Monday, December 19, 2011

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

One of the most anticipated films of 2011 is finally making it to the theaters. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is based on the first of Stieg Larssons three best-selling novels, and the largely successful Swedish film trilogy. All of this attention should lead everyone to think that this will be a blockbuster hit in the US. There are going to be two groups of people that will be drawn to this film. First, you have the fans of the bestselling novels written by Stieg Larssons or the Swedish films. Secondly, there will be those going into the film completely blind.

The US version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" begins with a heavily influenced Trent Reznor introduction that looks more like a NIN video than a movie intro. The opening credits sequence of metallic objects melding into a human form doesn't seem to have any connection with the rest of the film. The song being played during this introduction is a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" performed by Karen O, Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor. The song was good and gets the audience excited for the film, but then reverts the tempo of the film back to the investigative procedural story.

At the start of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) loses a legal case involving allegations about Hans-Erik Wennerström (Ulf Friberg). Blomkvist is offered a freelance assignment by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), to solve the case of his niece who has been missing for over 40 years and presumed dead. During this time, Blomkvist meets and begins to work with rebellious computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Together they uncover dark secrets about Vanger's family and develop a relationship.

The performances in the US version were good for the most part, but the inconsistent accents are like fingernails on a chalkboard. Daniel Craig is more of an action star lately with performances in the James Bond series and less of the everyday average guy that Michael Nyqvist provided in the Swedish version. Rooney Mara comes across as too sweet and innocent even though her character is supposed to have this rough edge to her that you don't want to cross. Noomi Rapace was able to instill fear in her character through her facial expression and eyes, but by the end of the US version the character is like a pouting child. Together, Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara do not share sexual chemistry or even a hint of attraction for one another before they're stripping nude for each other. This relationship as well as the sexual assault from the despicable Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen), feels excessive and exploitative.

However, the performances from Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgård are vastly improved upon and makes for the compassionate figure that Henrik Vanger should be and the feared image of a psychopath that Martin Vanger will be remembered for. Stellan Skarsgård will make you forget about his performance from "Thor" and should be ranked highly as one of the most loathing villains of the year. Christopher Plummer delivers yet again one of the more impressive performances of the year complimenting what he did with "Beginners".

Checking in at 158 minutes (6 minutes longer than the Swedish version), the new version allowed for David Fencher to incorporate some aspects to the story that were missed in the original film. For example, Mikael Blomkvist's daughter is the catalyst that helps solve the mystery and how the mystery is wrapped up is different between the films. However, with the longer run-time there is no clear explanation of the purpose that the flower provided as a gift from Harriet to Henrik. There is also no involvement of Lisbeth's hacker friends and her identify as Wasp, which helps set-up the later parts of the series is muted.

No adaptation of a film to the book is ever perfect. When a Swedish film came out a couple years ago it makes one wonder what the purpose of the US version really is. The problem is that the majority doesn't enjoy foreign flicks with their subtitles. So ultimately the US version becomes necessary. David Fencher provides a visually amazing film and the score from Trent Reznor is one of the best this year. The film is absolutely worth seeing, but if you miss the opening credits don't feel bad. This is certainly a 4 Quack film and will be one of the best films of the holiday season.

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