The Girl Who Played With Fire (15), Scott Pilgrim VS The World (12a), (3/5,2/5)

Another stab at vice and men

This second instalment of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy wires into the same deep anxieties and naked wish-fulfilment as last year's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

It exposes the brutish sexual humiliations men inflict upon women, and on a public level it takes to task an underlying rottenness in Sweden's body politic – its governors, its judiciary, its businessmen. Part of the story's appeal lies in the fact that an often violent comeuppance is handed out to the perpetrators. The wish-fulfilment goes even deeper in establishing the avenging angel as a woman. That would be Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a cool, flinty, elusive computer hacker who exacted a memorable revenge on her sleazeball "guardian" in the first movie. The latter is embroiled in a further malfeasance that obliges Lisbeth to return to Sweden from exile, which in turn drags up horrible memories of her incendiary relationship with her father. Meanwhile, her fellow sleuth from the last film, the campaigning journo Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), is pursuing a sex-trafficking story that hits a bump when two of his colleagues are murdered; thickening the plot, Lisbeth is marked by the police as the chief suspect in the case.

The difference here is that Lisbeth has chosen to operate without Mikael, either as sidekick or bedfellow, though they play cat-and-mouse with one another via electronic media. The script, adapted by Jonas Frykberg, keeps them apart until virtually the last scene of the film, which shifts the emphasis from a relationship-driven movie to a plot-driven one. It means that Noomi Rapace becomes an even more taciturn and unsmiling presence as she continues her implacable pursuit of "sadistic pigs and rapists", usually unmanning them with a prod from her Taser before eliciting a full confession of their wrongdoing. The only other thing her character does with any relish is smoking. Hardly a scene goes by without her puffing away, and indeed she receives a lover's gift of a cigarette case, as anachronistic nowadays as spats or a monocle. It will be interesting to see if her nicotine habit survives in the imminent US remake of the trilogy. Co-star Nyqvist carries spiritual disappointment in every line of his pouchy, unglamorous face; in another lifetime he could have headed up Ingmar Bergman's repertory of lost souls. The cast is juiced up by a blond man-mountain of a baddie (Micke Spreitz) whose analgesic condition makes him invulnerable even to a Taser in the testicles (ouch).

For all the excellence of the playing, however, you'd be pushed to call this second part anything more than satisfactory. It has the competence of a decent TV cop procedural, with good location work and lugubrious Nordic lighting to render it distinctive – but no more. It intrigues, it unsettles, it occasionally appals; it does not excite. And now that Lisbeth has proven herself almost indestructible – the book's many fans will know of her astonishing Lazarus-like return from the dead – there will be a near-impossible pressure on the third, concluding part (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest) to raise the stakes. Pardon me if I'm not feeling the buzz at the moment.

If there were ever a film guilty of trying too hard, it's Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Ten minutes in and I was already wincing at the archer-than-thou dialogue batted around by a bunch of teenage Toronto hipsters. Oh, they're smart all right, and deadpan in the modern manner ("whatever" is their equivalent of "amen"), but they're so-o-o-o not funny. Michael Cera, he of the high voice and sweet hamster face, is the titular Pilgrim, guitarist, dreamer, and sort-of boyfriend to a 17-year-old naif called Knives (Ellen Wong), whom he awkwardly dumps to pursue incoming New Yorker Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But winning her heart will involve doing battle with "The League of Evil Exes", viz seven of her former squeezes, all of them equipped with superhuman strength and ninja-fighting skills. So when Scott plays on stage with his three-piece punk band, he'll be suddenly challenged in a video- arcade combat, flying through the air Matrix-style and dissolving his foes into a shower of coins.

The film, adapted by Edgar Wright from the comic books by Bryan Lee O'Malley, scrawls its percussive energies across the screen. "Whump" and "Thonk" flash up in graphics, like they used to do in the old Batman TV series. Even the doorbell goes "Ding Dong". It's a goofy, anarchic one-off that always seems on the verge of collapse. At least I hope it's a one-off. Film critics (including me) spend a lot of time complaining that action movies too often resemble video games. But if romantic comedies – to which genre Scott Pilgrim notionally belongs – start to ape video games too then we're really in trouble. Wright proved himself an able genre-bender in his zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, because he understood the comic potential of humdrum Englishness meeting apocalyptic horror. Here, despite frenetic efforts, the mash-up doesn't work. Cera is fine reprising his gawky misfit schtick from Superbad et al, but the busy CGI whipping around him drains the mood of romance: he's more ninny than ninja, and he doesn't look capable of charming Ramona, let alone fighting off her league of exes. The heroic rock fantasia was done much more charmingly 20 years ago by Bill and Ted in their Excellent Adventure.

There remains the faint possibility that Scott has dreamed the whole thing, but even as a romantic fugue the film is too jumpy and random and unfocused to be seductive. It keeps throwing stuff at the screen – a raid by the "vegan police" – and doesn't seem to care whether it sticks or not; it just zips to the next scene. This is perhaps in keeping with the speed of computer combat nowadays. All the same, I looked forward to the moment it flashed up GAME OVER.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker