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….
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.
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.
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