I’ve seen The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo twice, now, in both the Swedish and Hollywood version. English doesn’t improve it. Given that it has the same flaw–a glacial, hard-to-edit first chapter shocked to life by a gripping second–it appears to be a problem with the story, or at least how the enormously popular Stieg Larsson best-seller travels to the screen.
I prefer the Swedish version, starring Noomi Rapace, to David Fincher’s prettier but sterile newcomer. When Fincher is on, his films have a crisp delivery lit by his tendencies for perfectionism. When his films are off, they are accused of manufacturing hollow images and cold, over-calculated suspense. Is there a doubt where Dragon Tattoo fits?
Dragon Tattoo is a story divided. The first half bounces between two figures, the down-and-out journalist Mykael Blomqvist and the pierced Goth-punk investigator Lisbeth Salander, who will eventually join together to solve a forty-year-old murder. There must be some way to edit these lengthy backstories without indifferent ping-pong cutting and mutual narrativus interruptus. Fincher has not found it. Perhaps the only way to film Tattoo is to go full Malick and radicalize time and space. Neither Tattoo is that brave.
I liked the way Daniel Craig gives Blomqvist a little Alpha-male bite. After all the hype dies, however. I wonder if the praise for It Girl Rooney Mara’s performance will come back down to Earth. It’s a one speed monotone (dark and dangerous) deal. In fairness, I’m not sure that that ‘s an issue with the acting or the directorial conception.
Rapace played Salander with more variety and vulnerability. Her eccentricities could be scary one minute and humorous the next. But all sense of humor has been wiped in this version. That’s been a flaw with recent American remakes of European films, along with the remake of Tomas Alfredsson’s Let the Right One In.
These European thrillers have a level of dark humor that gets dropped into the ocean on the way over. Why is it that the only American idea to flavor these films has been to make them darker, intense, and humorless?
I’m not quite sure why Fincher chose this film. Certainly it has elements he’s explored before–a killer using Biblical references (Se7en), an obsessive investigation of a decades-old mystery (Zodiac). None of these elements go far. Fincher’s version darkens the tome and color palette. Yet it makes it more monochromatic in more than one way.