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-Established 1997-

page added: 3/3/11

Blu-ray Reviews
Blu-ray Disc reviews by Barrie Maxwell of The Digital Bits

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Canadian Blu-ray Disc)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
2009 (2010) - Yellow Bird Films (Alliance in Canada)
Released on Blu-ray and DVD by Alliance on July 6th, 2010
(Available in the U.S. from Music Box Films)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Film Rating: A+
Video (1-20): 17
Audio (1-20): 14
Extras: B-

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Canadian Blu-ray Disc)

The Girl Who Played with Fire
2009 (2010) - Yellow Bird Films (Alliance in Canada)
Released on Blu-ray and DVD by Alliance on October 26th, 2010
(Available in the U.S. from Music Box Films)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Film Rating: B
Video (1-20): 15
Audio (1-20): 14
Extras: B-

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Canadian Blu-ray Disc)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
2009 (2011) - Yellow Bird Films (Alliance in Canada)
Released on Blu-ray and DVD by Alliance on January 25th, 2011
(Available in the U.S. from Music Box Films)

Dolby Digital

Film Rating: A
Video (1-20): 15
Audio (1-20): 14
Extras: C

Stieg Larsson was a Swedish writer and journalist who conceived a suite of ten books that would comprise the "Millennium Series". The first three books in the series - "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", "The Girl Who Played with Fire", and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" - were completed before his death of a heart attack in 2004 and published over the succeeding three years. A fourth book was also partially completed by Larsson, but is currently languishing in litigation. Each of the three published books is a massive volume featuring a vast array of characters and intricate plotting. Taken together, the three convey an extremely compelling narrative concerning the events surrounding a young woman named Lisbeth Salander - incarcerated by the Swedish government for mental illness as an adolescent, and later as an adult, kept on a short leash by state guardians. Salander has a photographic memory and an amazing aptitude for computers that facilitates her work as a researcher for a security company in Stockholm. That work brings her in contact with Mikael Blomqvist, a writer and investigative journalist who is part owner of the magazine "Millennium". The two have an uneasy relationship due to Salander's taciturn nature, which reflects her deep mistrust of men in particular and officialdom in general based on her past experience. In " The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", the two collaborate to solve a 40-year old mystery concerning the disappearance of a member of the Vanger family which has considerable influence in Swedish industry. That story lays many clues about Salander's background. Those clues are pursued thoroughly in "The Girl Who Played with Fire" leading to Salander initially being sought for murder and ending in a dramatic and bloody confrontation with members of her family. The results of that confrontation lead to a series of investigations reaching into the Swedish security intelligence service that gradually reveal the truth of Salander's background in "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest".

All three books were filmed in 2009 by Yellow Bird Films in collaboration with Nordisk Film and Swedish Television, though it appears with diminishing expectations. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has the look and feel of a major theatrical production. Shot at 2.35:1, running over 2 hours, and provided with an expansive production set in both Stockholm and the Swedish countryside, the film is a highly intelligent and thoroughly engaging production that captures the original novel very well (eliminating only one major plot strand - that of the relationship between Blomqvist and Erika Berger, the editor-in-chief of Millennium) in the process. Despite the complexity of the book, the film can be viewed satisfying on its own. Its chief attributes cast-wise are the work of Noomi Rapace as Salander and Michael Nyqvist as Blomqvist. Rapace particularly is a stand-out, accurately embodying one's image of Salander's slight physical stature as well as effectively conveying the character's thoughts and reactions with her facial expressions. On Blu-ray, the 2.35:1 image is not top-grade but satisfying on the whole. Colour fidelity seems very good, although vibrancy is subdued in accord with the theatrical presentation. Image detail is above average. The transfer does a good job with the Swedish countryside exteriors. There is no evidence of untoward digital manipulation of the image such as edge enhancement.

The Girl Who Played with Fire, though an entertaining experience for those who have read the book, is a less satisfying film adaptation than either of the others. At just over two hours in length, it struggles to cover the vast amount of material in its source book and will prove to be difficult to follow for anyone who has not read the book or at least viewed the first film. The Erika Berger sub-plot continues to be virtually eliminated and many other threads are noticeably abbreviated. Rapace and Nyqvist deliver top-notch performances once again and the large supporting cast is also good, but it can be a chore to keep the characters straight. The film, as in the book, ends on a cliff-hanger that leads directly into the third film. The Girl Who Played with Fire has been shot at 1.78:1 and has a bland look more in keeping with a made-for-TV movie which effectively it is. On Blu-ray, the bland look is faithfully replicated. Dark scenes look rather noisy at times. That's not to say that the film doesn't benefit from the HD transfer. Close-ups particularly yield the sort of solid detail that one expects from HD, though not always consistently. There is once again no evidence of obvious digital manipulation.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is an improvement over the second film. Though retaining the latter's lesser aspect ratio and rawer look, the film itself is longer at almost 2 hours and delivers a more coherent story line. The complexity of the third book is captured effectively and though again omitting the Berger sub-plot, it otherwise touches all the plot essentials that a reader will expect to see covered. The Swedish cast is superb once again, with Rapace and Myqvist continuing their fine leading work. Though all the films offer considerably more exposition than straight action scenes, this third instalment leans most to the exposition side. That's merely a statement of fact, not a criticism, and a suggestion that viewers with short attention spans should probably look elsewhere. Those willing to immerse themselves in a complex build-up of character and evidence assembly will be richly rewarded. The 1.78:1 Blu-ray transfer is pretty much on a level with that for The Girl Who Played with Fire.

On the audio side, it is a slight annoyance that none of the three films have been accorded a lossless track. All contain a Dolby Digital 5.1 Swedish mix with optional English subtitles. An English dub is also provided, but not recommended. The Swedish track provides clear, strong dialogue well-centred with little directionality. Surround effects are used very sparingly. Given the dialogue-driven nature of the films, I don't feel one is losing too much with the lack of lossless tracks, but it is an indicator of a company not really committed to delivering the best home theatre experience possible. The English sub-titles seem well done to me - conveying the essence of the dialogue without being overly intrusive. They have been included within the screen image so that for the 2.35:1 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, constant height set-ups are not compromised.

Supplements on the discs are modest. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Blu-ray release includes interesting English language interviews with Noomi Rapace and producer Soren Staermose (about 25 minutes in total), the UK theatrical trailer, a sneak peek and a trailer for The Girl Who Played with Fire, a photo gallery, and a graphic showing the Vanger family tree. The Girl Who Played with Fire Blu-ray release contains short interviews with several cast and crew (about 15 minutes, in Swedish with English sub-titles), a short featurette on choreographing a fight scene in the film between the Neidermann and Roberto characters, and a sneak peek at The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest Blu-ray release contains interviews with Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist, and the theatrical trailer. Each Blu-ray release includes a DVD version of the film on a separate disc, though without the supplements.

While the relative merits of the three films vary, as a package with the continuous story line across the films, the Alliance Blu-ray releases are highly recommended. Viewers who have read the books first will enjoy the films even more than those who have not.

It should be emphasized that these comments refer to the Alliance release of the discs in Canada. The films are available on Blu-ray in the United States from Music Box Films (see cover art and pre-order links below). They have the same audio and video characteristics, but many of the Alliance supplements (e.g. the producer interview with the first film, the fight scene featurette with the second film, and all the interviews on the second and third film discs) are missing. Cover art is also different and no DVD versions are included with the Music Box releases. It should be noted, though, that Music Box has also released a 4-disc Blu-ray set of the Millenium films - the fourth disc containing about 2 hours of supplementary material that includes the Alliance supplements missing from the individual Music Box releases plus a documentary on Stieg Larsson.

The three theatrical films reviewed here are actually edited versions of the original Swedish productions. Those originals were 180-minute versions shown on Swedish television each in two 90-minute parts. These so-called extended versions have been released on DVD and Blu-ray in Region 2, but without English subtitles or dubs. There are reports that Music Box will release them in Region 1 with English sub-titling later this year, but no official announcements have been made so this possibility should be treated as a rumour for now.

Barrie Maxwell

For those of you interested, here are the pre-order links to Music Box Film's U.S. Blu-ray releases on

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (U.S. Blu-ray Disc)The Girl Who Played with Fire (U.S. Blu-ray Disc)The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (U.S. Blu-ray Disc)

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Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy (U.S. Blu-ray Disc)

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