Overall, this film is a more conventional thriller than the first film, but it's also a better one. The first one was mired by excessive violence (especially toward Lisbeth) and a convoluted storyline, but this finds it's footing and runs with it. It's easier to follow, and the inclusion of Lisbeth's backstory made her storyline much more rewarding. Rapace's performance, too, was better, though Nyqvist pretty much had to hit the same notes as before. Credit director Daniel Alfredson for bringing a fresher approach to the series.
Like I said, I saw this over a week ago, so instead of going into the gritty details, I'd like to discuss the character of Lisbeth Salandar. Lisbeth has been praised by many critics for being a strong female protagonist, one who's tough and resourceful, but ultimately still human. Despite the terrible things that happen to her, she manages to rise above and avenge herself. The problem with Lisbeth in Dragon Tattoo is that the back half of this equation seemed to be missing: she was raped, beaten, and exploited, sometimes for no reason other than the fact that she was there. It's almost as if the film (and the book it's base on) went out of it's way to make sure she caught the worst of everything; it truly lived up to it's original title of Men Who Hate Women.
In this film, however, that stronger side gets to come to the fore. Here Lisbeth is all vengeance, using her wits and will to get back at the men who've wronged her. It's in this film that Lisbeth gets to approach the upper echelons of kick-ass women, such as Ripley or the Bride (though she pales in comparison to those too). Here she became the woman that she was praised for being, and I think that's a big part of what made this film more enjoyable to me than Dragon Tattoo: rather than being the kick-her-while-she's-down-for-no-reason victim, Lisbeth was the hero she promised to be.