This made-for-TV expansion of the three films based on the late Stieg Larsson's series of novels -- THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Män som hattar kvinnor, 2009; directed by Niels Arden Oplev), THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (Flickan som lekte med elden, 2009; directed by Daniel Alfredson) and THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST (Luftslottet som sprängdes, 2009; also directed by Alfredson) -- adds over two hours of footage to the films as released separately, resulting in a six-part series running 558 minutes.
I did not see the films individually, but the common response I heard was that they started out well then grew increasingly ridiculous; to the contrary, I found the miniseries experience remarkably balanced and entertaining. It's exceptionally good television, but television has never adapted well to the big screen, being keyed to more intimate viewing. This is not to say it isn't occasionally ludicrous -- it's clueless about how magazines are produced, for example. Donna and I laughed when we saw Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nykqvist), crusading editor of the magazine MILLENNIUM, standing with his printer as a new issue was rolling off the presses, finished and perfect bound in great numbers, and asking the printer if a color on the front cover might be bumped up a bit! Also, though everyone in the MILLENNIUM office has a computer, the page spreads of the issue in progress are shown posted on a wall, so that the staff can pass by and note how well it's shaping up. So who knows how far afield the story goes from the facts of Swedish courtroom procedure or anything else... and really, who cares? The story has some socially responsible comments to make, particularly concerning cruelty towards women and how a male political hierarchy encourages secret exhibitions of abuse, but -- as the serial format practically screams -- it's not significantly more than escapist entertainment.
Noomi Rapace, though not Lisbeth Salander as Larsson described her (as a kind of adult Pippi Longstocking), is a fascinating heroine, withholding herself from the viewer and her fellow characters as she grows increasingly spiky in response to her distrust of the world around her. Nykvist is a robust hero, and I also liked Lena Endre as his warm but believably frazzled co-worker and lover Erika. (Where is the husband we keep hearing about? Evidently happily preoccupied elsewhere.) The supporting cast includes Per Oscarsson in one of his last roles as Lisbeth's last remaining relative, and the villains of the three respective pieces -- Peter Andersson as Lisbeth's abusive guardian, Georgi Staykov as Zalachenko, Anders Ahlbom as Dr. Teleborian, and Mikael Sprietz as the lumbering blonde giant -- are all top notch. Viewers may be left wondering why all the hubbub about the dragon tattoo, which is scarcely shown or mentioned; it's my reading of the story that it's there as a symbol of the pain inflicted upon Lisbeth by society, which is the dragon she must slay. Watching her do it is a pleasure, especially in this more detailed presentation.
Viewed on Netflix.