Stieg Larsson's (RIP) Millenium Trilogy is a phenomenal series of books that I fell in love with upon first reading them a few years ago. Likewise, the Swedish film adaptations are just as wonderful - and just as popular - as the books themselves. Now director David Fincher has brought us an American version of the first book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Having such a strong connection to both the book and the original film, do I think Fincher's version was as successful? Let's see...
First of all, I'm very happy that they chose to keep the film set in Sweden though this is an American film. It would have been just as easy to change the location and Americanize the names, but that almost would not have felt right to me. With the popularity and admiration thrown at Larsson's books, I'm hoping that this choice was about respect - respect for an author who created such amazing stories, and then sadly died without ever knowing the effect his work would have on the entire world. Plus, these books seem to be pretty specific to and about Sweden itself, which is given much more emphasis in the second and third books.
Anyway. From then on, the movie plays out in a way that is very faithful to the source material. Actually, I read before this came out that the filmmakers would be doing a sort of different adaptation of the book rather than a remake of the movie; however, the first few short scenes are pretty much exactly like those from the original movie so I was a little confused for a while. But while the two films are very similar, Fincher's version seems much more streamlined and easier to follow. The clues to the mystery are revealed quicker and with less detail so as not to confuse the viewer. A few minor things, mostly stuff about Lisbeth's character, are left out, but if they continue on and adapt the last two novels, hopefully all that stuff will be filled in.
There are three distinct, key, and violent scenes from the original film that I was most interested to see what Fincher would do with: when Lisbeth is raped by Bjurman, when Lisbeth takes her revenge on Bjurman, and when Mikael is in what I call the basement of horrors at the end. All three scenes were wonderfully executed, and just as disturbing and difficult to watch as they should have been. The actor playing Bjurman is every bit as vile and repulsive as he needs to be in the scenes where he assaults Lisbeth so that her clever, if not equally violent, revenge on him is greatly welcomed. The strange harness-neck brace contraption that Martin puts Mikael in is a bit weird and not as visceral as the rope around his neck in the original, but that whole scene to me is so key for the character of Mikael. As a financial journalist, he went up against business bad guys, but now here he is face to face with pure evil, and not able to comprehend or understand it. It's a turning point for the arc of his character and I freaking loved this scene, in both films.
Here is a rare SPOILER warning for anyone who has not seen the movie. It's coming up in the next sentence...........
One change I was not too keen on was the reveal of what happened to Harriet. To have her living as her cousin Anita in London just... doesn't work. Henrik has been obsessed with Harriet's disappearance for like, half a century, right? If Harriet was just living a normal life, not in hiding, as Anita - a member of Henrik's family - are you saying that Henrik never once saw a picture of Anita/Harriet and realized who it really was? Sure, she said she hadn't had any contact with anyone in her family in a long time, but with Henrik's obsession and his resources, this should have been a fairly easy mystery to solve. Like, wouldn't Anita have been someone Henrik would want to talk to about Harriet in that 40 year span? Am I putting too much thought into this? Can't help it, sorry.
I was feeling sketchy when I first heard that Daniel Craig was cast as Mikael, but that doubt was completely without merit. I didn't see James Bond once in this movie, which is probably what I was most worried about, and Craig actually became a wonderful Mikael. Especially in the above-mentioned scene, Craig is completely believable as the somewhat weak man that Mikael is in this situation, and his helplessness is again believable and heartbreaking. Knowing the end of the movie, I was a bit surprised at Stellan Skarsgard playing Martin Vanger, because he usually plays such nice, likable dudes in his other films (at least the ones that I've seen). It's hard to see him as this kind of character but he gives such a standout performance that that didn't really matter. Christopher Plummer and Robin Wright also give convincing supporting performances. However, I don't believe Joely Richardson for one second as a Swede. Just sayin'.
Then, of course, there is the big question. Who is the better Lisbeth Salander: Noomi Rapace or Rooney Mara? For me, Noomi still wins it all around, even though Rooney does do an amazing job at physically acting and looking like Lisbeth. Her performance is brilliant and brave and will no doubt have an amazing affect on her career. But... I still like Noomi better. Her physical look is more appealing and the way she drastically changed her body to look like Lisbeth is truly creepy - she literally gave herself the body of a frail teenage boy, which is how Lisbeth is often described in the book. But it's Noomi's acting that really sold it to me. At times, Rooney seemed to show almost too emotion. Noomi was better at keeping the blank, emotionless face while still making it known to the audience that there is a lot going on inside Lisbeth's mind all the time. Rooney is still awesome, though, don't get me wrong. The way she does Lisbeth's quirky actions like stuffing her face with junk food and walking very quickly with her head bowed also sell the audience on this quite odd but equally endearing character.
Let's just say that I don't care what version we're talking about here, I love The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and pretty much everything about it. I love the book, I love the Swedish film, I love the American film. Really, with a story like this it's hard to mess it up, and so far they haven't yet. Go out and see this movie - see it a few dozen times - and remember that box office numbers don't mean shit. This is beautiful and almost perfect filmmaking right here and believe me, you don't want to miss out on this.
Quick sidenote: Look at this poster I found for the movie! That is fucking hot!
Also, if you would like to vote for/recommend my next review, please do so by midnight on Wednesday, April 11th!