This week, I watched David Fincher’s “remake” of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. At the time they announced an American remake was in the works, I could not understand why they’d waste the money to do it. The Swedish movies were superb. Noomi Rapace captured the essence of Lisbeth Salander and gave her life and a rad personality on the screen. I decided, when the movie opened in theaters, not to see it. I wanted to wait to put years’ distance between seeing the Swedish adaptations and this one. This week, I finally saw it.
Fincher’s style suits this story extremely well. He must have saved money on lighting because he kept most of the action in subdued light, even during daylight. It annoyed me, however. The darkness needed to emanate from the characters not the setting. Steve Zaillian, the screenwriter, and Fincher seemed to have decided that all the action take place in winter, even though the action spans a year in the book.
The important plot points in the story followed the book (and the Swedish movie) fairly closely, but I found it oddly flat, without suspense. I expected more from Fincher in edginess, too. Salander is such a radical character, and yet, nothing about her revealed the defiance that is Lisbeth. I waited for some new approach, an interesting angle, something. For me, it just didn’t happen. It’s not that the movie is bad because it’s actually quite good with high production values (except for the lighting at times), and I suspect if I didn’t know the story as well as I did, I’d have had a different response. I hope so. I admire Fincher’s work, usually.
Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist didn’t quite fit for me. To be fair, the Swedish actor didn’t fit the character either, but he was closer for me than Craig. I love Craig’s work, especially in some of the smaller films he’s done like Enduring Love; but in this movie, I didn’t believe that he was a charming, a bit scruffy, but hard-hitting investigative journalist. Mikael Blomkvist fights with words, and Daniel Craig has the body of a fighter. He played this part as an action movie hero.
Having said that, I liked how the relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth develops in this movie. It is revealing of Lisbeth’s character, but it also reveals Mikael’s relationship to women and sexuality. He’s willing to allow Lisbeth to control the relationship. Robin Wright was perfect as Erika Berger, Mikael’s editor and married long-time lover. She was exactly the way I’d imagined this woman to be when I read the books.
Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander didn’t make the grade for me. She didn’t capture Lisbeth’s hard edges at all. When she walked, she slumped which didn’t fit Lisbeth’s defiant character. Lisbeth is a kickass woman who knows the dark side of men and knows that no one will protect her from them but herself. Mara looked ethereal, too skinny, not athletic enough to be convincing as Lisbeth. Her voice wasn’t heavy enough either. When she exacts her revenge on her second guardian Nils Bjurman, I have to admit, I wasn’t convinced she’d actually do what Lisbeth did to him. I missed Lisbeth as the accomplished computer hacker — the Swedish movies show her at work, show how integral her computer hacking is to her research and her need to protect herself. That whole aspect of her life, including her hacker friends, were given short shrift. Where Mara shone was when Lisbeth allowed herself to feel affection, to feel vulnerable, with her first guardian Palmgren in the nursing home and with Mikael. I loved Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth, and to be fair, she’s a very hard act to follow in this role.
I wished that the Zaillian and Fincher had made it clearer about Harriet and Anita Vanger as adults. Was Anita in London really Harriet, really? I didn’t like that at all. Where was the real Anita? Too confusing at the end. Plummer, however, as Henrik Vanger gives a wonderful performance, bringing the depths of his pain into his face when he sees the adult Harriet.
Stellan Skarsgard nailed Martin Vanger, giving him an oiliness that was lacking in the Swedish movie. Geraldine James is one of my favorite British actresses, and she gave Cecelia Vanger a nice bite. I felt sorry for Joely Richardson, who played Anita Vanger/Harriet Vanger. She has to make this change in the story plausible, and I was so shocked that it all just fell flat.
My overall reaction: worth a rent, especially if you haven’t seen the Swedish movies. But I’m still mystified as to why Hollywood and David Fincher thought we needed this movie of this novel when the Swedish movie was absolutely wonderful.