Like Let the Right One In and Let Me In, I didn’t really think there needed to be a remake or a “re-adapt” for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I have never read the book but I’m sure the person who wrote it, Stieg Larsson, would rather have his book be adapted in his own country and in his own native language. So the Swedish film version should have been good enough for Larsson and good enough for the fans but Hollywood won’t allow it. I mean it wasn’t like the Sweddish version was bad or anything; it was actually a very solid piece of filmmaking. So The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo never needed to be made with American actors who speak the English language but it was and what we get is another solid film about the same material. Yes one is a little better than the other but for the most part both films represent the source material (from all accounts) well and are similar yet culturally different representations of one of the most beloved novels of the past few years. The American version may not have been a necessary film but it is good enough to justify it’s own existence.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a gritty and compelling look at crimes against women. Stylistically it is very similar to the Swedish version with dark tones and murky scenery. The thing that sets it apart from its older brother is the pace of the story. Where as the Swedish version stalls at moments, Dragon here works like a well-oiled machine as it switches from character to character. The screenplay here only falters in the last 20 minutes as it sculpts a thrilling retelling of the popular novel. Steven Zaillian can be a bipolar screenwriter (the guy wrote something as great as Schindler’s List and something as bad as All the King’s Men) but his work here is sound. He sets the framework for the movie, which comfortable fits the story of Larsson’s novel.
David Fincher took on this adaption with mainly the same people he took on Mark Zuckerberg with a year ago but Dragon is a lot different than his previous effort. It may not be as dark as Seven nor as laid back as Zodiac but it hits a middle ground between those two films. Dragon may not be his best work but it is another solid film to add to his resume. From the very beginning you know you have walked into a Fincher film regardless of the association. Like most of his films there is a darkness that settles in as the credits roll and here they roll with one of the best opening credits scenes I have ever seen. Fincher works better tho when he doesn’t have guidelines so Dragon does show some fatigue as far as story goes. The film is a little too long and isn’t wrapped up neatly but Dragon is still a Fincher film. It feels like a one, it breathes like one, and it most certainly acts like one. Fincher may not have been the best director for this adaptation but he pulls off a dark and twisted world that is worthy of his own name.
The biggest response to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo so far has been overwhelming praise for Rooney Mara. Her performance is indeed excellent in the way that Noomi Repace’s performance was excellent in the Swedish version. Both are excellent portraits of a woman against the world. Mara’s performance is different though, her movements and nuances are all her own and she creates her own version of Lisbeth. That Lisbeth may not be worlds apart from Repace’s but it is enough to admire the performance that shows up on screen. The rest of the cast is strong with a great supporting performance from Stellan Skarsgard and a great lead performance by Daniel Craig. Craig was the perfect man for this role. He is tough when he needs to be and vulnerable the rest of the time. Craig isn’t overshadowed by Mara but sort of compliments her performance. He is the most relatable character and he suits the purpose well.
I have watched both versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films but I haven’t read the book. So I feel like it may be an uninformed statement to say that I like the American version more than the Swedish but I do. It’s just more American or more Hollywood than the Swedish version and makes for a more thrilling and exciting movie going experience. Either way I have seen two great films based on the novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. So I know the gist of the popular novel and what a wonderful and terrifying portrait of life it probably is. Lisbeth is a character that is strong and weak. She is a character that is the hero of our stories and is also the victim as she lives in a world where men control her physically and emotionally. I haven’t seen the Swedish sequels nor do I plan on reading the books but I hope that there is some redemption for Lisbeth in the end, redemption that she can mark on her body somewhere in-between the scars.