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.

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

  1. Pingback: Quick Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (dir. by David Fincher) | Through the Shattered Lens

  2. “They should have just called this film The Girl With Rooney Mara’s Face.”

    If they had made a film about “the Girl, Rooney Mara, with a Rooney Mara Face Tattoo” I might be interested enough to actually watch it for the absurdity factor alone.

    “[C]an we just be honest and admit that Daniel Craig isn’t that interesting of an actor?”

    He’s not. I don’t even consider him a Bond, ‘cuz, really, he looks like a walking tank. Not dashing and daring as spies are supposed to.


  3. I’ve been trying to avoid, especially in my review, all this stuff about the sort of character Lisbeth was. I’ve heard all sorts of things from all sorts of people, male and female, some liking her, some thinking she is a poor representation of a strong female protagonists. Apparently you can make the case for both, as many have been doing over and over again, but personally I didn’t and still do not care. I thought the character worked for the film Fincher made, I think because of the source material and expectations of the character people wanted one thing and got another and in response have over blown the whole situation. Especially some blogs, like one you mentioned, crying sexism when ever a male blogger dares to say Lisbeth is a vulnerable character. But that’s the internet.


  4. Based upon the assumption that an average American audience is simply not going to watch a subtitled film, is this a film that people need to see? That is, if the choice is between never seeing this story on the big screen, and seeing Fincher’s English-language adaptation, which is best?

    I absolutely am not defending English language remakes, which almost universally drain some of the soul out of the original film, but one of the most poignant questions I have contemplated is whether it’s worth a little heresy to see a film being brought to a bigger audience. What are your feelings in this case? I’ve seen the original film, but not Fincher’s remake.


  5. I didn’t think I could be, but I am on the Rooney bandwagon now. She was less intense, but more human, and more sensible. She did a better job building relationships with other characters and was quite entertaining and even funny at times. However, this might work against the initial idea of the character.


    • That last part I’ll agree with. Rooney Mara didn’t do a bad job in the role and how it was written for this Fincher remake. In fact, I’d go and say the remake is a success in terms of technical quality. The film is a very good one.

      I do look sideways when people say Mara owned the role and hit it pitch perfect. People have even begun to diminish the work Rapace did as Lisbeth.

      While Rapace’s Lisbeth wasn’t as open and “human” as Mara’s it was still a much better character and in line with the ideas and themes that went into creating Lisbeth in the first place.

      For some Rapace’s Lisbeth was too much an outsider. She was too cold and distant to the point that she was quite alien.

      I’m not qualified to debate the gender-issues when it comes to the Rapace vs Mara “Lisbeth”, but I do believe that the changes to the character made in the remake was for the benefit of American sensibilities and those who either didn’t like how the Swedish version wrote her or thought the character needed to be humanized more.


    • I’m not arguing that Mara didn’t give a good performance but her performance did (in my opinion) cheapen what made the literary Libseth such a unique character. I think the big difference between Rapace and Mara is that Rapace pretty much made Mikael superflous in the original Swedish films but Mara’s performance was designed to match up with Daniel Craig’s work. I wouldn’t say she was more human. I’d just say she was less threatening.


      • LOL, the way some people have been using the description of “more human” it’s them pretty much inferring that Mara’s Lisbeth was less threatening. 🙂

        I do believe that Rapace’s Lisbeth is this generation’s Thana, Frigga/Madeleine, and Jennifer Hills.


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