With five books and four films in the bag, the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series appears to be in great shape. At least in Sweden. As far as Sony are concerned, the English-speaking audience still has a lot of untapped potential.
2011’s first Hollywood adaptation of the Swedish crime thriller series was a non-starter. Beautifully shot by David Fincher with a stellar cast on fine form, the sterile atmosphere and complex plotting didn’t bring audiences out in the numbers Sony needed to justify making a sequel (despite Fincher and Mara’s enthusiasm).
Still, if you can compliment Sony for anything, then at least give them credit for persistence. Even if they do insist on rebooting a franchise when a sequel would have been far more welcome (looking for you, Spider-Man 4).
Instead of bringing the team back together, Sony have elected to not only recast and reboot (hence the new film’s confidence-free subtitle), but to take a franchise that offered more depth and intrigue than most thrillers… and turn it into Jason Bourne 6: Jesus Christ That’s Lisbeth Salander.
First thing to note – you don’t need to know the series to understand what’s happening here. Sony are dead set on making this as accessible as possible, so any gaps in knowledge will be, somewhat heavy-handedly, filled in by conveniently timed shots of dialogue.
The plot finds Lisbeth pulling an A-Team for Adults – still wanted by the government, she survives as an angel of fortune. If you have an abusive partner, if no one else can help, and if you can find her, maybe you can hire, Lisbeth.
When she’s recruited by a government geek (a decent, if not surprising turn from Stephen Merchant) to kill a potentially world-destroying program he’s created for the USA, Lisbeth finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy that reaches across multiple governments, and a secretive villain who has the young hacker in her sights.
It’s a solid set up that soon gives way to more action sequences than The Expendables trilogy. The indestructible Lisbeth not only survives bombs, bullets and lethal injections – she has tactical skills of Bond, Bourne and Hannibal Smith combined.
Need to escape the bad guys? It’s cool, she knows the intricacies of how elevated bridges work. Want to bust out of airport jail? Of course, Lisbeth has a plan that makes Oceans 11 looks like an episode of Fawlty Towers.
What we’re left with is a slick, serviceable thriller. Every plot thread is set-up and tied off with ruthless efficiency, while the audience is given little to consider for themselves.
On the bright side, the cast are fine (Claire Foy steps quite convincingly into Mara and Rapace’s vacant shoes), and it serves as a step forward for strong female characters (Mikael Blomkvist takes a back seat as Lisbeth drives the story and action, while women rule the bad guys) and is a perfectly entertaining and constructed piece of action cinema.
But that in of itself is a shame, because the Millennium series is so much more than that.