Why Lisa Marie Wasn’t Going To Review David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo


Originally, I wasn’t even going to write up a review of David Fincher’s rehash of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo because, quite frankly, if you follow me on twitter or if you’ve read any of the GWTDT-related articles that I’ve written on the site, then you already knew that I was going to hate this film.  I knew I was going to hate it.  So, I figured — what’s the point of me repeating what you already know about how I feel? 

So, don’t call this a review because I’m certainly not going to.  This is just how I, as an individual viewer with my own oft-stated prejudices, reacted towards Fincher’s remake.  Take it for what it’s worth.

I knew that I would hate this film because I so loved the Swedish original and, unlike the people who write for sites like AwardsDaily.com, I am willing to be open and honest about my prejudices.  AwardsDaily.com is one of the many sites that decided that the remake would be one of the best films of the year solely because it was being directed by David Fincher and, in their eyes, Fincher can do no wrong.  These are the folks who declared that Rooney Mara was going to give the performance of the year before even seeing the film.  Why?  Once again, the key is Fincher. 

See, that’s the dirty little secret about most film reviewers and cinematic bloggers.  For the most part, they don’t so much critically review a film as they just jump on the bandwagon.  Right now, the bandwagon says that you must love Fincher and, by God, that means you’re going to love Fincher even if the last truly challenging film he made was Zodiac.  To his credit, in interviews, David Fincher comes across as being a lot more level-headed and honest than those who are currently insisting that you must love every movie that he directs simply because he directed it.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  This is not an attack on David Fincher.  David Fincher is a talented director and his films are always watchable.  He’s a director who deserves to be seen and his version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is certainly watchable but, at the same time, is it one of the best films of the year as so many of the Fincherites out there are currently declaring?

Not hardly.

If anything, this is David Fincher on auto-pilot.  This is Fincher being dark because that’s what Fincher does and not because of any sort of sincere artistic impulse on his part.  This is a well-directed film but it’s a dreadfully insincere one.  If you want to a sincerely dark film, see Zodiac.  If you want to see a film specifically designed to appeal to an audience that wants to brag about how brave they are for going to the movies, go see Fincher’s remake of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

The big question, of course, is who is the better Lisbeth — Rooney Mara or Noomi Rapace.  Ever since Fincher was first announced as the director of this film, there has been a steady conspiracy to 1) shove Rooney Mara down our collective throats and 2) make us forget that it was Noomi Rapace that made the original film special and that she was truly the only reason to see the two sequels.  At times, the conspiracy was almost ludicrously obvious.  For instance, as soon as Mara was cast in the role, the editors of AwardsDaily.com suddenly decided that Mara was a lock to get a best supporting actress nomination for The Social Network.  Because, the bandwagon logic went, she had to be the greatest actress of her generation or else why would Fincher pick her?

Well, you know what?  Rooney Mara does fine playing a girl who happens to have a dragon tattoo but she’s not Lisbeth Salander.  She is a male fantasy, a tough girl who needs a man to come through for her.  Rapace’s Lisbeth was a true outsider.  Mara is a little girl lost and all of you Fincherites out there can watch her and fantasize about rescuing her.  Rapace’s Libseth was almost defiantly  asexual.  Mara looks at the camera and silently asks the male viewer to guess what she looks like without all those piercings.  The difference between the two Lisbeths is that Rapace truly doesn’t need a man but Mara is secretly begging to be rescued.  One of the strongest and most independent female characters in film history has been reinterpreted as a male fantasy.  They should have just called this film The Girl With Rooney Mara’s Face.

I suppose that makes the film easier for patriarchal American audiences to swallow.  Perhaps that explains why the audience I was with found it so hilarious when Mara got raped.  Nobody laughed when Rapace got raped but then again, that’s because the rape in the original film was a true violation where the rape in Fincher’s version is just further fuel for male fantasies.

As for the rest of the cast — well, can we just be honest and admit that Daniel Craig isn’t that interesting of an actor?  His version of Mikael is certainly a lot more aggressive than the character is portrayed in either the books or the original movie.  Then again, Daniel Craig’s a big star.  Daniel Craig is James Bond.  You can’t just expect Daniel Craig to play passive.  Daniel Craig’s the man, after all.  As for Stellan Skarsgard and Christopher Plummer — they’re both great actors but how many times they are going to keep playing the exact same freaking characters?

Ultimately, the only real reason for Fincher’s film to exist is so American audiences can watch the story of Libseth Salander without having to read subtitles.

Enjoy it, America!

As I said before, this isn’t a proper review of the film because I’m prejudiced and you know what — if you didn’t enjoy the original Swedish films, you might love Fincher’s remake and more power to you.  You are free to sincerely disagree with me and I will not hold that against you as long as you’re not a condescending toadsucker about it.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (dir. David Fincher)


I’ve probably gone back and rewritten this review multiple times over the past few hours. I’ve been struggling to come to a final conclusion to how I felt about the film. On one hand it is a hollow crime thriller, all polish and no substance, and on the other it is an exceptionally crafted dark and mysterious tale of sex, corruption and murder that oozes with atmosphere. One could make the case for either, and many critics have argued in favor of one side or the other. After a lot of contemplation, I’ve come to decide that it actually seems to rely on both being hollow and atmospheric, but what continues to conflict me is whether the former can truly be overlooked even if crucial to the final product.

‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ stars Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has recently come under a lot of scrutiny after being accused of making up a story about a wealthy executive and losing the case of libel brought upon him. Facing financial and credibility problems he is hired by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) a wealthy entrepreneur  who wants Mikael to solve a ‘cold case’ that has haunted him for forty years, that being the disappearance of his grand-niece Harriet who he believes was murdered by a member of his corrupt family filled with Nazis and recluses. As Mikael delves deeper into the mystery of her disappearance he hires the assistance of Lisbeth Salander, a goth-hacker with a dark past who has her own personal issues to deal with, specifically a financial guardian who wants sexual favors in order for her to access her money. When they are finally brought together they discover the dark secrets of the Vanger family and its links to a serial murderer case that begins to threaten their own lives.

David Fincher, who directed ‘Zodiac’ and ‘Se7en’, is no stranger to graphic and dark thrillers so it is no surprise that he handles the creation of ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ with a level of competence few other directors could have. Along with the help of cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and being set in Sweden the film has a very dark and cold (often literally) tone, making an atmosphere just as chilling as the subject matter and beautiful to look at. Sadly under the gorgeous and dark visuals and the bleak and mysterious atmosphere there isn’t much to be had. There is a real lack of emotion and soul.

I can only assume that Fincher’s intentions from the beginning were to avoid any real substance, and to make a film just as hollow and sadistic as the story is was trying to tell. There is just about no emotion and so no reason to be attached to anyone except Lisbeth, but our empathy for her stems more from the vial acts we see acted upon her and less from truly knowing who she is, and why she is so emotionally restrained. It is not until the last twenty minutes that she gets any sort of development, but was it too little too late? Again I cannot decide. One could argue that this insight into the character earlier on would have made us care for her more, which I can understand. But I also question whether or not she could have even opened up the way she does at the end without having first gone through the events of the film, in particular the relationship she has with Mikael. Either way, I’m just glad Fincher went with Rooney Mara to play Lisbeth.

It is hard not to compare both film versions of the Lisbeth character, and even harder to choose which was better. This is mainly because both films, although similar in many ways, have very different tones. The Swedish version is a much more straight forward thriller and Rapace’s Lisbeth fits that film in being just a strong and tough individual, though there doesn’t seem to be too much below her surface and most of the development of her past is shown. Mara’s Lisbeth is a much more complex character, and although the film doesn’t give her much depth in terms of story until the very end, Mara gives off hints of a disturbing past just in the way she talks and moves, especially when men get too close to her. In reality she is a much weaker character than in the Swedish version. I personally liked that soft side because it makes her feel more like a vulnerable woman so when she fights back it feels more powerful.

It is this humanization that really helps propel Fincher’s adaptation over the Swedish version in my eyes. Even Daniel Craig, who put on a very good performance, is given a lot more to do and a much more interesting personality. He gives the character a bit of charisma, and wasn’t just a monotonous individual, like in the original, making it easier for us to care for both him and Lisbeth. It also makes their odd but provocative relationship seem more genuine and intimate.

All of this stuff I loved…but then I fall back to feeling like it was all for nothing. I mean it looks pretty, and the mystery is intriguing and the atmosphere is dark and cool, but once it is all over nothing really sticks other than the technical aspects. This isn’t helped by the fact that it over stays its welcome for the last few minutes, even if it adds to the characters. Luckily the pacing is done well enough to never make it feel boring but it does end up being rather anti-climactic. But I feel a second viewing is necessary.

With that said, as conflicted I am about everything else one thing that I can say for certain was fantastic is the score. It was crucial in the creation of the moody and dark atmosphere. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who did the Oscar winning score for ‘The Social Network’, continue to impress and help give the film a pounding and chilling heartbeat. Also the ‘Bondesque’ opening credits, a brilliant animation of dark tar, leather and gothic imagery set to Karen O’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, was absolutely stunning.

So overall I will say that it is an incredibly well-crafted and dark thriller with fantastic visuals and a wonderful performance by Rooney Mara and because of that it certainly deserves a lot of credit but below the surface it is a rather hollow and anti-climactic story making it hard for me to love it as much as I might have wanted to. It also did not help that going into it my anticipation was at an all-time low due to the hype that was built up around it and by how much I liked the original. So for now I’ll just say I enjoyed it for what it was, it certainly is well crafted enough to deserves the praise it is getting, but a second viewing will determine whether or not I truly thought it was a great film. Still I recommend it for those interested.

Quick Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (dir. by David Fincher)


Addendum: Leonth3duke has added his own thoughts on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which are worth reading. Lisa Marie has also added her own viewpoint on the film.

I think had I not seen the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, this would be a far easier review to write, really. I tried reading the book a number of times, and found it really tough with Larsson’s exposition to stay with it. As such, this review is somewhat biased, perhaps heavily so, and it may be a little spoiler-ish. My assumption here is that with the novel having been available for some time now, and a separate movie to watch, there are very few people who don’t know what the story’s about.

A funny thing happened while watching David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo the other night.  In the middle of the film, the projector turned off. After I calmed down, eyeing the exits and thinking the Blob might have made it’s way into my theatre, the audience had fifteen minutes of quiet to wait and give their thoughts on the movie.

One fellow stepped down from the seats, ready to ask for his money back when he stopped and turned around.

“Does anyone know what the F this movie is about? ‘Cause I’m frickin’ confused!” he raised his arms to the audience, pleading for reason.

“It’s about a girl with a Dragon Tattoo.”, Someone yelled back.

“What is supposed to mean!?” The angry man replied, sounding a lot like Rooney Mara in The Social Network. “All I’ve seen is Bond shiver his butt off and this chick type away on her laptop. This is garbage.” And with that, he left.”

“Yeah, this is some bulls—.”, Another fellow said as he left.

Needless to say, the movie resumed. There was a problem that caused their fire alarm to shut off and it stopped every film in the theatre. I’m not sure how much I may have missed, but I’ll probably see this again during the weekend.  I know, it’s not the best of review lead ins.

The simplest thing I can say about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is this:

- If you read the book and saw the Swedish film, this version only puts on a coat of Fincher Paint on the story. From the opening credits that rival the one in Se7en to the fade to black, it’s all distinctly Fincher’s touch on things.  You could almost argue that it feels like a Bond film, the way they did it. This basically means that the lighting might be dimmer in some places and the film may be more stylized. It comes across feeling more like a motion picture than the Swedish version, which to me felt a little more like a tv movie.

If you never read the book, I would highly recommend the Swedish version first. It’s on Netflix, and as some of the material is delicate, doing so would give you the freedom to hit the pause or fast forward button should you find yourself uncomfortable. That’s kind of hard to do in a movie theatre without walking out on the money you spent on a movie ticket.

And if you saw the Swedish Version, missed the book and are wondering if you should spend your money on this, Rooney Mara really is the only reason to give this a try. It’s essentially the same story, but with a different ending that’s tighter and closer to the book than the Swedish Film. While Rooney’s Salander may not be hard hitting as Noomi Rapace’s Salander , she deserves so much credit for throwing herself into this as deep as she did, and helping to create her own version of Lisbeth.  Daniel Craig, on the other hand, seems to be more restrained here.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the story of Mikael Blomkvist, an editor in chief of a magazine called Millenium in Sweden who is dealing with a mishap on a libel case against a magnate named Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. His recent notoriety catches the attention of Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer, who’s really having a great year), who asks him to investigate the 40 year old murder of his niece, Harriet. Of course, prior to asking Blomkvist to take on the case, Vanger’s lawyers perform a background check on him with the help of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Salander happens to be both an ace Hacker and sports a photographic memory, which makes snooping into Blomkvist’s files a cinch.

Eventually, through his investigation of the Vanger Family on their private island, it becomes apparent that Blomkvist needs a little assistance, so he asks the lawyers if Salander can be brought on to work with him. It’s when the two characters meet that the story really picks up some steam.

While I loved it (I’m going back to see it again over the weekend, I think), there was the odd feeling that something was really off. At one point in the film, I find myself quirking my brow, because it occurred to me that there was just a little too much sex in the movie. I understand that’s not something one should complain about, but the Swedish version of the film led me to believe that Salander’s motives for any kind of passion were just a “want, need, have” and move on. In this version, she came across almost needy. It’s not even the right word. Where Rapace’s Salander felt cold and calculating even though the later parts of the story, Mara’s Salander feels like she’s warming up to Blomkvist emotionally. Of course, this could be attributed to screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Searching for Bobby Fischer) playing the story closer to the book than the other film, but it was strange for me in that sense. Fincher, who is notorious for control over his scenes may also be to blame here. If you have access to the behind the scenes for The Social Network, you can watch some of his interviews on the behind the scenes to get an idea of just how much he likes to control where a scene goes.

I don’t hate Fincher. I own Se7en, Fight Club and The Social Network and love all three of these, but even I have to admit that as cool and as stylish as the film is, something’s just off. I loved the film, but it’s just different.

The movie was advertised as the ‘feel bad film of the year’, and in that sense, they’re not lying. Keep the kids home, please. All three versions of the story contained a rape scene. Fincher and Co. Don’t pull any punches here, making it all a little disturbing for anyone not actually prepared for it. One standout to the film has to be the score, developed by Oscar Winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (something I’ll never be fully able to handle saying, having been a Nine Inch Nails fan since the mid ‘90s). The movie has no clear-cut theme to it, but the music that fuels the scene add an extra layer to things. That I really enjoyed.

So, overall, the remake didn’t really need to be made, but it does make me interested to see what Fincher and Zaillian have in store if they decide to continue the Millenium Trilogy. My hopes are that they give Lisbeth Salander a bit of a sharper edge than she already has. Mara herself, they don’t have to worry about. She’s a definite lock as Salander, and I’m happy for her on that. It’s where they choose to take her that I’m concerned about.

The National Board of Review Gives It Up For “Hugo”


 

It took them a while but, earlier today, the folks who made up the National Board of Review (nobody’s quite sure who they are) finally announced their picks for the best of 2011.  And the winner is — Martin Scorsese’s Hugo!  As anyone who was on twitter earlier today knows, this was something of a surprising result and most of the self-appointed film experts out there seemed to be convinced that the NBR would honor either War Horse or The Artist.  Seeing as it took the NBR longer than usual to announce the winners, I’m assuming that the voting was fairly close.  The NBR is usually considered to be a precursor to the Academy Awards so, if nothing else, this result would seem to bode well for Hugo‘s chances to pick up a best picture nomination.  Here are the winners with the occasional editorial comment from me:

Best Film:
Hugo

(I loved Hugo, though my favorite film of the year remains, at this point, Hanna)

Best Director:
Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Best Actor:
George Clooney, The Descendants

(I may be the only person in America who thinks that The Descendants is overratedCertainly, the members of the NBR disagree with me on that point.)

Best Actress:
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin

(This was kind of surprising since I think the conventional wisdom was that Meryl Streep would win everything for The Irony Lady.)

Best Supporting Actor:
Christopher Plummer, Beginners

(I have a feeling that Plummer’s going to be the sentimental favorite at the Oscars.)
Best Supporting Actress:
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

Best Original Screenplay:
Will Reiser, 50/50

(Yay!  This film has been strangely underrated as an awards contender but it deserves a lot more attention.)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants

Best Animated Feature:
Rango

(Another yay!)
Breakthrough Performance:
Felicity Jones, Like Crazy

Breakthrough Performance
:
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

(Bleh.  On twitter, I already went into a rant about how too many of my fellow film bloggers have allowed themselves to be co-opted into a conspiracy to both  force The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake down our throats and to try to make us forget about the original trilogy and the fact that Noomi Rapace gave a brilliant performance as Lisbeth.  I’ll hold off on going into that again until it’s time to review the remake but seriously, people — the Hollywood establishment is not going to give you a promise ring, I don’t care how much you kiss their ass.)

Debut Director:
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call

Best Ensemble:
The Help

(Believe it or not, I still need to see this one.)

Spotlight Award
:
Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre, Shame, X-Men: First Class)

(Oh. My. God.  So.  Hot.)

NBR Freedom of Expression
:
Crime After Crime

NBR Freedom of Expression:
Pariah

Best Foreign Language Film:
A Separation

Best Documentary:
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Special Achievement in Filmmaking:
The Harry Potter Franchise – A Distinguished Translation from Book
to Film

(This is probably my favorite award to be given out by NBR.  Seriously, the Harry Potter franchise provided me — and so many others — such a blessed escape whenever life seemed overwhelming.)

Top Films (in alphabetical order)

The Artist (Can’t Wait To See It)
The Descendants
(Overrated)
Drive (Yay!)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Bleh)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Yay!)
The Ides of March (One of the worst films of the year)
J. Edgar (Bland and forgettable but well-made)
Tree of Life
(Yay!)
War Horse
(Going to see it but I feel obligated to do so and I resent it, to be honest)

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order)

13 Assassins
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
Footnote
Le Havre
Point Blank

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order)

Born to be Wild
Buck
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Project Nim
Senna

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order)

50/50 (Yay!)
Another Earth
(Whatever, this was a terrible movie)
Beginners (A good film that deserves to be seen)
A Better Life
(Overrated)
Cedar Rapids (Likable but nothing spectacular)
Margin Call
(Need to see it)
Shame
(Fassbender!)
Take Shelter
(Yay!)
We Need To Talk About Kevin
(Looking forward to it)
Win Win
(Yay!)

Poll: Which Films ARE You Most Looking Forward To Seeing in January?


Last month, at this time, we asked you which four films you were most looking forward to seeing in the month of December.  The results are in and it appears that December is going to be all about The Adventures of TinTin, Shame, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and David Fincher’s remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Thank you to everyone who voted.

Here’s January’s poll.  As always, you can vote for up to four films and write-ins are accepted.  So, let us know — which films are you looking forward to seeing in January?

David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Trailer #2


Here’s the 2nd trailer for David Fincher’s bastadization rip-off remake version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

I’m just going to make just a few general comments:

1) This trailer is obviously a lot more plot-specific than the 1st trailer.  It’s also a lot less interesting.  The snow-filled landscapes still look impressive but the 1st trailer seemed to be fueled by an unstoppable force.  The 2nd trailer seems to be fueled by test groups.

2) I’ve always been honest about how much I loved Noomi Rapace’s performance in the original film.  Rooney Mara has some big shoes to fill.  In the scenes selected for this trailer, she looks like a little girl playing dress up.

3) Not surprisingly Daniel Craig’s Mikael seems to be a much more active and straight forward hero than Michael Nyqvist’s interpretation.  In fact, this trailer could just as easily be for the next James Bond film. 

4) Of course, this would be great if not for the fact that the best thing about both the original novel and the original film was that Lisbeth was nobody’s sidekick.

5) Christopher Plummer.  Again.

And finally,

6) The 1st trailer had a true grindhouse feel to it and that feeling is sadly missing from the 2nd.  Here’s the 1st trailer.  Watch and compare:

Hey, it’s the first trailer for David Fincher’s version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo


Okay, here’s the red band trailer for David Fincher’s unneccessary offensive insulting upcoming version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. 

If you want, feel free to visit YouTube and read all the comments from fanboys having Finchergasms over it.  My position will continue to be that David Fincher is a very talented director, Rooney Mara was rather bland in both Nightmare on Elm Street and The Social Network, Daniel Craig is boring and overrated but then again, so is the character he’s playing, and finally, Noomi Rapace will always be the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. 

That doesn’t mean that Fincher won’t make a good movie.  The trailer is effective and the material seems well suited for Fincher’s vision.  In fact, it could allow Fincher to get back to his Fight Club and Zodiac roots after going all boring and mainstream with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network.

Still, perhaps we should remake The Lord of The Rings trilogy next.  After all, those first three films are just sooooo New Zealand.  We need an American version.