The second installment in the film adaptation of the late Stieg Larsson's large-scale crime trilogy Millennium pales in comparison to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The compelling Noomi Rapace returns as the series' bisexual goth-girl computer hacker heroine Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth has taken the money she appropriated at the end of the first film to see the world and purchase a chic apartment in Stockholm.
Her court-appointed guardian, who raped her at great personal expense when she took revenge in the first installment, turns up dead shortly after she pays him a visit. Lisbeth becomes a fugitive from the law after learning that she's the primary suspect.
Meanwhile, two romantically attached journalists working on a sex-trafficking story for Lisbeth's journalist/publisher pal Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) also turn up murdered. Once again, fingerprints at the scene of the crime point to Lisbeth as the shooter. Convinced of her innocence, Blomkvist initiates his own investigation into the upper echelons of Swedish society implicated in the sex trafficking cover-up.
The trouble with the story is that the mystery isn't as compelling as that of the first installment, and the story is back-loaded to a fault. We wait impatiently for Lisbeth and Blomkvist to unite and work together as they did in the first film, but the moment never arrives.
As with this year's Red Riding Trilogy, the Millennium triad proves a problematic format for sustaining thematic energy and emotional truth. Where The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was layered with a depth of dramatic tension around a 40-year-old mystery involving the disappearance of a woman connected to a Kennedy-esque political family, the sequel spells out a more prosaic storyline. Grade: C
Opens July 23.