The runaway success of Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy, along with reminding us that people still read books, has spawned an immediate movie rush.
In the late author’s home country of Sweden, all three film adaptations have already come out, in rat-a-tat rhythm, including extended versions for TV. It’s almost as though the Swedes needed to hurry out their own versions before the inevitable Hollywood remakes — which are on their way.
Having seen the first installment, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” in March, we’ve already got Part Two on our hands. “The Girl Who Played with Fire” continues Larsson’s story and shifts the emphasis even more to Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace), the damaged punk heroine.
Lisbeth has vanished after the events of the first movie, but when magazine editor Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist, also returning) gets on the trail of a sordid sex scandal, the pursuit once again leads to Lisbeth — whose sleuthing this time is combined with a journey of self-discovery.
The blunt violence and hammer-to-the-forehead melodrama of “Dragon Tattoo” is somewhat lessened here; perhaps the new director, Daniel Alfredson, is responsible. The fact that this movie was shot as a longer TV miniseries might explain some of the storytelling jumps along the way.
As a potboiler, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” bubbles right along, moving from one farfetched situation to the next. You’ll have to suspend quite a bit of disbelief to enjoy the film, but it helps that Lisbeth is such an offbeat character, and that Noomi Rapace creates such a peculiar presence on screen.
It is disappointing that the chemistry between Lisbeth and Mikael — two people coming from completely different worlds, yet in simpatico rapport — is on ice for virtually the entire movie. Their stories, while parallel, are separate.
The jump-the-shark moment comes with the introduction of a beefy blond giant (played by Mikael Spreitz, an actor who could easily be imported into the Hollywood adaptations of these things) with an inability to feel physical pain. He wouldn’t be out of place in one of the James Bond movies from the Roger Moore era, and the movie’s grounding in social-political reality takes a hit.
It all ends on a suspended note, which might be truly wild if we didn’t know that Part Three is on its way, poised to resolve at least some of the issues left hanging here.
That would be “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” which, at this pace, will probably be on U.S. screens before the end of the year.
“The Girl Who Played With Fire” ½
Part Two of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling trilogy shifts the emphasis even more to damaged punk heroine Lisbeth, who gets mixed up in a political sex scandal as magazine writer Mikael Blomkvist again gets involved. Less brutally melodramatic than the first movie, but still a potboiler redeemed by some memorable characters. In Swedish, with English subtitles.
Rated: R for violence, nudity, subject matter
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Harvard Exit