PictureThe Girl who played with Fire comes to US Region Free Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition rendition in the TV-movie’s original aspect ratio of widescreen 1.78:1. I have to say that this was a very disappointing rendition of the ‘theatrical’ version. Filmed in a different scope to the previous instalment, which boasted a broader 2.35:1 aspect ratio and generally looked quite good, this one not only looks more TV-like in framing, but also in terms of quality. The grain level here is way too much, going far beyond what you would expect or justify, even for a suitably ‘filmic’ look. Detail is ok but really nothing to write home about, and softness and edge enhancement both come into play where you would not expect them. The facial close-ups do not look fantastic, and only the longer shots sometimes look marginally better. And the low-level lighting sequences? Forget about it, they look terrible.
About the only think that looks fairly authentic is the colour scheme, which is fairly broad and well-represented. Still, you barely notice that under the heavy grain. I could understand if this was a Bourne/Paul Greengrass movie, complete with fast edits and frantic cinematography, but this purports to be a superior mystery drama/thriller that does not boast that kind of frantic cinematography associated with more action-orientated offerings – and so we’re left with a frankly appaling visual presentation that definitely detracts from your viewing pleasure. Disappointing more so because this is a new release of a relatively recent production. It looks like a European TV show from the nineties which hasn’t been remastered for its release (which is essentially what it is!), and that is a far cry from what you would expect, hell, what we deserve, from a popular big title that has just come from a Theatrical release.
SoundAs with the previous chapter in the Millennium Trilogy all we get to accompany the movie is a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track. There is an English dub but, seriously, don’t even try it – it’s a travesty that dubs are even still in existence. The Swedish original track has perfectly good English subtitles which are coherent and logical throughout. I was disappointed by the lack of a DTS-HD Master Audio mix on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (DTS-HD MA is unofficially the current standard for any new release, and a lack of such a mix does make you wonder whether a superior collector’s edition will be available later) but the track was still quite good, and for the second movie it is even more impressive, despite the technical limitations.
Dialogue comes across largely from the frontal array, but it is the score and the effects which really surprise on this release. The score is much more punchy than with the first film, and a little less thematic, really enhancing some of the more tense or action-orientated sequences. The effects are very well represented, bringing out some great surround dynamics, and a hell of a lot of rear action, which comes as quite a shock, especially during the opening scenes. It’s not just the on-screen effects (brilliant during the tense final act) which allow the series to step up a notch, but actually also the flashback sequences, which hit your ears with as strong an impression as the accompanying visuals. And the bass? Wow, well I actually had to tone done my sub for this film, it’s that potent! I can’t say that a DTS-HD mix wouldn’t have been a welcome addition, but there’s little to complain about with this superior DD5.1 offering, the one aspect of this production which does not betray its TV roots.
ExtrasAs with the release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the second film boasts an equal almost-complete lack of extras: some brief Cast and Crew Interviews, a Featurette on the Niedermann vs. Roberto Fight Scene and a predictable Sneak Peak of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest rounding off a severely underwhelming package. Seriously? Do the Studios really have to insult us by not giving us the option to watch the longer 3 hours versions? By shamelessly flaunting a double-dip opportunity right before our eyes? Watch this space, I absolutely guarantee that this Trilogy is going to be done over again (hopefully properly, but still as an insult to fans) just before the Hollywood remake is launched.
VerdictSequels always have a tough job living up to the original, especially in cases – like this – where the first movie was such a powerful, dark and original mystery thriller. The big shame of it all is that they had the material there to do justice to the opening gambit, the acclaimed novel upon which this is based boasting a much better story than the cobbled-together, badly edited glorified TV-movie that fans have to tolerate here. The Girl who played with Fire can only be judged a solid entry if – and only if – the final film pulls off a decent enough climax. And even then this will not be a movie that will stand up well by itself – which is surely one of the most important factors of a decent sequel? Still, in comparison to Hollywood’s relentlessly plagiarised, rehashed ideas, this Swedish thriller is an undeniably fresh experience. Dark and unsettling, it offers forty minutes of powerful denouement amidst a poorly executed, noticeably abbreviated two-hour runtime, and boasts another compelling central performance from Noomi Rapace in the lead role as the striking heroine Lisbeth Salander. Watch it for her, and for a few brief moments of glory, or – better still – wait and watch it back-to-back with the final chapter. I am sure that that will prove to be the only way to truly do the Millennium Trilogy justice.
On US Region Free Blu-ray the release immediately sticks out as belaying the TV-origins of the material, with a frankly poor video presentation that is mottled with grain. The audio track is actually quite impressive, but it is still just a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 offering, and the almost complete lack of extras only adds insult to injury. Considering that the complete trilogy was released some time back in Sweden – each film in its unabridged 3 hour form – it is clear that this package has been quickly cobbled-together (much like the theatrical cut) in order to cash in on the name. No doubt there will be a vastly superior Millennium Trilogy box-set on the way, hopefully totally remastered and complete with seamlessly branched Theatrical and Extended Cuts, and a plethora of quality extras. That’s the one to wait for – as then you will not only be able to enjoy the longer, hopefully superior versions, but you will also be able to watch the movies back-to-back, something which will no doubt infinitely benefit this somewhat unsatisfactory, badly-paced version of the already largely unresolved middle story in the must-see trilogy.
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