Monday, December 16, 2013

Movie Review : The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)


Swedish author Stieg Larsson made a fortune for writing a crime fiction triology about an absurdly complicated right wing financial plot. Only problem, he died in 2004 and the first installment wasn't published until the following year. Larsson had planned to write ten volumes, but only completed four, prior to croaking from a heart attack on top of a seven stories flight of stairs. Of course, the MILLENIUM books spawned their own film trilogy, which is how I was introduced to this intricate universe. The three flicks were enjoyable enough crime fiction and introduced the beautiful and mysterious Noomi Rapace to Occidental society. It's not before 2011 that American cinema demanded its token cut of this international success. Cinema lovers were thrown a curve ball though when it was announced that David Fincher was going to direct THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. So, how was it?

If you're not familiar was the story, here are the basics: star investigation journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) exposed a financial crime in Millenium Magazine without having all the necessary justification to do so and got sued for every penny he had by businessman Hans-Erik Wennerstrom (Ulf Friberg). Private interest Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) providentially offers to bail him out and to serve him Wennerstorm on a silver platter if he helps him solve a decades old mystery that's been haunting his family. He is then introduced to computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) who ran the background checks on him for the Vanger family. Both obsessed with the case, they intend to get to the bottom of it together.

The first burning question: Is it very different from the Swedish movies

As someone who bothered watching all four movies, my answer is: not really. I get that David Fincher trusted the source material. I get that it was strong enough. Only problem was that THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO can get ridiculously similar to its Swedish counterpart. I thought that hearing Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Robin Wright speak with a thick scandinavian accent was a little silly. It's one of the rare cases where I expected bold differences. I wouldn't have minded seeing the concept migrated to Long Island, Seattle or some remote American shithole where it always rains.

The second burning question: Then, what IS different?

Valid question. Subtle plot details differ. Blomkvist has a super-christian daughter who you see for 30 seconds before she leaves for Bible camp. The main differences lie in the aesthetic approach. David Fincher tried a lot harder than Niel Adren Oplev to shoot a beautiful film. The lighting in particular has been carefully studied. Sometimes it's spectacular sometimes it just serves as a mean to heighten the atmosphere of a scene, but it's an intense variable in every part of the film. I don't remember the Swedish films to be as aesthetically studied.

Bjurman is a lot younger in this one, in case you wondered.

Third and last burning question: Rooney or Noomi?

There is no definite answer. Rooney is more punk and Noomi has a charisma Rooney will never have. I haven't read the novels, but I guess Rooney is the most realistic Lisbeth Salander of the two, but she's a lot less seducing. 

Josie and I watched THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO partly because we felt like watching the Swedish movies all over again. But I dont get how this is not just an American vanity production. I don't get why this was so similar to an already existing movie. David Fincher is about the most artistically inclined mainstream director (Fight Club, Zodiac, Benjamin Button), but THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was a lazy effort. It's a good movie but it has no identity of its own. If you want to familiarize yourself with the Millenium story, watch the Swedish movies with subtitles on. Trust me, going the extra-mile to get your entertainment will actually pay off on this one.

3 comments:

  1. Stuff like this has always drives me crazy. The Hollywood penchant for remaking movies or television series just so they can cast recognizable faces or to keep anyone from having to read subtitles.

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  2. I know I'm odd man out here, but I actually enjoyed Fincher's version more, for some of the reasons you mentioned. It LOOKED better, for one thing, Daniel Craig has a charisma the original actor lacked, and Rooney Mara captivated me in a way Noomi did not. Also, those opening credits were fantastic.

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  3. You're not the odd man out, Heath. I've had several comments on the Facebook page discussing why they liked the American version better. Curiously enough, most of them were sent as PM, so maybe everybody is afraid to be the odd man out. I'll admit ROoney Mara is captivating enough.

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