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Reviews: 'The Girl Who Kicked Hornet's Nest' and an IMAX journey through 'Arabia'

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (R) (148 min.) — Concluding the popular Swedish trilogy as American versions take shape, filmmaker Daniel Alfredson recaptures the provocative appeal of the superior first film (which he didn't direct) that was strangely missing from the second (which he did). It's almost as if The Girl Who Played with Fire never needed to exist, another example of midsection movie flab.

But the second film did leave the hacker-punk hero Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) in a sticky situation: nearly killed by her father (Georgi Staykov) and half-brother (Micke Spreitz), and framed for the murder of her rapist guardian. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest picks up with Lisbeth hospitalized and facing trial and investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) sorting through a government conspiracy to silence her.

Nearly all major plot twists reach back to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that kicked off the Lisbeth Salander phenomenon in film and Stieg Larsson's novels. It is practically impossible for anyone who hasn't read the books to grasp the story's scope (or Lisbeth's iconic status) without seeing the first two films. For the initiated, however, Alfredson weaves a tidy web from loose ends left dangling.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest left me wondering how the planned English language remakes may differ. For one thing, hiring a star like Daniel Craig to play Mikael ensures the character won't be essentially a distracting bystander, as parts 2 and 3 relegated him to be. That should reduce the pressure on Rooney Mara (The Social Network), taking over Lisbeth's role from the astonishing Rapace. Lisbeth's revenge quest, with its lurid elements of incest, sexual assault, child pornography and torture, will surely be sanitized for American tastes.

Shown with English subtitles, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest opens Friday at Tampa Theatre. B+

Steve Persall, Times film critic

Arabia (Not rated, probably G) (46 min.) — Directed by IMAX veteran Greg MacGillivray (The Living Sea, Everest), Arabia delivers the quintessential IMAX trip. Panoramic helicopter shots take us swooping over deserts, diving through Red Sea reefs, and hovering over cityscapes like Riyadh's.

The film also teaches, whirlwind-style, 2,000 years of Arabia's history: from the ancient tombs carved from sheer sandstone cliffs, to discoveries in optics, algebra, physics and engineering that predated Europe's Renaissance by centuries. Re-enacted scenes — with Helen Mirren narrating over digital effects — explain the rise and fall and rise again of the Arabian empire.

Despite the limitations of the IMAX genre, Arabia strikes a fair balance between information and spectacle. The film closes with breathtaking aerial shots of the hajj, as 3 million Muslim pilgrims descend on Mecca and circle the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure that was supposedly built by Abraham. It is here we are reminded that Muslims, Christians and Jews share the same heritage, and perhaps a more cooperative future.

Now showing in the IMAX DomeTheater at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry.

Ethan Gilsdorf, Boston Globe

Reviews: 'The Girl Who Kicked Hornet's Nest' and an IMAX journey through 'Arabia' 10/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 4:30am]
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