Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: An Entertaining, Inessential American Remake

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: An Entertaining, Inessential American Remake

There's no way to say this without sounding like a snob, so I'm just gonna get it out of the way: The Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is better. As good as Rooney Mara is as goth hacker Lisbeth Salander—and she's pretty damned good—her performance doesn't come anywhere near Noomi Rapace's diamond-hard incarnation. And even though both films have nearly identical running times—more than two and a half hours long, each—the Swedish Tattoo approaches its characterization and central mystery with more patience and care.

But, still: David Fincher's adaptation of the worldwide-best-selling mystery about Nazis, serial killers, a troubled wealthy family, and a disgraced journalist-turned-investigator? It's gotta be pretty good, right? Well, sure. If you haven't read the books or seen the original movie, you might be shocked and surprised by this Tattoo. (And, yes, the movie contains brutal rape scenes, and you should be warned about the risk of traumatization in advance.) The relationship between Salander and Daniel Craig's Mikael Blomkvist feels for a while like something subversive in mainstream Hollywood: He's totally the bottom, the damsel in distress waiting for his hero to swoop in and save him. And the film is beautiful to watch, with its relentless industrial-goth design sense.

Problem is, there's an essential dumbness to the American Tattoo. Too many corners are trimmed from the mystery, and Salander and Blomkvist's relationship is, ultimately, too pat. A host of great performances (Craig and Mara pair beautifully, while Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgård bring a necessary haunted air as members of the mysterious family) and beautiful cinematography come together to make a movie experience that draws you in. But the movie lacks a core, and that lack makes Tattoo inessential. recommended


Comments (17) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
thelyamhound 1
To be fair, I found the Swedish Tattoo fairly "inessential," and overscored and pre-Hollywoodized, to boot. My hope was (and still is) not so much for a deeper experience, but for a more effectively nihilistic, perhaps marginally less bourgeois one (given the director). Guess I'll see.
Posted by thelyamhound on December 21, 2011 at 9:35 AM · Report this
Nothing about the score?? I'd like a review on Mr. Reznor and Mr. Ross's contributions to the mood of the movie vs. the swedish version. I've seen neither so lay it on me.
Posted by Starmartyr on December 21, 2011 at 10:27 AM · Report this
thelyamhound 3
Good call, Starmartyr, especially since the score was what nearly collapsed the Swedish version for me--all manipulative, saccharine strings from the John Williams school.
Posted by thelyamhound on December 21, 2011 at 10:38 AM · Report this
Paul is correct again, it's beginning to become a habit with that guy!!!

Now, would somebody please call that Paul Allen-owned piece of crapola, the Cinerama up, and explain to them how to spell "tattoo" on their marque? (It's not "tatoo")
Posted by sgt_doom on December 21, 2011 at 11:57 AM · Report this
This version does seem "smoother" than the Swedish adaptation, but I like the increased focus on the Salander/Blomkvist relationship. And the Reznor/Ross score kicks all kinds of ass.

I also like that they didn't totally lose the Erika Berger character, like the Swedish version did.

And there were references to eating sandwiches, and drinking coffee from a Thermos. Because I remember that happening like 900 times throughout the books.
Posted by YogiWan on December 21, 2011 at 2:10 PM · Report this
Maybe I was too distracted by the inane score on the Swedish version but I liked the American version better. I thought the relationship between the leads was far more believable, and the vilains also seemed less cartoonishly evil. And the pat-ness of the relationship between the main characters is something I'll concede but I also think it's the only way to make the audience believe the emotional turmoil at the end (which even the book could not convince me of.) And while Rapace was stunning in the Swedish adaptation, hers was the only impressive performance. Every other actor in that film seemed plucked from a daytime soap. I thought the acting in this version was much better from the rest of the cast, and Mara might not have reached Rapace but certainly held her own.
Posted by augurgirl on December 21, 2011 at 10:39 PM · Report this
Knat 7
I hate any attempt to cover Led Zeppelin, but I absolutely love the version of "Immigrant Song" in the trailer. If there's more music like that in the rest of the film, that makes me about twice as interested in this version as I was previously.
Posted by Knat on December 22, 2011 at 10:09 AM · Report this
@7: the rest of the music could not be less like that "Immigrant Song" cover. It's spare and cold and eerie. It works wonderfully in the movie.

If you heard any of the NIN "Ghosts" release, you might have a vague idea.

It's a great score, but much less overtly "melodic" than the one from last year's "Social Network."
Posted by YogiWan on December 22, 2011 at 10:16 AM · Report this
And the article below is why this movie is quite topical today:
Posted by sgt_doom on December 22, 2011 at 11:28 AM · Report this
"Was it the Lundin family that Stieg Larsson had in mind when he drew his portrait of capitalists?"

What does this movie reviewed, African massacres, a Swedish oil company, Wikileaks and Sweden's political obsession to extradite Julian Assange have in common? (See article below for the investigative journalist's answer.)
Posted by sgt_doom on December 23, 2011 at 11:02 AM · Report this
I could not agree more. The remake was truly dissapointing having seen the the riveting Swedish original. Save your money and watch Noomi Rapace on Blu-Ray. You won't regret it.

Posted by MovieGuy on December 23, 2011 at 6:18 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 12
Having seen only this version, this version was really captivating. I re-watched Se7en last night, and was amazed at the differences (in part because of the script which is far more refined than Se7en's). Watching Se7en, The Game, and Fight Club, you feel the work of an angry young man who cares more about his vision than he does the audience, and that's an exciting thing. Watching The Social Network and this movie, Fincher has come to care more about his audience and almost wants to make a subversively Winning movie.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo resembles Se7en is many many ways. It's like a second chance film. NIN's Closer (Precursor) was replaced with Trent + Karen O's cover of Immigrant Song. Trent takes over the score. And, his score moves from The Social Network's mimic of The Fragile to a mimic of Ghosts. There is even an extensive research montage in a large place full of books.

The two main ways Dragon Tattoo is different is the slicker glossier visual aesthetic, and the more adult easy-going editing/pacing. Instead of a young shocker screaming at the audience, this is an aged shocker who now knows the devil's in the details. Sure it still is quite graphic, but it's more leisurely in its ways. It doesn't make a point of offending you in every way possible. Hell, the opening credits were far more intense than Se7en's (the most intense of Fincher's amazing credits sequence career), and, while an amazing music video, it did not fit the rest of the movie at all.

Still, Dragon Tattoo is not Fincher's best work (I still appreciate Se7en and Fight Club and felt they were much maligned). It even pales compared to the wheel he carved in The Social Network. A moderate Fincher movie is still stronger than 95% of the rest of what's out.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on December 25, 2011 at 11:40 PM · Report this
thelyamhound 13
@12 - I like Paul (so, um, no offense, Paul), but your review seems more reflective both of the film I expected back when I posted @1 & @3 and the film I finally saw on Monday. Fincher's industrial grime was more compelling than the sun-dappled gloss of the Swedish version; Reznor's score, however, was where this version was head and shoulders over the other.

Insofar as style is more important than substance in a thriller, this is a rare example of the stateside version winning. Only by a little--a razor thin margin, really--but there you are.

I did read an interesting article today (too strident by half, but compelling) suggesting that Mara's portrayal suffered from a Western love for the victimized woman that the book (and the Swedish adaptation) was meant to subvert. Not sure I buy it, but it's the one argument against the remake that strikes me as having merit. Aesthetically, it seems like there's no contest.
Posted by thelyamhound on December 28, 2011 at 3:55 PM · Report this
First, I haven't read the book(s). Second, I haven't seen the Swedish movie and don't plan to. Third and most importantly, after a slow start and some rough stuff (the rape scenes) turned into a pretty interesting mystery. I am sure I would have been disappointed had I read the book because as with many stories...the book feeds your brain and no Hollywood story can compare with what we picture in our heads. After all that...Rooney Mara (gross looking in the picture - cute in real life) was an intriguing character. Looking forward to the other movies...hopefully they'll get made.
Posted by CoachCarter on December 29, 2011 at 2:05 PM · Report this
I read the book and saw the Swedish movie. While I enjoyed the Swedish version, I vastly prefered the American movie. Both Noomi and Rooney are excellent Lisbeths with unique takes on the character. The American version was far more atmospheric, nailed the score and did a fantastic job of introducing characters that will have larger roles in the sequels (Erika Berger and Miriam Wu). The Swedish film tried to pack in every single detail from the book, making it feel a bit disjointed. I found the American version's edits to be thoughtful and beneficial to the narrative.
And Hedeby was exactly like I pictured it.
Posted by Bingo608 on December 30, 2011 at 7:08 AM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 16
Having watched the extended edition of the remake, I can say they both have their goods and bads to them. I loved Mara's living breathing emoting raging girl with a steel veneer who is about to break. It felt more of a character. She had a lot more depth to her than Noomi Rapace's cold as ice character.

I preferred Nyquist's character of Blomkvist though. He was less valient and more self-centered than Daniel Craig's Blomkvist.

And, while there were many many small changes in the remake, there were only a few changes that got made that I found I didn't agree with. Spoilers ahead, yaddayaddayadda. The main change I didn't like was the revelation of Anita and Harriet. I was loving the extremely modified version of that part, until the death revelation just came out of nowhere. It was really confusing how Anita also escaped Sweden, and I didn't remember how Craig/Mara found out that Anita had died 20 years earlier. I was all "I didn't know that" but I thought I missed something? Also, I didn't like how the remake became primarily Blomkvist's story. The Swedish movie balanced it out more. It worked OK, but I kept wondering why I was getting periodic interludes of some girl who was completely removed from the story. But, the rest of the plot rearranging made everything much more smooth.

That being said, as a cinephile the American version is an improvement. But, there were some aspects of the Swedish edition that ran deeper emotionally, which I give it props for.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on December 31, 2011 at 2:58 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 17
Also, I disagree with Paul on one major issue: I felt the relationship between Mara and Craig was electrifying compared to the pat-ness of the one between Nyquist and Rapace. Granted, I don't know what happens in the next two books, but the final scene of the American version was devastating. While the same scene of the Swedish version was just...well...that's that.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on December 31, 2011 at 3:05 PM · Report this

Add a comment