The American Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Whenever there is a remake of a beloved film or a film script based on a book, I always feel some measure of anxiety when I set out to watch it. And, as 2011 version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was both in a way – my anxiety stretched unlimited.

I hadn’t been surprised when Hollywood announced that they too were going to give the story a go. It was bound to happen, like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, it seems that today our best books are celebrated by binding them in celluloid. As a whole, I don’t have a problem with this practice. It gives our largely visually based society a taste of what those of us who walk with our heads in books experience. And, truthfully – in the past couple of years, the only really good films were those that were remakes. In general, most action stories had been told and in books lies the key to originality… (but, that’s just my opinion – I debate this subject far too much.

The problem with remaking The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came – in my opinion, that it had already been done. Well. Sweden had gotten it in there first and released their own variation of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy in 2009. And, they did it surprisingly fast. I had read both the book and seen the swedish film which was why I had almost not watched this Hollywood one at all.

But, curiosity stirred…

The Good. 

No matter who portrays it and in what language, the story is captivating. I’ve found that people of different nationalities have different ways of portraying things. America still… shies away from certain things which includes feminine heroes (true heroes without men coming in at some point or another to save the day), openness about sexuality and… Well. Sex. I was very pleased to see that the frankness that book had about some of the subject matter wasn’t lost. Rooney Mara who portrays the heroine Lisbeth Salander, did a remarkably good job and bringing the character to life with her own individuality – something that was desperately needed after the remarkable job that Swedish Noomi Rapance had done. I wasn’t at all surprised that Mara nominated a Golden Globe.

The film is long, 158 minutes in total yet the pace is wonderfully set, interchanging between the two – first, separate stories of the main characters Lisbeth and Mikael Blomkvist until they finally flow together. There was also no bits that I felt could be left out – which is normally the first thing I consider after I’ve had such a leg numbing session in a film theatre. It could easily have dragged, but it didn’t and not a moment passed that I didn’t have my attention glued to the screen.

The Bad 

When David Fincher said in an interview that in his portrayal of Mikael Blomkvist, the man was going to be less of a buffoon, I cringed. I mean, I had known that they were aiming for the ‘conquering hero’ attire when they gave Daniel Craig the role (that man *cough* Bond, James Bond, *cough* can’t be a buffoon even if he tried). I rather liked Mikael as a bit of an idiot because, quite frankly, in the books he was. But, I also know that that’s not what sells stories these days. That the audience has come to expect that a man must call the shots. Even to go so far as giving Lisbeth a line in which she asks Blomkvists ‘permission’ to kill a man… Well. Hollywood written all over it. I didn’t like it.

Another thing I didn’t like was that the film couldn’t quite decide what language it was. Oh yes, they all spoke English but the accents varied, moving from coached European to barely hidden american. And, then there was the writing. I felt that they had gone out of their way to make an English film (I mean, if people wanted a Swedish film they could just watch the one made in 2009) the least they could do was be consistent about it. It’s a detail that irritated me. I couldn’t see the point of a character writing English one moment and then reading Swedish the next. It just didn’t make any sense to me.

I also didn’t particularly fancy the start of the ending. There, they deviated quite a lot from the book and the deviation left me thinking: What the hell just happened?! Did I miss it? Where did SHE come from? It wasn’t well explained and I feel the need to watch that those precious few scenes again when the plot line was supposed to fall into place but didn’t.

The Ugly. 

Because I have to say something about it. The opening theme song. It felt far too much like a bond film to me and, as I stared at the liquid CGI effects and listened to the music which made me expect a man to leap into the screen with his pistol aimed at me, I found myself wondering whether I truly wanted to see the film. As an opening impression – that almost ruined it and, as I had already been expecting the worst from the film, it almost confirmed my fears.

But – on a last note. 
My objections towards the film as a whole are small and I’ll be the first to say that perhaps, I just knew the story to well. You see, not only was Hollywood competing with the Swedish predecessor, but it was also competing with the images that I had in my mind and the strong sense of the story that I had had locked in my head. Sometimes, too much of a good thing can be bad.

As much as I grumble about the smaller details, the essence of the story remained as it were. It showed the brutality that can happen, not only against women but against those being abused by positions of authority. It shows the helplessness that one can feel when confronted with a situation that you can’t change immediately. It showed that there are sick people out there. And, it showed that sometimes one person can change their fate and, that another can change you. It also shows how fragile trust is and how easily it can be broken if one considers the last minute of the film.

So, all and all, it wasn’t bad film for a waste of hard earned money and I would like to see what this award season has in store for our Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.



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About Alyssa C.

Having never quite grown up out of her nerd phase Alyssa spends her life between being a technical advisor for a pharmaceutical company, playing console games, reading anything she can get her hands on, tweeting as @alyssc01 and occasionally declaring herself Supreme Ruler of the Universe. She's a freelance writer willing to take on any challenge with numerous grammatical errors. The first three is always free.