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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

A 2011 movie directed by David Fincher.

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David Fincher's Stylish, Dark, Sexier "Girl"....But is it Necessary?

  • Dec 21, 2011

When I first heard of the American remake of the Swedish film released in 2009 based on the internationally acclaimed novel “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (original title “The Man Who Hate Women”), I have to admit I wasn’t too excited; that is until I learned that director David Fincher would be at its helm. Fincher is a director whose works I liked from “Se7en”, “Fight Club” and even “The Zodiac”. The film is more of a re-interpretation and a re-adaptation of the acclaimed novel than an actual remake and is meant for the English-speaking audience.

The film takes place in Sweden, and the entire layout of the film is almost the same as the Swedish film. James Bond franchise’s Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has been sued for libel because of his investigative skills in reporting. This skill has attracted the attention of a wealthy industrialist named Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) who enlists his aid in finding the truth behind the disappearance and supposed death of a family member. Mikael agrees to the assignment as he needed more room to deal with his libel suit, and this takes him to work with an incredibly intelligent young woman named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). The two dig into the family’s past that may involve much more than a disappearance. The more they come close to uncovering the real truth, they uncover great danger to their own lives….

                    Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander and Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

                    Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in ``The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.''

                    Christopher Plummer as Henrik Vanger and Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist in ``The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.''

David Fincher has always been a director who has a certain style. The Swedish film was more raw, a little more grounded to simplicity; this time, Fincher seems to make the film more stylish, sexier (that soundtrack just ruled) and many can even say that he made the film more polished (depending on who you ask). There are some deviations from the Swedish film, and I cannot really decide which is more faithful to the source material. I do have to state that while the Swedish film felt a lot more grittier and darker that it generated a subtle feeling of unease, while this American version is a little more geared for the casual and mainstream movie fan. This isn’t really a bad thing, since the film does approach a more solid style of storytelling and it seemed perfectly balanced, but in doing so, it does uncover several things that I didn’t exactly like. Fincher’s film does have several scenes that resembled the Swedish film, but the style is different.

Noomi Rapace embodied Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish film. Rooney Mara did a phenomenal job, but their essences are absolutely different. Rapace’s Lisbeth was quiet, determined and she is all business; she hardly had a smile on her face. The script this time around (written by Steven Zaillian) made her arguably more charismatic; Rooney’s Lisbeth is no less darker and arguably more “goth-like”, but I feel that while the strong female attitude was there, she had this black sense of humor about her. The violence is also a little toned down. The Swedish original had a more violent and brutal rape scene, and Lisbeth’s scene with her deviant ‘guardian’ was a lot meaner in mood. Fincher does not hold back on the rape scene’s brutality, but the mood setting and the angles proved it to be a little more different as he focused more on the emotional pain. There are also added scenes to develop Lisbeth’s character, single-minded purposefulness and determination which helps Rooney, but I missed certain displays of courage as seen in the Swedish original (subway scene). It is more or less the same characterization, they are just generally executed in a different tone that follows the film‘s style.

                  Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in ``The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.''

                 Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

                 Rooney Mara and Yorick Van Wageningen in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

This film also does develop the Mikael character a little more fully here. Craig’s Mikael is more grounded as a man with a daughter and has his own fears. His womanizing nature is a little more hinted at, and certain scenes made the supporting characters much more essential in their own way. His sex scenes with Rooney Mara were sexy and the film had a small scene of full frontal nudity. The two connected, and the direction was able to display Lisbeth’s somewhat lack of emotion in the scenes. I also liked their exchanges in dialogue but admittedly this may not be the same Lisbeth I’ve grown to love with Noomi Rapace. They had the same attitude and character, but different in the direction’s delivery. The investigation scenes here were easier to take in also, but the Swedish film had a more methodical style; again, different and yet the same as the Swedish film.

Fincher had a smoother directorial style and he never loses a beat; but I did have some issues with the way the final act with Martin Vanger (played by Stellan Skarsgard) was executed. It just did not have the same urgency in the situation as I’ve seen in the Swedish film, and it also was further watered down by Lisbeth’s one-liner; I felt that it was a little ill-timed though it was meant to be a little cold. The direction all made it work, (don’t take those as negative comments) but I just felt that it was truly for the consumption of commercial viewers that Fincher toned down the intended darkness of the film.

So I guess what everyone would be asking is: Is this American production superior to the Swedish film? Yes and No. Fincher’s style may be a lot more polished and fan-friendly, but in doing so , loses a lot of raw edginess required for the material. Niels Arden Oplev’s Swedish film was just more gritty and darker that you could really feel its visceral impact. Fincher’s “Girl” is a good film, and I would've liked it more if I didn’t see Oplev’s version. The Swedish film was more imposing and powerful while Fincher's version is much more sexier and maybe more commercial. It is all a matter of preference, as both films are good in their own right. It is all a matter of cultural applications and tastes.

Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Note: Fincher's sexier style had inspired a "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" clothing line by H & M.

Poster art for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Poster art for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

David Fincher's Stylish, Dark, Sexier David Fincher's Stylish, Dark, Sexier David Fincher's Stylish, Dark, Sexier

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January 12, 2012
I just want entertainment in my movies, not unease! Oh well, good that I read this review then. Not my kinda movie ;-) Thanks!
January 13, 2012
anytime, Sharrie.
January 02, 2012
Awesome review pakman, I just came from the movies and thought "Damn I wish I finished watching the Swedish film". I only watched maybe 20 minutes of it on netflix cause at the time I was extremely busy and kept being interrupted but honestly your review has me determined to finish it. This movie was amazing but even i who has not yet seen the first film could see there were a few things about the way Mara's character was written that didn't fit in my opinion but still she and the film were great. once again amazing review and I can't wait to let you know how I feel about the Swedish version
January 03, 2012
Hey, Sonic! Some people preferred this American adaptation, but I myself, prefer the Swedish original. I mean, the material was raw, edgy and dark, and this manner, the visualization of the Swedish film as something more gritty and even "rough" made more sense to me. I am glad you had the same observations with Mara; I mean who makes comments like that in some of the moments in the film. Clearly it was an attempt to be more commercial and to make Lisbeth more charming, but reality suggests Lisbeth to be more imposingly quiet with a past such as hers.
December 23, 2011
For me, I wasn't the biggest fan of the Swedish version mainly because of the mediocre direction, but I liked the cast and the writing was very sharp and edgy. I love Fincher as a director, but the screenplay for this version seems too neat and tidy. I don't know. Somehow American thrillers just come off as too polished and clean. I prefer thrillers to be more raw and primal and full of messy emotions. I am psyched about the Reznor/Ross score though. It'll be interesting to see if this take on the series improves with each film or gets worse. A lot of English-speaking viewers were divided on the Swedish films as to whether they got better with each installment or not. I liked the second two more because they were character driven and dealt with Lisbeth's past coming back to aunt her. I think the way that the first film dealt with the mystery of the murders/missing girls was pretty predictable and full of plot holes. Still, on a whole, a great series with wonderful performances and they helped to restore Sweden's reputation among movie fans.
December 23, 2011
Yeah, the Swedish version was the one I preferred since I liked its mood and execution. The direction could use improvement, and I agree, this was a bigger budgeted version and neater. I just had some issues with the way Lisbeth talked a little too much here.  I saw her as someone with deep pain which was why I liked the Swedish film more; I liked its mood and tone as being more raw and imposing. This maybe a little bit more faithful to the material, but I liked the Swedish version more.
December 23, 2011
I wish I could see the uncut Swedish versions before they shortened them for English-speaking audiences.
December 23, 2011
I saw the uncut ones but they only had Korean and Japanese subtitles since they were Asian releases. No good to me....wonder if they had a version with "Pinoy subtitles" LOL!!
December 23, 2011
December 23, 2011
I would hate to see this with a Tagalog dub LMAO!!
December 22, 2011
I wasn't thrilled by this either, good to read it is not a let down really.
December 22, 2011
Yeah, but it was a little unnecessary if you've seen the Swedish version since they are essentially the same story. Give it a look when you can.
December 21, 2011
Great review! It seems like you really liked it but how did it compare to the book? I had a totally different perpective of the way the characters should look but the actors didn't fit the bill (Lisbeth was a kind of dishrag, very small in the book). I likened the plot in the book to the old Dark Shadow series with the wealthy snobbish family with their dark secrets. Especially in the earliest years when Victoria Winters first went to work for Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard. This was what made me like the book so much.
December 22, 2011
It is quite close to the book but I have to say I liked the Swedish version better. Lisbeth does take a more center stage here than in the book, and those are excellent observations about it ala-"Dark Shadows". She is written to be more charismatic despite her antisocial habits. You will like it I think, even if you've seen the original Swedish film.
December 21, 2011
Inspired a H&M line, eh? I am digging the fashion concepts from what I've seen! I haven't read the book yet and I like reading books before seeing the movies. Is this a must-see in theaters, or would it be okay to catch on DVD at a later date?
December 22, 2011
heh. The fashion line is pretty nice. I would advise that you may be better off watching this first if you have not seen the original. Reading the book would certainly help its appreciation, but not necessarily. I think you'd better see The Adventures of Tintin asap! (reviewed it too-cheap plug) LOL!
December 21, 2011
I guess that explains it....I was confused because I could've sworn that this film was already done and then, I wanted to read the trilogy but, couldn't figure out which came first. But, yes, American and Swedish versions...that's it! The trailer for this looks really good, so I might just have to catch it in the theaters.
December 22, 2011
Yup! As I was telling Brenda, I preferred the Swedish film myself but this was good. I also reviewed the entire film trilogy before, #2 and 3 grew on me since they were both closely related. If you have not seen the Swedish film then this is essential!
December 22, 2011
Is this the first book in the series? Should I see the Swedish film or this one orrrr.....both?
December 22, 2011
Both! But I prefer the Swedish version if subtitles don't bother you....yes this is the first book. (the best book imho)
December 21, 2011
Yes!! I was glad you directed me to this review - you read my mind; I've been wanting to read the novel for a long time and never got around to it, and I was excited to see the movie come out - figured if I hadn't read the book the movie would be better. This one sounds like a good one for me Will - I hope I can get out to see it!! Thank you!!
December 21, 2011
despite the fact that I liked the Swedish version more, I have to say, I liked this film. It was just a different rendition of mood and tone. I prefer the Swedish version, but maybe it is just me. If you have not intentions of seeing Oplev's film, then this would be essential. Thanks, Brenda!
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A murder mystery rife with suspense, scandal, sexual abuse, and some supremely intriguing characters,The Girl with the Dragon Tattoois an excellently crafted film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's equally fascinating book of the same name. Larsson's book was also the basis of a 2009 Swedish film (also with the same title), and while the Swedish film was good, this American version is far superior, thanks to fantastic cinematography and livelier pacing that results in a constant, electric tension that drives every second of the movie. The breathtaking footage of a snowy, remote island in Sweden thoroughly exudes bitter cold, and the attention to the smallest details, like the whistling of the wind through a door left ajar, makes the hairs on the back of viewers' necks absolutely prickle. Like the book, the film is long (158 minutes), there's an abundance of dialogue that is never awkward and always efficient, and there are plenty of false endings. The suspense and the intricacy of the mystery are stellar, and even viewers who know the story well will find themselves sucked into the riddle being investigated by journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig). The casting is great, as are the performances of all the key actors, but by far the best thing about this film is Rooney Mara, who is utterly believable as the incredibly strong, extremely disturbed Lisbeth Salander, Blomkvist's unlikely assistant. Mara's performance is chillingly real and completely ...
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Director: David Fincher
Release Date: December 20, 2011
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: Mar. 20, 2012
Runtime: 158 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment
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