Troubled savant Lisbeth Salander isn't up to much in "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," the film adaptation of the final chapter in late author Stieg Larsson's trilogy.
Lisbeth goes out with a whimper after the way she outsmarted enemies and went on bloody rampages in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl Who Played With Fire."
Now she's just the girl locked in a hospital room, recovering from wounds inflicted in Part 2. The girl in police custody, awaiting trial for the attempted murder of her vile father. The girl in a stuffy courtroom, looking to regain her freedom.
Only in the closing minutes of this long, snoozy finale does Lisbeth (again played by Noomi Rapace) get out in the world and mix it up with one more bad guy, but that climax is a dreary, passive letdown compared to the wily survival skills she displayed in the earlier movies.
Lisbeth stuck in a confined space is like Superman trapped in a phone booth: It's a blueprint for a mighty boring superhero movie.
"Hornet's Nest" picks up where "The Girl Who Played With Fire" left off, Lisbeth gravely injured by a bullet in her brain courtesy of her creepy hulk of a half brother (Mikael Spreitz).
Just up the hospital hall from Lisbeth's room is her dad (Georgi Staykov), the bestial Russian defector she nearly burned to death in her childhood and tried to snuff with a shovel at the end of the second movie (tough people to kill, this Salander clan).
In a clunky, talky string of episodes, director Daniel Alfredson (who also made the second movie) reveals the scope of a government conspiracy responsible for the persecution and psychiatric incarceration to which Lisbeth was subjected for years.
Fair warning to anyone who has not read the books or seen the first two movies: Don't bother. You won't be able to make much sense of it all, and unless you're already invested in this saga from earlier installments, you'll probably have little empathy for Lisbeth and her band of allies, among them her journalist champion Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), his magazine colleague (Lena Endre) and an attorney (Annika Hallin).
The villains are a pretty silly, inept bunch, including a contemptible psychiatrist (Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl) whose ministrations helped turn Lisbeth into the emotional mess she is.
Lisbeth at her best, as she was in the first movie, would have this gang for breakfast. While "Hornet's Nest" is faithful to Larsson's story, Lisbeth just withers in captivity on screen. Rapace brings the same understated intensity to the character, but intensity caged in cramped rooms is about as exciting to watch as it sounds.
The three Swedish-language films have taken in more $200 million combined worldwide. Now Hollywood is having a go at the franchise, with David Fincher directing an English-language remake of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.
The Fincher production is going to be aiming for far more than $200 million in returns from the first movie alone. Good or bad, the big-budget American extravaganzas no doubt will stir up more of a hornet's nest where the action is concerned.
"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," a Music Box Films release, is rated R for strong violence, some sexual material and brief language. Running time: 148 minutes. Two stars out of four.