Even without a good reason, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo got a sequel titled The Girl Who Played with Fire. The first film had a story that was good, but self-contained. It concluded in a way that didn’t leave itself open to further adventures, at least, not with the same type of plot. Making a sequel to a story that doesn’t need one often times ends up coming back to bite the people who do it. Luckily, that doesn’t happen here.
I think that the main reason The Girl Who Played with Fire still works is that there was a lot of mystery surrounding our lead character Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) during and after the first film. There were still quite a few questions that we wanted answered regarding her past. We get some of those questions answered in this film, as we delve deeper into her past, and as a result, her own psyche. This is good, because it keeps us interested when the plot isn’t quite as deep as the one in the first film.
This time around, the roles of our leads are reversed. Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) is the one wanting to work with Lisbeth. They don’t actually meet up, at least, not until the very end of the film. Their communication occurs primarily through messages left on each other’s computers. Mikael emails, while Lisbeth hacks into his computer and just leaves a message for him. Yes, she’s still hacking computers even years after the first film. And yet, it seems she’s gotten sloppy in her “old age”.
The plot kicks in 30 minutes in, a problem that the first film had as well. After finding out that her rapist, Bjurman, is going to remove his tattoo that she put onto him in Dragon Tattoo, she breaks into his house and threatens him with his own gun. Later, that same gun is used in the murders of a couple of people. The police suspect Lisbeth, but Mikael doesn’t believe that she did it. We don’t know for sure, but we’re also certain Lisbeth didn’t. Why she didn’t wear gloves when threatening Bjurman is beyond me. Like I said, “sloppy”.
The majority of the film consists of Lisbeth and Mikael, working separately, trying to clear the former’s name. The prime suspect for Mikael becomes a man named Zala, someone who he’s never seen, and is told is a 69-year-old cripple. But he’s more likely to have killed than sweet Lisbeth, right? I mean, it’s not like she’s a ruthless person who, although she uses the word to describe others, appears to be a sadist. Wait a second here. We found out in the last movie that she does like torturing people, or at least, those who wronged her. I guess killing people wouldn’t be something we can put past her. It gets even more suspicious when her rapist turns up dead too.
I’m actually making a far bigger deal of this than the film does. There isn’t a large emphasis put on who killed these people, or even on the why. When the mystery is solved, we aren’t given a lot of satisfaction from the answer. We get a sensation that makes us forget about what’s happened, and instead just want to see what’s next. And then the film ends, giving us none of the answers we seek in this regard. This time, a sequel is set-up.
But the journey that the two characters take in order to solve this mystery is what makes The Girl Who Played with Fire a worthwhile watch. We get some of the answers we wanted from the last film in regards to Lisbeth. There are even some flashback scenes from the previous movie, which at the time, seemed out-of-place. Seeing them now, they make more sense and feel like less of a waste of time. But there are similar scenes in this film, which still give it a padded feeling. It’s not as bad in this area as Dragon Tattoo was, but it’s a factor that’s still, unfortunately, present.
I’d still contend that there was no reason for this film to exist, if I was pressured, but I don’t think that ultimately matters. (And I’m sure the author of the novels would question me stating that). After The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we wanted more of Lisbeth, and we wanted more of Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of the character. Even if this film was an excuse solely to flesh out this character, it might have still worked well enough to be an entertaining watch. Since we get an interesting plot on top of this further development, it works really well.
Did I enjoy the second film of the Millennium trilogy more than the first? I’d say so. It’s tighter and I got most of the answers that were unanswered after the first film. The plot is still basic and more or less takes a back seat to the characters and their attempts to solve a simple mystery, but in this series, this works well. There wasn’t much reason that I can see for this story to still have continued on, but I’m glad that it did. There are a lot of unnecessary sequels that end up becoming a waste of talent; The Girl Who Played with Fire isn’t one of those.