The Swedish title of this film is Luftslottet som sprängdes. A “luftslott” is literally an “air castle,” but I’m told the connotation is something between “castle in the air” and “house of cards.” Definite articles in the Nordic languages are usually attached as suffixes, so adding “-et” at the end of “luftslottet” makes it “the air castle.” Given that “sprängdes” means “blew up,” the Swedish title means something close to “The Castle in the Air that Blew Up” or maybe more colloquially “The House of Cards that Collapsed.”
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo can stand on its own, but if you’re going to watch either of the sequels you really need to see both of them, in sequence, because they tell one continuous and complicated story that all comes to a satisfying conclusion. If you make it through the second film, the third one has a much more comprehensible plot and in fact helps clear up any residual confusion from the second.
All three films are at times dark, violent, and disturbing, though they are not terribly graphic. They work well as thrillers, but the themes and characterization are deeper than that implies. Lisbeth Salander is unmistakably the focal point a the story, a young woman who’s weird, rather screwed up, selfish, highly intelligent, severely screwed over by society, and in her way appealing and likable for all her flaws. Noomi Rapace threw herself into the part and her performance is flawless. The other actors are excellent as well, but they don’t have roles that are as inherently fascinating or demanding.