02 January 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Take 3

Much as I enjoyed reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and, to a lesser extent, its two sequels, I was wondering how much more time I was willing to invest in the franchise. I watched all three of the Swedish movie adaptations, the first of which was very good and the last two were simply good. This adds up to nearly 2,000 pages and over seven hours of screen time. The Swedish movies were, I thought, well-edited, cutting out many of the unnecessary and/or over-complicated sub-plots and, crucially, the excruciatingly detailed background information about the ins and outs of the Swedish legal and political systems, and making the movies watchable and edgy, if sometimes rather ordinary, thrillers.

But then along came David Fincher, who decided the world needed an English-language version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I like many of Fincher's other films, especially Zodiac and The Social Network, and I thought that if anyone could produce a creative adaptation of the book with an interesting new angle or hook, it would be him. Actually, though, Fincher's TGWTDT is a lot like Niels Arden Oplev's. It's still set in Sweden, the characters all speak with vague Scandinavian accents, and Stockholm is still very dark, cold, rainy, snowy and monochrome. Even Noomi Rapace reportedly turned down the opportunity to reprise her character Lisbeth Salander in the Fincher version because she'd already been playing Lisbeth for three years and couldn't face acting out the same old stories.

This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy the new film. As with its predecessors, it was long (2h40) but didn't drag and didn't get bogged down in the heavy research component of Lisbeth and journalist Mikael Blomqvist's investigation. Blomkvist, played here by Daniel Craig, who deigned to gain a little weight to remind viewers that Blomkvist ain't no Bond (not that this stopped him sporting some extremely brief briefs in several scenes). He still wasn't slubby enough for Blomvist and I would probably have preferred to see Michael Nyqvist reprising his role. Rooney Mara was excellent as Lisbeth, a brilliant but troubled young hacker with a penchant for piercings. Mara brings a hint of frailty to the role, whereas Rapace's portrayal was definitely harder. In this film, the character of Lisbeth remains a cipher, to a large extent (if Fincher decides to remake the second and third films, her character and her background will become more central to the plot). She and Blomkvist don't meet until about halfway through and even then, when they try to find out what happened to the niece of a wealthy industrialist who disappeared 40 years earlier, they tend to work separately, taking a very occasional break together in his bed.

TGWTDT 2.0 is not a bad movie, then; I enjoyed it a lot. It's just not especially necessary and I wouldn't recommend that anyone who has seen the Swedish movies goes out of their way to see the new film. But if you are new to Lisbeth Salander (or have just read the books), Fincher's new adaptation is a dark, well-paced, action-packed thriller and is definitely worth a watch. Trent Reznor's score fitted especially well with the mood of the film, the opening credits looking and sounding a lot like a Nine Inch Nails music video--unsurprising given that Reznor founded the band and Fincher directed one of their videos.

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