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.

5 responses to “Quick Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (dir. by David Fincher)

    • Yeah, that article really was fantastic. I wasn’t sure if I should have referenced that, but it does point out some of the bigger changes between both Salanders in the films. Rooney’s wasn’t a “wrong” Salander, but if you already saw how fierce and independent Noomi’s was, you really would have to wonder if she wasn’t rewritten to accomodate audiences out there (and if that’s the case, that’s pretty messed up).

      All I know is that if my Mom were watching that with me, she’d be upset that Lisbeth had to ask for permission from Blomkvist at one point. “A woman don’t need a man’s permission for anything!”, she’d say. That’s the one part that stood out for me. I’m going, “she asked…wow.”

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  1. Pingback: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – 2011 | Bill Chance

  2. Interesting review. I’ve read other people that were upset that she “asked permission.” I took it more of a courtesy – I think she was going ahead no matter what he said – and she knew he’d say yes. It was a way for her to say to him, “welcome to my world, now get out of my way.”

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    • Thank you for the comment. That’s an interesting way of seeing that. She could have been ready to do the person in, stopped to make sure it wouldn’t hurt the investigation and moved on. It’s a possibility. I still feel she shouldn’t have bothered asking, but for anyone watching, it could go either way. 🙂

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