Friday, January 20, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Lots of things happened before I finally got to see David Fincher’s version of the widely famous Stieg Larsson, Girl with the Dragon Tattooo book. First, I had the bright idea that I would read all three books and see all three Swedish film adaptations before our American one hit the screen. Then reality set in. I was lucky to have the first extremely long book in time for the American release. I actually read it over the summer and instantly connected with the character of Lisbeth Salander. I was eager to see the Swedish film and even rented it a couple of times, but things always got in the way and I never ended up watching it. I thought it would be a great idea to watch both films and do a triple review for my book/movie combo segment.

Then I thought, why don’t I not watch the original film first? People are so often disappointed in a second version of anything. Why don’t I wait, see the new film then judge of the original is as superior as they say. So, for awhile this was the plan. Then I read a lengthy article in Entertainment Weekly and they mentioned the fact that the character of Lisbeth Salander is so fascinating that it’s tempting to add more than what the reader discovers in the first installment. EW went on the say that in the Swedish adaptation, something is revealed about Lisbeth the is not in the first book. What? These books are hella long and I don’t want any plot points ruined for me.

The decision was made. I would not view any of director’s Niels Arden Oplev installments until I read The Girl Who Played with Fire.

I was set to see the flick during its Christmas week release, but holiday commitments got in the way.

Well, finally I’ve sorted out what I wanted to do and I’m here to tell you this is definitely worth seeing. So far, the box office has been disappointing and I blame two factors. There are some very violent and disturbing scenes and I’ve heard feedback from friends that these scenes were very difficult for them. It’s always a challenge to bring the page to life and these books are brutal. I really felt that David Fincher did a fine job with the brutality without taking it over the top or exploiting how reprehensible these acts are. If you really have a problem with these kinds of scenes, I certainly would not try to talk you into this flick. For me, they were vital to understanding Lisbeth Salander. I’m so excited to get to the second installment, The Girl Who Played with Fire, because I want to see her exact her revenge.

I would have to say the second factor was timing. I know everything doesn’t have to be rosy for the holidays, but this was simply too dark and depressing to see after putting up your Christmas tree.

Rooney Mara really gave this part her all. I appreciate that Hollywood didn’t back down on this one and let an otherwise sweet, pretty girl look hardcore. I can’t think of anything she could have done better except be shorter.

I’ve had a tough time with the height thing. See, in the book Lisbeth is described as 4’11”. That’s my height and I felt instantly connected with her and her world view. Do you know anyone this size? If you, do it’s a major difference than Mara’s 5’3”. In some ways it makes Lisbeth a completely different character. Someone of this height is constantly looking up at the world. As an adult, you still have a child’s eye view. This also makes society look down on you figuratively and literally. You have to be tough to be taken seriously and those traits help define and understand how Lisbeth views the world. There’s also an added vulnerability that I wonder if audiences would have had a tough time with. The height would have made the character of Lisbeth Salander appear to be a child and that might have been going too far in the tougher scenes. I guess I understand if this was a deliberate choice, but I’m disappointed to finally have a kick ass character my size blown up to a more societal acceptable height. Well, you can’t have everything.

On to my thoughts on the film and the book. I’ve heard that Mara and Craig on board for the next two installments, but I believe you need Fincher to continue to bring Stieg Larsson vision to the page. I can never recall seeing a film, after reading the book, where everything looked just the way I pictured it. Vanger’s island and family cottages, Blomkvist offices and even the guest cottage. I have to credit the authors vivid details and the directors ability to bring those to the page. Sure, lots of material had to cut out, but I agree with what was shown and what was left out. The book was very long and I almost didn’t even read it when I saw a family tree included. The book, like the film, went by much faster than you would think. With the book, I found myself up at 7am on a Sunday, devouring the final hundred pages. With the film, I didn’t even look at my watch and I saw the last showing of the evening, on a work night! I didn’t even begin to nod off.

Whatever diehard fans disliked about this film version compared to the Swedish one or to the book, I will say that it left me anxious to visit these characters again. All let you know my thoughts on the Swedish film after I read the second book. Right now though, I’m on The Hunger Games.


Melissa said...

I've been trying for WEEKS to try and get to see this movie .. I finished the book right before Christmas .. but of course life's realities have precluded me from going. Until this weekend. Reading your review of it makes me think that I really do want to make the time and effort to get to the theater before it disappears completely.

Novroz said...

I love the Sweden version and not sure I want to watch the remake...but glad you like it.

I want to read the book too, but I have tons of books needed to be read first.

Great review Colleen

Runs Like A Gay said...

Having seen both versions of Dragon Tattoo and the Swedish Hornets nest (don't rush to see it by the way as it's visually uninteresting), but not read the book I wonder if, as the appeal of the Millenium trilogy is the character of Lisbeth, whether excising the rather limp and unsatisfying serial killer mystery might have made a more interesting adaptation?

Frankly losing the Nazi past sub-plots and delving purely into Lisbeth's psyche would have been a more satisfying way to go.

What do you think?

(Interesting point about the height though, something I hadn't considered from either adaptation).