Thursday, December 22, 2011


Written by Steve Zaillian
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgard

Armansky: I’m concerned you won’t like her. She’s different.
Frode: In what way?
Armansky: In every way.

I always say that film criticism is an inherently subjective practice and reviewing David Fincher’s remake of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is the perfect example to prove this. It has only been a year and a half since I first saw the original Swedish version of this film. It was known even then that Fincher’s version was in development and it was obvious that the only reason it was being made was to cater to a wider American audience. To be fair, the subject nature of the film is way too dark for it to ever really play that wide but, as the first film only raked in about $10 million in North American box office receipts, and given the popularity of the late Steig Larsson’s novel of the same name, there stands to be a great number of people interested in Fincher’s version. And so, while some will find the new version exhilarating, anyone who has seen Niels Arden Oplev’s original may feel a distinct lack of purpose.

I have not read any of the popular novels but as both film versions are more or less identical in plot execution, I can only assume that the structure of the novel is my first issue with THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Without the shock value to cover it up, the introduction to Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) comes across as a character punishment and misguided distraction more so than anything else. While Mickael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) embarks on the film’s actual plot - deciphering a family murder mystery dating back 40 years - for the first hour or so of the film, Lisbeth is being presented separately as a dark, dangerous girl. Her gothic look is seen to all who encounter her as a sign of weakness that allows them to use and abuse her. Lisbeth can take care of herself just fine but she has been through a ton of horrifying experiences that have made her into this clearly disturbed creature. She is a fascinating character, and the fantastic Mara is incredibly devoted to the part, but the painful effort to portray her as “other” makes it feel as though Fincher also sees her the same way. It makes me wonder if Larsson ever liked her even.

Fincher’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is certainly stylish but it never rose to a level that justified its need to exist for me. In fact, the more polished look seemed at times less authentic in comparison with the more rough aesthetic of the original. That being said, the mystery at the root of the film is a good one and if you’re coming to the film blind, it will certainly shock you. I commend Fincher for making every effort possible, even shooting the film in Sweden and casting a number of Swedish actors in smaller roles, but in his attempt to honour the original, he finished by recreating instead of actually creating something all his own.

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