Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy has been planned to be a series of ten books but due to Larsson's death only the first three novels have been completed. The trilogy is about Lisbeth Salander, a troubled young woman with great computer hacking skills and Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist and editor of Millennium, a magazine with an inclination towards criminal investigations. The trilogy is comprised of the books Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women), Flickan som lekte med elden (The Girl Who Played with Fire) and Luftslottet som sprängdes (The Air Castle That Blew up). The titles that have been used for publishing the books in English are The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest and I am going to use mostly them while reviewing the Swedish films based on the Millennium trilogy below.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women)
The first book of Stieg Larsson's bestselling novels has already been filmed twice. The future will show whether it will be the best installment in the American version of the series but it is clearly the most successful effort of the three Swedish movies. This could be due to the still fresh introduction of the two unknown and unconventional main characters or it could be attributed to the quality of the plot. Either way The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the most shocking, thrilling and accomplished film in the Swedish adaptation of the Millennium trilogy. In the first installment of the series, Salander and Blomkvist investigate a 40-year-old case of a missing woman and some shocking events related to it. In parallel, we are introduced to the dark side of Lisbeth's past and present existence. Lisbeth Salander's outward fragility and unrestful sleep combined with her formidable composure and uncanny attractiveness disarm you and involve you in the story with ease. Noomi Rapace seems like the perfect choice for the role of Lisbeth but Michael Nyqvist is also a very good cast for the part of Mikael Blomkvist. He is really believable in the skin of the determined and honest Millennium journalist. Even the look of his blue eyes helps a lot. We should also note that the rest of the actors sport great supporting performances. The film is easily recommendable for either viewing it on its own or as a part of the trilogy. It is also a good reference to compare the recent American release with.
The Girl Who Played with Fire / Flickan som lekte med elden
The second installment in the Swedish film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy is probably the weakest of the three movies. One of its issues is that Lisbeth Salander becomes a main subject of the investigations in the film and this somehow limits the story and makes it more predictable. Another weaker point is related to the increased improbability of the narrative. There is a good deal of events that won't make you agree with the filmmakers' decisions, especially at the times when a big blonde guy called Ronald Niedermann copes (or not) with his victims and Lisbeth. Finally, some of the violent scenes lack an appropriate atmosphere. The story could still be considered interesting but it is not delivered on the same quality level as the first part. The movie does not stand good on its own cause it is closely related with the third film and practically does not have a clear ending. Thus it is not advisable to see only the second piece of the trilogy. Either go for the entire series or just skip this one.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest / Luftslottet som sprängdes (The Air Castle That Blew up)
Since it continues the subplot of the second film, the third installment in the Millenium series shares some of its defects as well. The story still revolves around Lisbeth Salander and hence suffers from the limitations of the previous movie. The unlikeliness of the narrative is not quite striking though and the film offers a few highlights (in addition to Noomi Rapace new hair-style). For example, the scenes in the court are likeable although a little bit artificial. The main issue with the third installment is that it lacks actual climax and the court trial directly offers the practical denouement. There is a final confrontation, which is probably intended to compensate the aforementioned lack of climax but in fact, this clash sequence is not fitted very well into the narrative. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest is slightly better than its predecessor but still it is not as good as the first film and it is not suitable enough for a separate viewing. Consider it only as a part of the whole Millenium trilogy.
It is good to observe that the first part of the Swedish adaptation has been directed by Niels Arden Oplev while director Daniel Alfredson has made the next two films of the Millennium trilogy. This fact has surely left some mark on the creation of the series. My advice is to either see only The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or the entire Millennium trilogy. Choosing just the second and/or the third movie is not a good option.