The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo</strong> (2011)

(In theaters, December 2011) Trying to review this film on its own is impossible given how recently I have read the Stieg Larsson book and seen the Swedish film adaptation.  It also doesn’t help that the American version seems so intent on faithfully adapting the book and taking its cues from the previous film: There’s no denying that the American version is good, but it’s so similar that the tendency is to focus on the areas of difference.  (Amazingly enough, through, the American version is 100% as Swedish as it’s ever been, taking place in Sweden with Swedish characters to the point of having the actors play with slight Swedish accents.)  Budget certainly makes a difference: Where the Swedish version had a scene at Millennium magazine with half a dozen staffers, the American version has the feel of a working magazine office.  Where the Swedish version held its outdoors scenes to a minimum, the American version indulges in scene-setting.  But don’t assume that all the edges have been filed away in an attempt to be audience-friendly: There is a least as much crude violence here, and perhaps a bit more nudity.  The bleak coda of the book has been kept over the Swedish film’s more hopeful finale, even as an expensive side-trip during the Swedish conclusion has been pared back for the American one.  Director David Fincher is a smart filmmaker, but even his talent and experience doesn’t seem to add all that much to this adaptation when compared to the Swedish one.  At least, there’s no arguing about the main casting is correct: Daniel Craig makes for a good Mikael Blomvkist, whereas Mara Rooney is almost as good as Noomi Rapace as Lizbeth Salander.  While the end result has a few flaws in pacing, most of them can be attributed to the book itself rather than any special flaw in the adaptation (which does dispense with some extraneous material, such as the carnal relationship between Blomvkist and one of the Vengers)  The main question about the film isn’t as much “Is it good?”  as “Why does it exist?” The Swedish version was good, but the American version isn’t that much better to justify having a director like David Fincher work-for-hire on it.  At some point; why bother?  Still, it may be best to focus on the idea that, for once, the American version is just as respectable as its foreign counterpart.  Small comfort, but we might as well take what we get.

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