Review – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

I’m a really big fan of David Fincher.  He’s made some immensely entertaining and influential films like Se7en, Fight Club and The Social Network.  Going into his new version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I was really excited for a new film from one of today’s best filmmakers and was happy to see him pairing up with Trent Reznor once again.  I wanted to walk out of the film saying “Fincher did it again!” but it’s with a heavy heart that I have to say that his latest effort is lacking an ingredient that prevents it from being a film to be enthusiastic over.  Like all of Fincher’s films, Dragon Tattoo does not lack in the cinematography department.  It’s beautifully dark and sets the mood quite nicely.  Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score compliments the visuals with a proper atmospheric sound.  The tone of the film is well implemented but there just seems to be a lack of investment in the story in this American remake.  It feels like a movie that is going through the motions of the original Swedish film but not digging into our skin hard enough to make us care.  Most of the movie feels like its going forward but without any sense of direction or purpose until Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) actually encounter each other, which takes quite some time to do.  From that moment on, I was more into the movie than I had been but, sadly, it still wasn’t enough for me to wholeheartedly be behind the film.  There are things in the movie that I did enjoy but cohesively it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be with the talent involved.  I do want to point out though that the opening credits sequence, set to a Trent Reznor/Karen O cover of “Immigrant Song,” was probably my favorite credits sequence this year by far.

I’m a big fan of the original Dragon Tattoo film starring Noomi Rapace as well as its two sequels, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest.  I’ve never read Stieg Larsson’s books so my only reference point is that of the Swedish movie trilogy.  The trilogy as a whole is quite entertaining and the character of Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) is magnetic, tragic and always interesting.  Lisbeth is my favorite cinematic character in recent years and a lot of that has to do with Rapace’s performance as the tattooed hacker.  Rapace wasn’t simply acting, she embodied Lisbeth and gave her an incredible sense of depth and reality.

While I did enjoy Rooney Mara’s take on Lisbeth, it was definitely more understated.  Mara’s Lisbeth is also more accepting of affection.  She’s had a rough life dealing with people but she still very much desires human contact even if she herself seems distant and cold.  There was a scene in the movie in which Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has his hand on her shoulder underneath her shirt and he removes it.  She immediately tells him to put his hand back on her.  She needs the comfort of another person’s touch and affection even if she doesn’t know how to reciprocate it herself.  At the end of the movie, (i’ll try to be vague as to not spoil much) Lisbeth has realized she’s found a connection with someone and wants to embrace it but finds herself in a position unable to share it.  It’s one of my favorite parts of Fincher’s version and my heart broke for her.  The Lisbeth in the Swedish version is very distrusting, frightened (emotionally) and standoffish that she wouldn’t have been able to entertain a romantic connection for too long before she would have to run away.  Each interpretation of Lisbeth is interesting and worth watching but Noomi Rapace comes out on top as owning the role and her performance should be seen by any self-respecting film fan.

I’ve wondered if I would have enjoyed Fincher’s film more if I had not seen the original film.  I went and saw it with three other people and only one person out of the group had not seen the Swedish version.  They seemed to really enjoy the film, whereas the others seemed to be of similar thought in that the original was a lot better.  That being said though, it doesn’t change the fact that, in my opinion, the Swedish version is superior in entertainment value as well as containing better versions of both Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.

I’d have trouble telling you to not go see this new version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, especially if you’ve never seen the original films.  You might enjoy it more than I did.  It seems there is a lot more positive reviews surrounding Fincher’s film than negative, that’s for sure.  It wasn’t like I disliked the film, it just wasn’t everything I think it had the potential to be.  The more I think about the movie, the more I see subtler things that I did enjoy but it still can’t break free of the shadow cast by the original film.  So I say, if you’ve been wanting to see it, by all means, go check it out but I strongly and enthusiastically recommend that you check out the original Swedish version (with subtitles*) as well and then go seek out its sequels.

* I think all foreign films should be watched in their native language with english subtitles.  Dubbed voices detract from an actor’s performance and you lose proper inflection and intonation.  To me, it’s a world of a difference to hear someone’s own voice, even if I can’t understand the words, that’s where the subtitles come into play.

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5 Comments on “Review – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)”

  1. Ben McBride January 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    I’m glad you like the blog by the way, I enjoy getting feedback and just discussing movies/tv/comics in general.

  2. Ben McBride January 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    Yea, Rapace is extraordinary in the Swedish films. I agree that with the american version it is like we’re on Dragon Tattoo overload. I would have been happy had they never made it, but then again, not everyone saw the Swedish versions and Fincher’s film will bring new fans to the books and hopefully original films. Plus, I do give Rooney Mara recognition for her work in the remake, its just I love Rapace’s take so much more. I just hope Fincher doesn’t do the next two films and focuses on doing stuff that he can really get into.

  3. NICK January 11, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Glad I found this blog (which I did through Whedonesque!) – I’ve read Books 1 and 2, and have seen the 1st Swedish film. Honestly, I just don’t know if I can handle going through the Dragon Tatt motions for a THIRD time. It’s just way too much. Although I fully intend on reading book 3 and finishing the Swedish trilogy (Rapace is AMAZING), I’m uncertain if I want to dive in again….and I also do love Fincher.

  4. Nancy m December 23, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    Correction to last post – “I enjoyed Rooney Mara”. Noomi Rapace is the original.

  5. Nancy m December 23, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    As someone who’s seen the Swedish version and who is a huge fan of foreign film, watching this film was like watching the original diluted by a snowstorm- pun intended. I didn’t connect with these characters, or the story, as much as I did the original. The movie didn’t start to hold my attention until after Blomkvist and Salander meet. In the original, opening and essential scenes helped me connect with both Salander and Blomkvist. I didn’t get that here.
    I enjoyed Noomi Rapace – she was the best thing about the film. I normally find Daniel Craig intriguing to watch but he just doesn’t catch my attention in this film. There are times when I felt “does this actor know he’s supposed to be an investigative reporter?” To tell you the truth, I don’t think it’s the actor. I think it’s the way his character was written. I could be wrong.
    I cannot go without mentioning the distracting natural backgrounds in the film. The film spans a year but most (95%) takes place during the winter. Come on! How do you go from bare trees and biting snow scenes to scenes that look like autumn or spring. The trees -bare to fully leafed- was SO distracting for me that I often lost the storyline. I wanted to get up and shout, “wait one silly minute here! stop the film! I need to call Fincher and asked him if this is what he intended”.

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