(In theaters, July 2010) Fans of Stieg Larsson’s massively successful trilogy will be reassured to find that the second film adaption from his novels is almost as good as the first one. “Almost” because a bit of the originality of seeing two unusual characters fighting crime in modern Sweden has faded a bit. But what The Girl Who Played with Fire has over its prequel is character familiarity, and much of the pleasure of this second entry is in seeing past plot threads being weaved into a complex thriller. Millennium 2 is slightly more traditional in form than the first film (one character is framed for murder and must fight to find the true murderer, helped along by the other protagonist), but don’t presume that it’s all back to formula: The structure of the film is cleverly manipulated (even modified from the original novel) so that the two lead character only meet at the very end of The Girl Who Played with Fire, while the mid-film car chase and fight sequence are amusingly delegated to secondary characters. Screenwriters should study the choices made in bringing the novel to screen, because an amazing amount of careful streamlining took place to fit the novel’s procedural excess into barely more than two hours’ worth of film: It’s no accident if much of the novel’s first half is abstracted. Many of the pacing issues of the first film also carry over, although the lengthy coda of Millennium 1 is here truncated into an abrupt ending that leads viewers straight to the third film. But plot aside, this is still Noomi Rapace’s show as the longer-haired but no less mesmerizing Lisbeth Salander; Michael Nyqvist is reassuring as the boy-scout journalist Mikael Blomkvist, but it’s Salander who’s the compelling core of the story and its protagonist. It’s a solid film, maybe a bit too slow although surprisingly nimble compared to the original book. Fortunately, viewers won’t have to wait a long time before the third film comes out.