I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

tn_girlwithdragonI haven’t read the Stieg Larsson DRAGON TATTOO books, but I liked the Swedish movies. Or at least the first two. Lisbeth Salander is a cool pulpy heroine, a unique type of badass with an interesting, complex relationship with this reporter dude she’s fucking/investigating with. I enjoyed (if you can call it that) her adventures and hoped things would turn out well for her and her dragon.

At the same time I gotta admit I don’t understand the whole phenomenon. It seems like these stories are popular with the same people who love John Grisham books and Ron Howard movies, so it seems weird that the pivotal character-establishing part of the story is a graphic rape revenge tale (“a mini I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE” I think I called it in my original review) and the beloved heroine is a bisexual punk psychopath. David Fincher’s English language re-cinematization of the first book is not turning out to be a box office sensation, but watching it still puzzled me how it passes for mainstream entertainment. Not just ’cause of the brutal rape, but because of the attention span it requires. It almost feels like watching a whole season of a TV show, or a couple of movies in a row. First it’s the origin story of Lisbeth and Mikael, then it’s their first mystery (which is pretty involved and less interesting than the characters themselves), and just when you think it’s all wrapped up there’s a little mini-sode that makes you wonder if they accidentally cued up part 2 early. (One of those “multiple-endings” deals that people used to praise in James Cameron’s movies but then started complaining about in Peter Jackson’s.)

Let me put this another way. We live in a world where, in order to get the movies he wants made, Fincher has to sell out… by making a dense, almost-3-hour-long movie about a Swedish activist journalist and a sexually abused punk computer savant studying old photos and records to try to solve a 40 year old Nazi murder case in exchange for information to help fight a libel suit. And it’s not even based on a video game.

I don’t mean any of this in a negative way. I liked the movie, and like it more the more it sits with me. I’m just a little surprised that other people are expected to like it too. Interesting times we live in.

mp_girlwithdragonBesides everybody speaking in accented English as a metaphor for Swedish, the most obvious difference from the previous version is in the casting of the leads. The reporter is played by Daniel Craig, and even though he’s not showing off his abs or anything he can’t hide being more suave and manly than Michael Nyqvist in the other version. It’s James Bond vs. the bad guy from GHOST PROTOCOL. Big difference. But also clever casting, because you get to see that dude scared and helpless and rescued by a weird little chick. She drives the motorcycle more in this than I remember in the other one, and he has to ride bitch.

For Lisbeth they’ve got Rooney Mara, a strong young actress who heroically dumped whatsisdick in the opening of THE SOCIAL NETWORK and was squandered as Nancy in the ELM STREET remake. She’s only 6 years younger than the Swedish Girl, Noomi Rapace, but it’s a noticeable difference, and she’s much daintier. I thought it was weird in Swedish part 3 when some character said Lisbeth looked like a little girl, because I didn’t notice her being small and she looked to me like she could handle herself. They also made Mara look alot scarier and more offputting: bleached eyebrows, ever-evolving fucked up haircuts, infected-looking piercings, twiggy, asexual body. I’m not sure if Mara’s interpretation is better than Rapace’s, but it’s different. Being so short and skinny makes her look more vulnerable, and makes her sexual relationship with Mikael seem more inappropriate. And in this version he has a daughter that can’t be much younger than her.

The structure of the movie is unusual. I know they trimmed it down into movie form (because there was alot more about the libel case in the Swedish version, I’m not sure I would’ve understood it here without having seen that), but it doesn’t feel like it when you’re watching it. Lisbeth and Mikael have their own separate movies going on. They don’t seem to have any connection, and whenever something really horrifying is about to happen with Lisbeth it’ll cut away to Mikael interviewing somebody or something and you gotta hang on to find out what happens back in the other movie. It’s a long time before it finally becomes Mystery on the Island of Rich Nazi Assholes.

What’s interesting though is that while the story as a whole is punishingly long, the individual elements of it are very fast-paced. It’s the good kind of fast edits where it pops from one location to the next to quickly tell you through visuals the steps he’s going through in his investigation. You know, as soon as he turns it cuts to him at his destination, instead of showing him walking across the room, opening the door and walking through, getting into his car…

There are small things that I think made the story work a little better in the other one, like in that one he was gonna get locked up as punishment for the libel, and was doing this little mystery-solving-adventure to keep his mind off it. It’s like THE 25TH HOUR. Also I seem to remember the whole thing with the framed flowers being sent to him on his birthday being a bigger deal, it’s kind of brushed over in this one and seems kinda silly. Not that they need to add anything more into this thing, I don’t want it to be any longer, but those worked well before.

A major change that must’ve been a departure from the book to make it more cinematic: in the Swedish movie Lisbeth didn’t just do a background check on him, she was actually hired to surveil him, so before they meet she’s looking at the files on his laptop and figuring out things he hasn’t yet about the mystery. Maybe that’s why it didn’t seem like two separate movies for the first hour plus like this one did. But I sort of like the ballsiness of Fincher’s structure. It seems like they’re never gonna meet. Then when Mikael finally hires her she’s like “shit, this is easy” and pushes his detective work several chapters ahead in like 5 minutes of Googling.

Same as the Swedish version, it’s more the character of Lisbeth and her relationship with this dude and with the history of gender in standard thriller tropes that makes the movie interesting than it is the mystery itself. But that’s not to say that story is a total wash, and Fincher being Fincher he squeezes some great atmosphere and suspense out of it. To be honest I don’t have any memory of the climax in the Swedish version, but the setting of this one has stuck with me, maybe because it’s so beautifully opposite of the dilapidated holes where the evil was going on in SEVEN. (Confidential to those who have seen it: why does he have Enya recorded onto reel-to-reel? That’s how you know he’s a total sicko. Even Leatherface wouldn’t make that effort. Maybe he’d have a tape or CD but not a reel-to-reel. That’s fucked!)

Credit is also due to Fincher’s pals Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for their unusual score. What I like about it is how the sound effects and the music sort of bleed into each other and infect each other. When Lisbeth is undergoing horrific abuse in her parole officer or whatever’s office you can hear what sounds like a muffled vacuum. It’s like that truck driving by at the end of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, it’s a reminder that holy shit, there are people going about their usual business nearby, they got no clue. It was creeping me out but then I thought wait, maybe it’s not a vacuum, maybe it’s just the score. Then when she leaves the office you see that in fact there is somebody vacuuming in the other room, but the sound seems to merge with the music and continue in the next scene somewhere else.

Same type of thing happens in Lisbeth’s greatest moment, the early act of revenge that establishes her as being in the company of Wu-Tang Clan and other entities that Ain’t Nothin To Fuck With. If you’re familiar with the story you will remember what she does with the tattoo gun. Reznor and Ross pull the buzz of the gun into their score and it continues into the next scene. Its sound lingers just like the memory of what she did with it.

Oh shit, the SOCIAL NETWORK guy better be glad it wasn’t Lisbeth he got dumped by. She would’ve made sure he never invented Facebook.

NOTES ON AMERICAN TRANSLATION:

In this one, Henrik mentions right off that some of his relatives are Nazis. I thought that was funny because in the Swedish one it just comes up later when the guy has pictures of him in Nazi uniforms openly displayed in his house. I was so confused, trying to figure out if that was actually normal in Sweden.

I think maybe that’s why he’s not on his way to jail, too. It seems weird to an American that a dude could be locked up for libel. They must’ve thought that would confuse us.

While everybody speaks English (and many don’t fake Swedish accents), signs and headlines and stuff are in Swedish. But the rapist tattoo is in English. Does that mean she made it in English, as an artistic choice, or should we imagine it’s actually in Swedish? That seems like it would serve the intended purpose better.

I wonder if Lisbeth knows any of the hackers from THE MATRIX? And what would she do to the machines to avenge them for what they did to us?

* * *

I figure this isn’t up there with Fincher’s best movies, but I like seeing him do one like this every once in a while. Sometimes it’s a cool exercise for a highly skilled director take a break from the visionary shit and try to elevate something that could’ve been cookie cutter in somebody else’s hands. Kinda like when he did PANIC ROOM, but this is more challenging. It’s funny ’cause it’s got lots of computers like SOCIAL NETWORK, obsessive research of a serial killer like ZODIAC, even fucked up Biblically-themed murders like in SEVEN. I didn’t notice any backwards aging or prison planets, sadly.

Alot of people have talked about the crazy opening credits, which aren’t very similar to the ones in SEVEN except that they’re visually and thematically dark and kind of grab you by the hair and slam you face-first into the muck. Hello, welcome to THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, fuck you. It could use a little Shirley Bassey but it’s clearly an evil version of a James Bond opening credits sequence, which is perfect. The actual James Bond is in this movie, but he’s not gonna save anybody. He’s tied up and the villain is making a speech but not because of hubris – he’s doing it because he’s only murdered women before, and he’s not sure how to do this. Meanwhile, Bond is not planning his escape – a girl is gonna rescue him.

James Bond in this movie does not seduce any women – the woman tells him when to fuck, and he goes along with it. He doesn’t have any fancy gadgets, and doesn’t know how to keep Lisbeth from breaking into the files on his laptop.

I was talking to a buddy who didn’t like the movie because he couldn’t get past the heroine getting raped. I get it, this is supposed to be entertainment, and rape is always a bummer. But I also see kind of a double standard there. In DEATH WISH 1 and 2, which most of us acknowledge as entertainment, there are horrible rapes, but it’s Kersey’s wife and daughter and etc. Afterwards we enjoy seeing him go a little mad getting savage revenge on the rapist/killers and their peers.

It’s awesome, but it’s a little paternalistic or something, isn’t it? The women get raped and killed, their old man gets to be the hero. Maybe if Lisbeth had Charles Bronson for a dad or a husband it would be different, but she’s got nobody. So she takes care of the revenge herself, and she does it quicker, more precise and more savage than Kersey, and uses it to get what she wants. She’s so good at revenge that she takes care of it halfway through the movie and has to have something else to deal with as the main plot. That’s badass.

I’ve noticed that Lisbeth Salander is not a well liked character among the internet movie people that I read, the same guys that love Hit Girl from KICKASS so much. I know they’re totally different movies, it’s not a fair comparison, but I still wonder about it. The little girl running around murdering everybody because her dad brainwashed her, that’s a fun time at the movies. But the one that kicks a dildo up her abuser’s ass? It’s not cute when she’s angry. She makes guys nervous even though we know we didn’t do anything. That reaction kinda makes me think Lisbeth is legit, not just another fetish in feminist clothing. I mean, I think she’s cool, but I don’t think she’s hot. You don’t usually get that in a female cinematic asskicker (at least the adult ones – I hope they’re not getting that from Hit Girl).

Then again, I gotta acknowledge that I am a dude, these books were written by a dude, and this movie was directed and written by dudes (adapted by Steve Zaillian of SCHINDLER’S LIST). I definitely see some male fantasy on Stieg Larsson’s part. Mikael is an investigative reporter for a magazine going after white supremacists and other abusers of power, just like Larsson was. And he gets to fuck the girl. I mean, I got a strong feeling that Larsson was enjoying some suicidegirls.com while writing these books. So if some women don’t want to consider Lisbeth a feminist icon then I get it.

But I made an argument for I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE’s Jennifer Hills as a legitimate feminist statement, and Lisbeth  is definitely a stronger character. Just as I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE was supposed to be called DAY OF THE WOMAN, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was called MEN WHO HATE WOMEN in Swedish. It takes place in a world stained with the after effects of past atrocities: the disappearance of Harriet that haunts Henrik to this day, the other Vangers’ past in the Nazi party, the abusive father that obviously still affects Lisbeth, what she did about him that she still answers for. Even decades ago when the murders happened they were the result of archaic attitudes, based as they were on Bible verses about witches and shit like that. The serial killer, the rapist guardian… these are men who hate women, and abuse the male-dominated system to take out their sickness on them.

Lisbeth, pummeled down by that system, made a prisoner by it, doesn’t run away. She spits on its grave, but she does more. Jennifer Hills raged back with sadistic executions of her abusers. Lisbeth would be capable of that, she certainly has the stomach for it, but she’s smarter. She gives her guardian the physical punishment she wants to give him but also systematically locks him in the way he did to her. Forces him to give her what she wants, out of fear.

And then she takes the next step… she tries to learn to have relationships with men again. But that’s a work in progress.

There’s an obvious attempt at putting some kind of real psychology into the character, but no, she’s not a realistic portrait. She’s kind of a super hero. She’s a computer genius, has a photographic memory, can kick a man’s ass, handle a weapon and hold her own in a high speed motorcycle chase. At the end she puts on a disguise and travels around the world to pull a major swindle. That’s what I like about her. She’s a James Bond for a segment of society that never got a James Bond before. Take it as a tiny bit of social progress, or just a novelty, it’s good either way.

* * *

I like this better than the Swedish version, which I also liked. Re-reading my review of the older one I remember things that were different that probly worked better. I think their sexual relationship made more sense in that version. It seemed like something she would do, even if it was a bad idea. And he’s decent enough to question it and weak enough to do it anyway. Then she fucks with his mind by pushing him away both physically and emotionally. Craig and Mara have a great chemistry. I love the moment when she tells him that she likes working with him. You’ve never seen her so happy, and you believe it. But I think maybe the relationship has more dimension in the other version.

On the other hand the way Fincher does it is cool because it takes the man to task more. The Swedish one lets Mikael be the surrogate for us dudes watching, we got to have a wild weekend fucking the crazy punk girl, but she won’t have us now, boo hoo, we go back to our old life with the other gal, secretly pining for our maniac pixie dream girl. She won’t let us in. Treats us like a dumb ho. But we understand. She’s been through alot. Oh well, it’s out of our hands now.

Fincher’s version leaves us sympathizing with Lisbeth instead, feeling screwed over by the one nice man in her life besides her speechless old man or her hairy hacker friends. She was gonna put it all on the line for this dude, show him all her cards, but just then she sees him back in his old life with his old girlfriend. Looks like she was just an indiscretion to him. A Bond girl. Fuck.

Is he another man who hates women? He seemed like a nice guy. This sucks, and it’s not the kind of thing you can avenge with a dildo and a tattoo gun.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, January 12th, 2012 at 3:09 pm and is filed under Mystery, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

60 Responses to “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)”

  1. 2011/2012, you mean?

  2. No, it´s not normal here in Sweden having pictures of ourselves in nazi uniforms. Although that would be appropriate…

  3. I think I need to clarify my last comment. It was meant to be sarcasm (or is it irony..?)

  4. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day about why violent TV shows and movies have become so popular. The obvious touch points are CSI and, as Vern mentioned, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. One hypothesis we came up with is that even though these stories are ultra-violent, they also reinforce an easy good versus evil dichotomy, and the villain always gets put away in the end. So even if they are transgressive in the kind of violence they show, they still reinforce the idea of an orderly, just world in the end.

  5. ShootMcKay- Is it normal though for Swedish newsreporters to refer to the Swedish currency as “Swedish Krona”, when addressing Swedish people who probably don’t need the “Swedish” clarification?

    Swedish.

  6. Stu – no it´s not normal ,it does happen though because Norway and Denmark has their own Krona as currency, but I guess the movie does it so the audience wouldn´be confused. I don´t think most people know what´s the name of the swedish currency.

  7. Vern pretty much nailed my feelings about this movie. Good, long, and a couple hmm parts. And I’m also confused at how many grey-templed, heavyset people were in the audience with me. Out for a relaxing night on the town.
    I was a little surprised the audience was way more gaspy/shocked at the mutilated cat body than at the rapey parts.
    Did anyone else think it seemed like Fincher kept referencing REBECCA? The approach to the house, in the lane with the trees, reminded me of the opening of REBECCA, and then also stuff like Hariet’s father looking like Mr. Dewinter (in the little picture they show Mikael using for reference), and a boathouse area being important in the scene of a supposed drowning. And the way both films circle around a character who has a presence even though she’s missing…

  8. Vern – the book was an insane best seller, one of those rare books in recent times that penetrated (poor choice of word?) the pop culture zeitgeist that people had to go read and shit. So that’s why it was considered a big production, with Oscar-nominated respected filmmaker and decent star in James Bond. I could see why Sony thought this would be a big must see movie of the season.

    Now why the older people in the crowd? I don’t know Vern, because its a mystery/thriller that maybe (just guessing) might be aimed at adults and not another CGI orgy blockbuster toy based off a comic book or video game? I don’t know.

    I would partly blame the movie’s current box-office earnings on (asides from the running time) the crowded as fuck Christmas season. You had this then TINTIN then WE BOUGHT A ZOO* then WAR HORSE then Mission Impossible 4 and Darkest Hour** (I know, just humor me) and SHERLOCK HOLMES 2 and etc. That’s alot of shit.

    Of course I haven’t seen this movie. Or the books. Or the Swedish versions. Just my two cents.

    *=who the fuck wants to see that?
    **=Now that’s a random Christmas release.

  9. How many theatrically released big budget R-rated movies do we see these days? And the fact that is actually aimed at adults? A movie that does not contain,elves,midgets,superheroes,CGI monsters or anything like that at all? That might explain some of the high increase of older people among the audience…I don´t know…

  10. “secretly pining for our maniac pixie dream girl”

    Vern, are you familiar with Nathan Rabin? because that’s a funny spin on the term “manic pixie dream girl” that he coined

  11. Another case where I agree with pretty much everything I read in the review, yet I didn’t enjoy the movie nearly as much as the reviewer.

    I guess I’m wrong to expect an exciting mystery, because that’s where it fails. It turns out to be a pretty good character study and a decent straight drama, but it has the [misleading] trappings of potential mystery-thriller genre greatness. I keep expecting pregnant clues & subtle visual semi-revelations to build to an exciting climactic full scope reveal, but it doesn’t happen. The secrets aren’t very juicy or fun or awe-inspiring. The possible outcomes are limited and mired in so so much exposition & boring research interludes that it’s not much fun to play the “Who’s the killer? How’d they do that?” guessing game like it should be for mystery movie audiences.

    So, if I don’t get anything out of the backstory & hidden identity plots, then that means I should at least get a thrill from the suspenseful violence. But of course I’m not equipped with the felonious, psychotic chemical imbalance necessary to enjoy the rape & revenge parts too much, though they’re skillfully filmed.

    So that leaves the climax. The most exciting part of the movie is probably the part with the missing kitchen knife. There’s a certain sprezzatura, a gentlemanly restraint between the dueling parties that cleverly accentuates one man’s imminent doom & victimhood and one man’s growing sense of victory & assuredness. A drink in one hand, a gun in the other — kidnap-torture-murder has never seemed so civilized (until we see & hear the reel-to-reel Enya, what the fuck?!).

    The next most exciting part should be when the killer dangles his blade before Blue Eyes’s stomach. At last, I behold a scene that makes me hold my breath a little, makes me forget other stuff while I guess what’s gonna happen next. . . and then Lisbeth the superheroine wipes out the suspense by crashing into the scene and doing poorly explicated superhero stuff.

    At least we can agree that Lisbeth is interesting. Her character’s strength & centrality is the only successful element in these movies, in my opinion, but, ironically, her lack of limitations limits my ability to appreciate the stories around her.

    Here’s my other thoughts, from a few days ago, in which I blow your mind with other original critiques of DRAGON TAT GIRL, if you’re interested:
    http://outlawvern.com/2010/07/07/the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo/#comment-2089196

  12. For me the film and its attending box office call to mind Steve Erickson’s explanation on the secret to film criticism: everything is either overrated, or underrated—that’s it.

    We’re at that moment where the zeitgeist is fading back into the sea, leaving the audience to sift through the pop cultural ruins in its wake. All the beachcombers are coming to gripes with the idea that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t the end all and be all crime thriller they thought it was. This was, if you’re reading Drew over at Hitfix, a supermarket pulp written by a middle-aged journalist with fantasies of a sexual renaissance at the hands of his coworkers, interviewees, and a cyberpunk fantasy girl; beach reading at best—or, if you’re like Devin over at Badass, who couldn’t even get through the fucking thing—a work to be skipped altogether.

    And I can see it. The achingly off-putting passive voice sentences that take forever to come to a point; the endless parade of ridiculous sexual conquests by this bland, cypher-like indie editor; the cyberpunk heroine who can hack anything and everything as though she’s Matthew Broderick in WARGAMES. Then there’s this movie. Okay, but not good, and really hammering home how stale the investigation can seem when it’s on the screen and not the page. The flashbacks feel like reenactments from the history channel, and when someone finally does something you jar awake and remember that yes, this is a Fincher movie, and one with some merit at times, if not enough to push it over into the good category.

    So Bad Seed, if you think this then why the hell did you read the entire original trilogy? And why did you then go see this movie? The doctor said your head injury has cleared up, so what the fuck man?! Well, I’m glad I asked myself that, because since I weaned myself off the meds I’ve been meaning to take a stab at one of the reasons this got so big, namely, the use of genre to explore the ways massive power structures exploit and abuse people, especially women, for a host of reasons.

    This has been done before. Hell, James Ellroy made a career out of it; start in the dingiest of scenes over the slashiest of bodies, and follow a broken but determined investigator up the ladder into the highest corridors of power. Think BLACK DAHLIA. Think LA CONFIDENTIAL. The way these rich bastards make victims of us all, both in the annuals of the past, and through their actions in the present.

    In steps Lisbeth, the ultimate victim. I mean, this girl was fucked from birth. Not through circumstance, but via deliberate manipulation of the state on account of her background. They made her a ward with no rights of her own, and put her in the position of being abused day in and day out, first by family, and then by those who are supposed to watch over her (and yes, I’m being vague here for those of you who haven’t read or seen any of this). Now, if she’d been an Ellroy character she’d have been killed in the first chapter in order to galvanize the main, middle-aged male character into fighting and fucking his way toward a proper cathartic revenge; sorry you’re too dead to enjoy it honey. It’s because of this that I think the rape’s isn’t just exploitation, but the culmination of people in power believing they can do anything to this seemingly beaten down, broken looking girl. Hell, it ain’t like she’s the first.

    But Lisbeth is different. A pulp creation through in through, borderline autistic beneath a veneer of bruises and pins. She takes no shit no matter how much the world stacks against her. She turns the paradigm on its ear, and through her actions you get the thrill of challenging the status quo in the most ridiculously entertaining of fashions. In the end it’s this wish fulfilment that I enjoy; not the middle-aged sex machine navigating his way through a CSI crime scene, but the idea that the victim can rise from ash each and everything time and keep on coming. That’s what I come back to whenever I think the work’s overrated; because it is, yet in the end this inversion of the victim dynamic’s so rewarding, whether or not the author knew what he was doing.

  13. I haven’t actually read your review yet, I will be doing that next, but I can not stress to you enough Vern; you must read the novels. I haven’t seen the Norwegian films but I did see Fincher’s version. (It’s David Fucking Fincher, you watch his movies.) He did a good job of making that book into a movie. (He’s David Fucking Fincher.) But its still just a movie. Read the books. It’s the only way to really understand. Plus, you’ll be happy you did.

  14. Vern, I’ve always liked how you handle spoiler tags in your reviews, but the old-fashioned “Confidential to…” really took the cake this time.

  15. Nice to finally read a review that addresses the film’s possible misogyny, which is a question that comes up a lot less than you’d think, but people always ignore the fact that Stieg Larsson watched his friends gang-rape a 15-year-old girl on a camping trip way back when. I know people say don’t judge the art by the artist or whatever, and generally I’ll let a lot of shit slide, but this one really irks me. In Larsson’s defense he felt bad after – so bad he had to write a book about rape, I guess – but I don’t know man, you had to watch a 15-year-old girl get gang-raped in order to know maybe that wasn’t gonna sit so well with you? Makes me really question the guy’s character and his motivation for telling this story. Yeah, on the one hand he seems to be saying men treat women like shit, but on the other hand, it also sounds like there’s a sort of masochistic pleasure being taken in showing just how MUCH men treat women like shit. Where’s the line between honestly depicting abuse and revelling in it for an exploitative thrill? But overall I can’t really judge this, not having read the books or seen the film. (I love Fincher but I don’t want to support Larsson, or more accurately – his estate.)

  16. Jared- thank you for saying way more eloquently what I just spent about 45 minutes trying and ultimately failing to find a way to say.

    I’ve always wondered about ‘Men Who Write Novels About Men Who Hate Women’, but I never heard that about Larsson’s past. If it’s true, that’s pretty fucked up. What I find troubling as well, is that I don’t think the books (and therefore the movies) would have been nearly as popular as they are without the rape scene.  Sort of like the sex scene in Monster’s Ball, only ‘pretty fucked up’ instead of ‘vaguely uncomfortable.’

  17. I enjoyed this, but it won’t age well. A few thoughts I had, having seen both movies but not read the books:

    1. The title sequence is excellent. If it was a music video I’d watch it dozens of times. And it’s thematically appropriate, so even better.

    2. I liked the cat. I knew he wasn’t part of the Swedish movie, so I thought, “Okay, nice little Hollywood bullshit, put in a cute kitty to help humanize Blomqvist so that we empathize with him more.” I was impressed that Fincher did what he did with it.

    3. It’s an interesting contrast, the two Lisbeths. Swedish Lisbeth is more self assured, more independent, and if I remember it right she doesn’t ask when she wants to kill somebody. AmeroLisbeth is more slight, vulnerable, and self-conscious. (You saw that scene where she tells the sheriff she can’t put on weight? Played for a laugh, but great subtext.) SL is more superhero and AL is more damaged and withdrawn. I like both characters.

    4. The ending was ridiculous in the Swedish version–I almost thought it was a dream sequence–and still ridiculous here. Hey, Lisbeth is now one of the richest women in Sweden! Because you can move a hundred million dollars without attracting attention…

    5. Fincher did a good job with this, but I wish he didn’t direct it. If only because there’s so much time in a man’s career and he has the potential to put out masterpieces… which, given the plot to this movie, it would’ve been impossible for him to make one.

    6. This might be ignorant of me, given that I’ve never read them, but man, I have a feeling the books are pretty bad.

  18. Mara’s Lisbeth is much closer to the book Lisbeth. Rapace was kind of her own thing. Lisbeth is supposed to be this super self-conscious 90 lb stick insect that is often mistaken for retarded. Advantage: Mara.

    The problem is that in books 2 and 3 she kind of turns into a Mary Sue – think Hit Girl in the shade of goth. In some ways she becomes more of a cipher than Blomkvist.

    The books are pretty average indeed. Though book 2 is prolly the best of the bunch.

    And if you thought Lisbeth with a tattoo gun is bad, you really don’t want to see her with a nail gun.

  19. Yeah, I don’t want to take Fincher out of circulation, but since PLAYED WITH FIRE was my favorite of the Swedish series I also really want to see what he does with it. And then since I didn’t like part 3 I’d like to see if he could make something better of it. Shit.

    And I still think it would be funny if they cast Dolph Lundgren as that big lug, I forget his name.

  20. Jared, I think you’re being unfair towards Larsson (and Larsson’s estate). The event in his life you refer has to do with impotence and not being able to act, because you’re scared. He kind of knew what was going on, but couldn’t/didn’t do anything about it.

    To me it sounds like you’re having this mental image of a frat boy who’s standing on the sideline laughing while his friends rape a poor girl, but the way I read the story (and the way it is portrayed here in Scandinavia, where I’m writing from) I picture a weak boy, who doesn’t really grasp what is going on in the tent next to his, and it takes that event and the following comment from the girl to him “never to speak to her again” to make him realise how weak he was, and how mysoginist the society he was part of was.

    The first book opens with dry statistics about the number of women, that are abused each year by men. I don’t think he revels in anything, he is rather trying to portray, that this is serious business, and not something to be glossed over. The books read like angry attacks on mysogony, racism and injustice in the Swedish society.

  21. I think Lisbeth is pretty clearly a fetish object on par with Michele Pfeiffer in Batman Returns. Which is to say, I found her to be utterly mesmerizing and unbelievably hot. That said, the sex scenes all struck me as gratuitous. It’s like, every time the movie got boring, they’d cut to some hot goth T&A to keep you awake.

    The rape scenes also seemed poorly handled. I don’t know what we really got out of the overhead…head shot and I think that if we cut away from the anal rape and only saw it on the video during the (Jaws the) revenge the dichotomy would have been more clear and effective.

    Also, I for one do not consider Death Wish Too to be anything approaching entertainment.

  22. The last great movie Fincher made was “Zodiac.” Since then the dude’s aesthetic has remained pleasing but predictable and lacking the energy of his earlier movies (I’m not talking about Spartac-I mean, Alien3). He’s a great director but not a writer-director and thus less interesting that your Tarantino’s or PTA’s. I’ll always be interested in what he does but also constantly aware that he’s at the mercy of his script. I’d love to see the dude attempt comedy.

  23. Wow, graphic rape AND a horribly mutilated cat in one movie? I guess I’m gonna sit that one out.

  24. I spent my adolescence listening to stuff like Crass, Lydia Lunch and Diamanda Galas, so whatever transgressive qualities this Salander character is supposed to have are lost on me, much in the way that the sturm und drang of Green Day would never really translate into anything particularly edgy because I’ve survived gigs by The Clash, The Cramps and Black Flag. Even my mom thinks Salander looks cute.

    I hope they let Gondry do the next one TATTOO GIRL movie. Gondry would Swede this series right.

  25. It tickles me that a movie that makes “only” 100 mil. is considered a disappointment.

  26. I haven’t read the book or seen either version of the movie, so I have nothing to add except that every single time I see or hear the title I get the song “Red Dragon Tattoo” by Fountains of Wayne stuck in my head. They should have used that song in the movie. I bet it would have cuted it up by at least 20, 25%.

  27. Similarly, I think they should have used Prince’s “Sister” in OLD BOY.

  28. Shit man, check out the tagline for the poster. “Evil shall with evil be expelled”. They totally cribbed that from Chronicles of Riddick!

  29. I agree with Tawdry about the unnecessary shots, and not necessarily only because I’m squeamish or much concerned with the message of the rape scenes, but rather because the narrative could be more economical.

    The lesbian hook up scene also seemed gratuitous, again not because of its inclusion or the content (Ooh, t & a!), but because it’s filmed in a different manner than anything else. Suddenly we are in music video world, with black cuts and an anti-dialogue sequence. That jarring visual style works great in FIGHT CLUB — I’m referring to the scene in which Tyler talks about leather clothes & strips of venison — but it was out of place in Fincher’s latest.

    That’s a fairly small objection to others’ arguments that Fincher is a great filmatist who always makes masterpieces, but it’s fodder for my counterargument that his only masterpiece was released in 1999. I like his style a lot, but only FIGHT CLUB & THE GAME & much of ALIEN 3 strike me as the work of a Great One.

  30. Great review as ever Vern. I came to this without having read the books or seen the Swedish versions. When we got to the sinister island with the creepy extended family I was kind of hoping we were heading into Wicker Man territory, and that Bond would get sacrificed to Hitler, or his Swedish equivalent, but the direction they chose to go instead was ok too I guess.

    I also decided that if I ever ended up with ‘I am a rapist pig’ tattooed on my chest, I would probably get someone, a professional tattoo artist for preference, to add a crafty ‘not’ in the middle there, that would sort it right out.

    While I’m here Vern, have you seen ‘Kill List’, would love to read your review of that.

  31. If Fincher had gone all WICKER MAN with a Robot-Hitler sacrifice, I’d take back everything I said about THE GAME being more lame than most Bruckheimer flicks.

  32. Ray64:

    That’s not true. Fincher gets to make movies on his terms because he makes “packages.” He will get together with a writer, do like 60+ drafts with them (literally), giving them very specific and minute notes. Then he will go out to actors, assemble a team, break down the budget and then present the whole thing to the studio as a take it or leave it offer. That’s why Fight Club is as edgy as it is. He doesn’t write the screenplays because he knows it’s not his strength. But he is very involved in the scripting process from the ground up.

    Also, I can’t see outside of my own proclivities, histories, ect. so maybe you guys can clear something up for me; are we not supposed to find Lisbeth attractive from scene one? Like is it supposed to be a “surprise” when she gets naked in front of James Bond and turns out to have a perfect figure and full C-cups? Because I found her to be utterly nubile from minute one. But then, artificially colored hair (excepting bottle-blonds), facial piercings, excessive tattoos, an androgynous physique, steel-toed boots, an IQ of 150 and a caustic sense of humor pretty much sums up exactly what I look for in a girl. So, I can’t really judge.

    Lisbeth herself is pretty fucked up, but she carries the vast majority of the qualities that I would put into my own manic pixie dream girl if I were going to write a semi-hypocritical anti-rape statement novel in which the primary protagonist was little more than a Mary Sue for myself and fucked every woman he encountered between the ages of 18-40.*

    *The women are between 18 and 40. If he fucked every woman he encountered from the time he turned 18 until the time he turned 40 the novel would be far too long and more carefully constructed mystery would be obscured by a series of gratuitous sex scenes that not only add nothing to the plot but actually detract from it while ironically being the highlight of the inevitable film adaptation, if you ignore the killer opening credits that I am sure it would have.

  33. Actually, I think I just described my favorite novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. Except, er…the protagonist doesn’t stick to that 40-year old cutoff…or the 18-year old minimum. So, like, same concept, just expand that to 14-72.

  34. I get incredibly annoyed when a movie has actors speaking English in some foreign accent, like this film does. Obviously, in a perfect world they would just speak the original language, but we all know that’s never gonna happen in a Hollywood movie. I mean, I get it, these films are made for an English speaking audience. Fair enough.

    But why the stupid fucking accents?

    It sure as hell doesn’t make the actors or characters seem more authentic. If anything, it’s one hell of a distraction. Don’t they realize that a Russian guy speaking English doesn’t sound at all like a Russian guy speaking Russian. The rhythm, pace, enunciation, etc. of a person struggling with a second language is completely different from someone speaking their home language. That’s why so many Russian guys sound plain retarded when they speak English. They don’t sound retarded when they speak Russian, though. So why the fuck would anyone think it’s a good idea to have Harrison Ford put on a ridiculous Russian accent in a movie like K-19? Why would you want your protagonist, the decorated and experienced captain of a fucking submarine, to sound like some moron who struggles to string a sentence together?

    I much prefer what Brian Singer did in Valkyrie: Drop the stupid accents. They’re already relying on the audience’s suspension-of-disbelief to buy into the idea that Tom Cruise and Kenneth Branagh are German, so why not just have them speak in their own accents and have them sound comfortable and eloquent enough for us to actually see them as believable people? I think that’s the way forward.

  35. American Lisbeth’s hairdo & eyebrows & attire make her unattractive to me. I have trouble getting past ugly bangs. I don’t care for the baggy boy pants or the ratty “Fuck you you fucking fuck” t-shirt, though that t-shirt deserves some chuckles.

    The make-up, despondent facial expressions, and cigarette smoking suggest a certain level of dirtiness, a trashiness that I would have to be very drunk to overlook if I, uh, pursued her romantically (a phrase for which a punker-goth type like her would laugh in my face).

    So, I would not engage in sexual intercourse with her. Her body is okay, but nothing I’d be too excited about. But none of this seemed important to me while watching the movie.

  36. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 13th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    “What I like about it is how the sound effects and the music sort of bleed into each other and infect each other.”

    Which is why Trent Reznor is one of my favorite sound designers working today. And David Fincher is still my favorite director (although Chris Nolan is doing some serious jockeying for that spot). Also: I’ll make a scoring critic of you yet, Vern.

    I haven’t seen the Swedish version of this, but I do love the ending of Fincher’s version – which is identical to the book’s ending, incidentally – and I thought it was masterfully done. Much like the whole movie, really. Yeah, it was never going to be Fincher’s best, but I’m glad it was him doing it and not some hack.

  37. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 13th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Mouth – I agree with that, but then if they’d done what they usually do and made the strong female character “sexy” then it would’ve undercut the film, in my opinion. Rooney Mara played her as a convincing social outcast. She has urges, the same as anybody does, but doesn’t do the conventional things when trying to fulfil them.

  38. To answer Tawdry’s question, no, I don’t think Lisbeth is meant to give you a boner, especially in this version. Her look is not a way of saying “Hey, I’m looking for someone who shares my interests.” It’s saying “stay the fuck away from me.” The rapist/guardian asks her if her eyebrow ring is supposed to be attractive. Of course that means the answer is no, but he couldn’t understand that.

    Fincher told Entertainment Weekly in their recent cover story, “Rooney’s a beautiful girl. She can look like Audrey Hepburn — but she can also look like a boy. So we’d decide where we wanted to put the stud through her eyebrow by asking, ‘Where is it going to be most in the way? Where is the most distracting place?”

    Also it has been widely reported that Scarlett Johnanson wanted the role bad but that Fincher felt she was “too sexy.”

    But when Lisbeth decides to have sex with Mikael, obviously he’s into it. So they gotta intend some kind of forbidden fruit type titillation or something.

    As for cutting away from the rape scenes, I think there are different legitimate arguments but I tend to subscribe to the LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT philosophy that trying to avoid the unpleasantness of the scene in some way minimizes the crime. I feel like it’s appropriate for it to be punishing to the audience to watch. In a way it would be offensive to try to make it tasteful.

    Then again, the scene afterwards in the shower is probly the most upsetting part of the movie.

  39. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 13th, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    …Or Vern could put it about ten times better than I did.

  40. I think they missed a trick with the bag theft scene. Sure in the new version she chases after the guy, elbows him in the face and gets her bag back (with broken laptop), thus getting the two important points of the scene across. I just felt that this scene was far more effective, and scarier, in the Swedish version in telling us about Lisbeth’s psychopathic side. She brandishes a broken bottle at four guys after taking a couple of hefty punches, and looks seriously fucked up and badass doing so, which created both sympathy and fear in me for her. In Fincher’s version this scene is just an extremely poor action sequence replete with sliding-down-the-escalator stunt. Mind you, I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how the scene is written there.

  41. I recently saw Peter Greenaway’s THE BABY OF MACON, which has an infamous scene near the end where a character gets raped by over 100 soldiers offscreen (though audiably). I mention this because the film is about the divide between obscene acts in real life and “obscenity” in art, however Greenaway had stated he wanted to make MACON as an antidote to films featuring “safe and glamourous” acts of violence, so I feel that staging it offscreen was in someways backing away from his intentions. He of course gave the standard response that “what you don’y see is scarier”, and given that the film had one of the poorest receptiones Cannes has ever seen and apparently has never been touched by distributors in the US, perhaps he was proven right. Great film by the way; I also recommend THE BELLY OF AN ARCHITECT, especially to any Brian Dennehy fans (feel there will be quite a few here somehow!)

  42. Pacman: Even among Greenaway fans THE BABY OF MACON in divisive. And I agree with Greenaway that not showing the rape, in this instance, was far more disturbing than something like the similar scene in LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN, which was pretty cheesy.

    Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, DROWNING BY NUMBERS is a real treat.

  43. I think Paul Verhoeven has an interesting and more honest approach to rape on film. In several of his dutch movies, he showed erected penises, which is even for Europe pretty controversial, especially because they were sometimes shown in combination with pretty graphic rape scenes. But Verhoeven explained it, that it’s technically nothing else than showing how someone gets shot with a gun or stabbed with a knife. We have the weapon, wich is either a gun/bullet or knife/blade and it is shown penetrating the body of its victim. A rapist uses his penis as a weapon, so when it is accepted to show horrible acts of violence on film and present the weapons and the victims clearly visible, why are penises and rape on film banned?
    I’m not really a fan of rape, even if it’s fictional, but if you ask me, I take Verhoeven’s dry approach over Greenaway’s pseudo intellectual.

  44. I watched DROWNING BY NUMBERS in the last week as well. Going through a bit of a Greenaway phase, had a real turnaround on him recently; I think I mentioned to someone in the comments for THE TEMPEST, possibly even yourself, that I wasn’t a big Greenaway fan as even though I liked THE COOK, PROSPERO’S BOOKS had proved a little too difficult for me* and THE DRAUGHTMAN’S CONTRACT seemed quite dull, but I decided to watch A ZED AND TWO NOUGHTS and MACON and they blew me away. Now working my way through his filmography (in no particular order). Despite my reservations I always thought he was interesting, but I now think he’s an inconsistent but truly great filmmaker and a genuine auteur (a term I try to use sparringly), and I agree (BROADLY!) with much of what he says about cinema’s need to progress beyond what he calls “illustrated text”.

    *Which I will need to give another go sometime, as I saw it on a fairly lousy VHS copy, which is fairly fatal for such a visual film. Unfortunately Greenaway’s films are bloody expensive to buy on DVD/Blu-Ray in the UK (most are Import only)

  45. CJ Holden- Are you referring to SPETTERS there? Some truly shocking scenes there, even (especially?) today. A pretty depressing film, but a very good one, often overlooked in Verhoeven’s oeuvre.

  46. I think SPETTERS was the one, where he got criticized the most for, in terms of visible penises and rape.

  47. We don’t tend to get tied up in these ethical knots when Marcellus Wallace gets raped in PULP FICTION, or when men routinely get raped in comedies for laugh-effect, right?

    So our unease is not really about rape, per se, but gender.

    Women are routinely murdered in the films of badass cinema, and that rarely rates a philosophical mention — but that’s because being dead does not call attention to their gender.

  48. @DocZ

    I think the unease IS about rape, not so much gender, because this movie’s bad guys are all rapists. Also, it’s mainly men who rape. In this movie a woman is the victim and the one who exacts revenge, but while it’s true that it’s generally accepted that men are raping women, they are also raping men and that fact is much more repressed because it’s more transgressive.

    We don’t get up in arms when men are raping men in a movie, because the subtext of that scene is this is what happens to the men who don’t bow down to the ones who have power. The same goes for when a woman is raped, this is what happens to the women who don’t toe the line and support the powerful mens. The fact that we cheer when the hero fights abuses of power doesn’t change this underlying message.

    Films reflect a rapist cultural norm, and rape has been a tool of oppression throughout millenia, though the reality is that men are raping men more than they are raping women.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_by_gender

  49. I must say I disagree with the general consensus on the aggressively-goth community. In fact, I’ve found the exact opposite to be true.

    During college, I spent a lot of time avoiding parties because I hated everything about the culture. The misogyny, casual racism, entitlement, elitism, anti-intellectualism, horrible music, and so on.

    It wasn’t until I discovered subculture parties and groups that I really found my groove. Everywhere in life, the more, “Mainstream” the activity, the more grotesque the attitudes. There is a sense that whatever is popular is, “Natural” so those within the mainstream tend to have a certain sense of chauvinism. Conversely, when I went to parties thrown by LGBTQIA clubs, punk shows, performance art groups, ect. people were cool, respectful, intelligent, eloquent and far less apt to be drinking to dangerous excess.

    When I first moved back to LA, an ex-girlfriend called me up and invited me out. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was walking into a fetish club. And you know what? Everyone there was extremely cool. No one was grope-y, snide or mean-spirited. The discussions were better, the company was of a higher caliber and the evening was extremely pleasant. I’m not really into all of that, but I still go to those clubs sometimes because they attract a much more refined crowd, in a weird way.

    Similarly, if I saw a girl like Lisbeth at the bus stop, I would certainly stop to talk with her, share a cigarette, what have you. I’ve met a good number of very attractive (to me) goth girls like this. And in general, they’re very genuine and insightful people. Or at least more likely to be intelligent, interesting and insightful than the girl wearing Juicy Couture and Prada. All of fashion is a performance anyway, so it’s not like the, “Normal” girls are actually all that normal.

    I’m not talking high school goths who want to piss off their parents, of course. I’m talking girls who are 25 and still doing it. Girls for whom it isn’t a statement, it’s an identity. And the boys too, for that matter. Any time I can, I would rather do a niche activity or hang out with niche people. Being outside of the so-called norm seems to make people more perceptive and open.

    But that’s just my two cents. I’ve also grown up in areas where there is less of a social prohibition against avant garde fashion. I suppose the one goth girl living in Milwaukee might be a different case.

  50. DocZ:

    The difference between rape on film and violence on film cuts to the core of cinema as an art form. I would argue that the cinema is an inherently voyeuristic medium. The pleasures of cinema are tied to the fact that we are seeing the world from the privileged perspective of G-d (Truffaut called it The Holy Moment). We are shown all the right moments in exactly the right order to create a narrative out of the chaos of existence and are given a sort of omnipotence as a result.

    However, this voyeurism is also sexual in nature. We are spying on the private lives of men and women like Tom peeping on Lady Godiva. As a result, we are made to be more complicit in the rape than we are in the violence. It is natural to enjoy violence. It’s encoded in our DNA. It’s one of the most basic, natural things in the world. Taking pleasure in rape, however, is actually a perversion. Not that rape has no place in art and not that rape, even graphic rape, should never be included in entertainment, but it becomes more complicated because the camera’s lens makes a fetish object out of whatever it focuses upon.

    Also, the issue with rape in cinema is one of degradation. A rape is worse than a murder in some ways because it leaves one wounded in a more spiritual way. To quote Brother Ali, “How can she ever find peace of mind/When love means returning to the scene of the crime.”

    Also, male-on-male rape humor is a different case because while a rape joke at the expense of a woman is a joke about rape, rape at the expense of a man often carries a connotation of role reversal and displacement of social order; joking about raping a woman reinforces the social order, joking about raping a man could, hypothetically, be about subverting social order.

    This is the same reason you see so many jokes at the expense of Christianity in mainstream culture, even though mainstream culture is very openly Christian. When the comedian takes a potshot at the Church, he/she is referring to the social order at large. What is more representative of, “The Man” than the Church?

  51. I’m picking up what Tawdry’s laying down alright, but I don’t want to be accused of judging “mainstream” yuppie-preppie types as somehow culturally superior to “the aggressively-goth community,” as he broadly identifies it (along with a lot of other types & communities that he seems to place under one larger umbrella separate from the “mainstream”).

    Yeah, I went to a ton of college parties, too. The baseball team’s keggers were awesome, the lesbian field hockey team’s parties were a different kind of awesome, and the local artsy stage performer crowd was somehow a bunch of tightwads. I went to so many live shows & concerts and the various subsequent afterparties that it’d be a fool’s task to try to simplify by classification the niches & subcultures represented in the residual party crowds defined by the particular audiences for the shows that spawned them. One night I’m sharing blunts with a hip hop crowd, the next I’m drunkenly throwing a nerf football with a xylophonista outside a real estate closing soiree, the next I’m trying to hook up at a rickshaw garage party hosted by Charleston Pedicab. Admittedly, the closest I’ve come to a fetishist gathering has been a few lingerie parties.

    Anyway, I’m saying, in the specific instance of seeing Lisbeth Salander, when I see those ill-fitting boy pants and I smell the tobacco and I see the facial paleness & the piercings, it gives me the impression that she’s someone who probably doesn’t take enough showers, doesn’t use soap and rubbing alcohol & peroxide often enough. Maybe that’s harsh, but that’s what my testicles tell me. It’s in no way a judgment on her “community.”

    And she doesn’t ever smile, so I don’t know how she’d be appealing in the amicable hanging-out way, either. Doesn’t mean I’m judging some population segment or a whole subculture. It means I enjoy watching her kick ass in a movie, but that I wouldn’t be interested in befriending or fucking her real life counterpart.

  52. It would be extremely funny if they cast Dolph Lundgren as that big lug especially because (according to imdb) he was asked to play that part in the Swedish movie and refused.

  53. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 17th, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Tawdry – I’ve just watched the Swedish version of TGwtDT and thought that Nyqvist was fantastic as Blomkvist – much better than Daniel Craig was – and the bloke who played Martin Vanger did a far better job. It didn’t pull some punches that Fincher’s version did, and I largely preferred the Swedish version of the Vanger family to the American one. Other than that, though, I thought Fincher’s version was superior in every respect except scoring (both films were excellent on that count).

    I mean, I know I must sometimes come off as though I have a natural bias towards Fincher, but then I thought “Social Network” was a little overrated. I think, if you put the two films together, Swedish and American versions, the Swedish one would come off as amateurish. I mean, it was good, but… if you compare any other director’s work to David Fincher, I’ve always thought the other director would come off second-best the vast majority of the time. And now here’s proof of it. Two directors, same source material, but Fincher makes the other guy look amateurish.

    Oh, and Rooney Mara made a far more convincing Lisbeth Salander, for my tastes. Plus the Swedish film’s ending pretty much missed the point, and I don’t know how they’re gonna be able to pick it back up in films 2 and 3.

  54. This only came out this week in Holland so I only just got a chance to see it. As soon as I read that Fincher was gonna make this I decided to save my dragon tattoo virginity for his version, so I haven’t read the books or seen the Swedish version.

    In the end I enjoyed it a lot, although as Vern says the real enjoyment is in the relationship between Craig and Mara’s characters, not the mystery itself. Even though I did not know the details, I guessed who the bad guy was almost as soon as he came onscreen. Come on, you don’t cast THAT actor if you’re not gonna let him be evil for a little bit, he’s so good at it. Also, the length of the film didn’t bother me. Didn’t check my watch once, I thought a good pace was kept throughout the entire running time.

    After reading Vern’s comparison to the Swedish version I kind of want to see it now. I know fans of those films have said Noomi Rapace IS Lisbeth Salander for them, but I feel that way about Rooney Mara now. I thought she was great, and even though they tried to make her ugly, I still thought she was pretty hot in a couple of scenes (no, not THAT scene ya sick fucks). Rapace on the other hand looks TOO hot in screenshots, like they tried to make her look like Kate Beckinsale from Underworld. Can’t imagine she’ll be more convincing in the part than Mara.

    Ooh, fun fact: did you guys know the rapist was played by Dutch actor Yorick van Wageningen? Wasn’t he a great rapist? I thought he was a great rapist.

  55. caruso_stalker217

    January 21st, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Finally got to see this as well. I thought it was fantastic and kinda wished it didn’t have to end.

  56. Caught this one finally – it was pretty good, definitely beautiful to look at, excellent music and sound design. Great acting, especially by Mara. (She really did seem like an unknown foreign actress to me). It was definitely never boring. But I still felt something was missing. The weird structure (the two protagonists don’t meet until after around 80ish minutes – the runtime of a lot of movies), the weird epilogue (there’s literally around 30 minutes left after the climax) were interesting but a little too awkward for me. It just took me out of the movie, like the “fourth act” of The Dark Knight. I guess my mind and expectations have been warped by so many conventional structures?

    I think another problem is that the central mystery is simultaneously really confusing but also really predictable. Like probably everyone here, I was able to guess the identity of the killer by the casting, and the double identity reveal of the missing person did nothing for me because i wasn’t quite sure who the character was supposed to be in the first place. I’m guessing the mystery plot is supposed to take a backseat to the characters and their chemistry (like Lethal Weapon) but when it’s a 2 hr. 40 minute movie, the plot can’t be as throaway as the one here. Still, it’s a good one and it makes me really want to see the sequel.

  57. I’ve fallen out of love with Fincher, or his taste in stories, anyway. His filmatism is becoming more like Ken Burns and less like the exciting Hype Williams-John McTiernan hybrid whose works I mostly enjoyed in the 90s.

    I already managed to use the word “sprezzatura” in this talkback, so I’ve obviously peaked on my contribution to amateur criticism of the Adventures of DragonGirl and I’ll be happy to skip the sequel[s].

  58. SPOILERS FOR BOTH THIS AND THE SWEDISH FILM

    Having not read the books and only having seen the previous movie, I thought it was a better version of what I’d seen before. It cut a lot of dead weight, didn’t gloss over the darker subjects it addresses, and has a more satisfactory conclusion. In a sense it felt less “Hollywood” than the Swedish version, which feels like an average thriller in comparison now. The multiple endings of that film lead to a jumbled sequel that I didn’t even finish (I do hope the American sequels eventually get made, want to see them first then revisit the Swedish trilogy and read the books). Keeping it entirely set in Europe also helped it have more of a stylistic flow that Fincher could probably do in his sleep.

    I think Rooney did a better job of portraying the vulnerabilities that I didn’t find much of in Rapace’s performance. They were there, but they eroded as it went on and by the end of the movie she’s a kind of killing machine rather than who she was at the beginning. This Lisbeth however, isn’t seen killing anyone at all. Even though the burning of her father is mentioned towards the end and she almost kills Martin, but is blown up before it can happen. I’d like to believe this incarnation of the character has never went all the way with killing someone, and is explored more in the sequels.

    And this really shows that Daniel Craig needs to stay out of the action genre, outside of the Bond pictures. He does so much better in character-driven things like this, than in something like COWBOYS & ALIENS where his guy was really just a cut-out of Western cliches (much like everyone was). And that’s the brilliance of his James Bond is that he made this iconic character more down-to-earth and human than some before him have.

    David’s been on a roll for awhile now, and I think he’s been doing some his best work, starting with ZODIAC (which is his masterpiece, imo). I’m really looking forward to the Netflix series he’s doing with Kevin Spacey, and whatever he’s got lined up next. This wasn’t one of his very best, but for me it’s close.

  59. Vern mentioned the score, and I have to say that the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve ever come across. Nearly 3 hours of minimal, dense music (as only Trent and Atticus can do) that fit the mood of the film perfectly. The album has gotten a lot of play on my iPod, and probably a bit more with winter here already.

    Funny thing about one of the comments above that mentions the actor who plays Bjurman. I later saw him in the Emilio Estevez-directed THE WAY, which is actually a nice little gem of a film. He plays this sweet guy who acts as a bit of a hanger-on to Martin Sheen’s character during the journey the film is about. I really didn’t pay any attention to who it was until he took his shirt off in one scene (don’t worry, didn’t rape anybody here), because he’s bare-chested during the rape scene in GWTDT.

  60. It’s highly likely Vern will get to this (when you’re ready of course Vern, no pressure), because it’s a Fincher joint, but I saw GONE GIRL the other day, and enjoyed the hell out of it. Easily Fincher’s trashiest, pulpiest film to date. I wouldn’t say it was challenging material for Fincher to tackle because it’s basically a noir/psycho-sexual thriller that’s been done a dozen times, but I was mesmerized for two and a half hours, even though I knew I was watching and being manipulated by a well-worn story. I compare it to getting the same joy from a DePalma joint when he’s working at full-strength with his bag of cinematic trickery.

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