Happy Days-After-Holidays everyone! Being the seasonal merrymaker that I am, I celebrated the end of the semester by running out to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Many fans of the series (like me) have seen the first Swedish adaptation of GwtDT(starring an incredible Noomi Raspace) and knew that it could be movie-fied successfully. Therefore, to put it plainly, there was little chance that the super duper talented director David Fincher would fuck it up too bad. As Hollywood often poorly adapts (read: rapes and shits on)my favorite books, sometimes all that I ask for is don’t fuck it up too much. I’ll tell you up front, David Fincher did not shit on Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The real question is, was it better than the Swedish version?
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The movie started out with one of the most kick-ass opening sequences I’ve ever seen. I’m obsessed with Fincher’s commitment to make titles entertaining (see: Fight Club and Se7en). An industrial cover of Led Zep’s “Immigrant” blasted over the credits in a mini-music video. I’d totally support a GwtDT television series if it meant that I could watch the title sequence over and over.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljbBayiWglg (It won’t let me embed this, but if you’re seriously considering seeing this movie, wait to watch the opening on the big screen and not on this crappy youtube vid)
If you’re not familiar with the series, I’ll give you a mini summary. The film begins with financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) after he is framed and convicted of libel. Despite (or perhaps because) of his legal troubles, he is approached by a wealthy industrialist who promises to help restore Blomkvist’s good name if he can solve the 40 year-old mysterious disappearance of his niece.
Is the missing blonde the titular character, you ask? Nay! The inked up heroine is hacker and investigator Lisbeth Salander, who has become one of the most beloved female characters of literature and film in the history of the world. Besides a giant dragon tattoo, Lisbeth sports piercings up the yang and a jet black mohawk. For reasons unknown (to you schmoes who haven’t read the entire series), 23-year old Lisbeth is considered a warden of the state and is abused by her guardian. The two main characters spend the first half of the film apart, until Blomkvist hires Lisbeth to help him investigate the case. The second half of the movie turns into what I can only describe as a Swedish version of Law and Order: SVU turned all the way up to eleven (read: beyond twisty and amazing).
The movie is beautifully shot and intense. I found the rape scene to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever watched, though Fincher more than made it up to me with one of the greatest acts of revenge ever put to film. Wide-released American movies tend to always be less “explicit” than European movies, and never serves the source material. Snaps all around for the ballsy content. Roony Mara’s Lisbeth is very similar to Noomi Raspace’s performance in the Swedish movie, though written with a bit more snark. I thought the rest of the roles were really well cast with Robin Wright as Erika Berger and a creepy Stellan Skarsgard as Martin Vanger.
A big let down for me was the score. After winning a completely deserved Academy Award for their score for the Social Network, Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor teamed up again for GwtDT. It’s not that the music was out of place or poorly composed, it just wasn’t as amazing as their previous work and didn’t really stand out. Again, the only real triumph was the opening sequence, which was sang by Karen O. I’m freaking in love with her music from Where the Wild Things Are so I’m happy to say that at least she delivered.
To my original question, was Fincher’s GwtDT better than the original? I’m going say no, with a big old asterisk. Both movies did it for me and adapted the book excellently, so I wouldn’t say either was better or worse. I mean, certainly the Swedish one is more Swedish and I preferred Lisbeth’s dragon tattoo in the first adapation to Roony’s (if that really matters to anyone). But then again, I like looking at Daniel Craig more than I like looking at Michael Nyqvist (who played Blomkvist in the Swedish film), so it all evens out. Where I think Fincher will need to prove himself is in the two sequels, which he announced would be filmed back to back. I found the Swedish versions of The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest to be less entertaining than GwtDT (plus confusing, and I read the freaking books). If you’ve read the series, I think you’ll agree that the next two books, with their government conspiracies and like 50+ characters to keep track of, are much more difficult to adapt to film.
GwtDT is definitely one of the best films of the year, so go see it, read it, and then see it in Swedish and read the subtitles.