was Hot As Balls.

  19. I tried to read Dragon Tatoo, but after the whole expose of whodunnit and what happened, I was like “Is that it? Another goddamned trope?” Seriously, how can the protagonists be so interesting yet the nefarious folks be right out of central casting? Ed Wood’s central casting no less. Didn’t even finish it (the last part, which is a bunch of email missives best I can tell).

    That book feeds my little theory that its the villain, not the hero, that makes a great yarn. Silence of the Lambs was cool because of Hannibal Lechter more than Clarisse Starling. Ditto for the Star Wars franchise and Darth Vader (not the new ones with Anakin…yuk). Gene Hackman as Lex Luther was supremely awesome. The original Die Hard was cool because of Alan Richtman as much as Bruce Willis. Terminator would be lame without the Terminator. That franchise is one of the very few where the sequel had a badass as compelling as the original (T1000 was COOL). Star Trek: The Next Generation was just a pale, politically correct imitation of its predecessor until the Borg came along…the list goes on.

    1. Yeah, this should be common knowledge. An easily defeated villain means the jeopardy (of the heroes) can never be taken seriously. Think of the Empire getting its ass kicked by teddy bears in Return of the Jedi. How is someone supposed to be taken seriously as a threat if Teddy Ruxpin can kick their ass?

      1. With rocks and spears no less. If you notice, that’s the first Star Wars installment where both Lucas was the director, and he was full of himself to where no one anymore could tell him “This sucks dude…” and be taken seriously. It was portent of cinematic ineptitude to come.

        1. Now that I think about it…Lucas never made a good flick again. Willow was based on the same trope (midgets the save the day) and it was OK. Howard the Duck I believe is Lucasian bile, and it featured – again – a midget-critter, this time with feathers. You’d think Lucas cooked up Alf but then you’re like Wait, even Alf had some personality, a little bit of 80’s pseudo-sass even, like Gary Coleman from another planet…. Sad to realize Alf being beyond Lucas-vision, but that’s the way it is I guess.

          1. He produced Raiders of the Lost Ark, if that counts for anything. Personally, I have a soft spot for Willow, but that’s because of the girl I saw it with.

            1. But then just as he did with Star Wars prequels, he fucked up Raiders by making that raiders movie which I won’t give the dignity of naming (Leboeuf/tarzan/monkeys/alien/refrigerator/MAKE IT STOPPP!!!!!).

              I guess at this point there isn’t anything left for him to ruin. That’s impressive.

          2. Howard the Duck Only thing I remember from that is that wazhername had a great ass back in the day.

      2. It’s even more depressing when you find out what Gary Kurtz (producer of Episode 4&5) had in mind for ending of Return of the Jedi before he split ways with Lucas-

        “We had an outline and George changed everything in it,” Kurtz said. “Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.”

        The discussed ending of the film that Kurtz favored presented the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns,” as Kurtz put it.

        Kurtz said that ending would have been a more emotionally nuanced finale to an epic adventure than the forest celebration of the Ewoks that essentially ended the trilogy with a teddy bear luau.

        If Jedi had been as awesome as Empire was that trilogy would have been far and away the best movie trilogy of all time. Instead we got a teddy bear luau.

        Farking Lucas.

        1. Well, it was obvious from the teddy luau that he had given up on further sequels. I can understand Lucas maybe wanting something a little more upbeat than Kurtz’ storyline, but the syrupy ending to Return of the Jedi would kill most diabetics.

        2. If our trolls were any good, they’d come out loudly and fanatically in favor of the Ewoks.

          1. Hey, even the debased stupidity of such as Tony and Max has some limits.

            1. Never underestimate the power of that kind of debased stupidity.

            2. We wish Rooney Mara well in David Fincher’s English-language remake of the first film, currently underway.

              What? Pauley Perrette didn’t get the Goth chick role? But, I love Abby!

    2. The only reason the second Batman was better than the first was because the Joker was such a more memorable villain than Raz al what’s his name.

  20. Stop wasting time on this shit and review Carlos already.

  21. The pushers at Netflix finally got me to watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

    It was allright, I guess, but sorta formulaic.

    The good part was that it had the same sort of mysterious air as ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, with the investigation of a very old missing-girl case. Only fictional in this case.

  22. Right. Sold more books than Dan Brown. Or Stephen King. Or Vince Flynn. Or Stephanie Meyer. Or the Harry Potter series. Rigghhhhtttt.

    Does that make sense to you? More like, marketing hype (“sales” = possible, future printings, not actual sales like with say, JK Rowling).

    The books are a melange of Joss Whedon-esque Dollhouse/Buffy stuff without a hunky bad guy boyfriend. Lizbeth Satander is a woman without any appealing feminine characteristics, the feminist idea of women as men, and men as women. That’s got few takers outside of the tranny and general weirdo community.

    No one cares about Swedish Nazis (they’re as real as Vampires) and there’s not even a violent, hunky guy for women to “tame.” This isn’t even Twilight bad, and will flop big time when made into the US version.

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