When remakes are done correctly, they’re a beautiful, glorious thing, like a beautiful piece of art or the birth of a beautiful baby. When remakes are done correctly, it makes me shed a manly tear of joy, because seeing something done better the second time around makes me happy, just like a great sequel.
In David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, he takes what was a melodramatic and overall poorly made 2009 adaptation, and adds a new level of ferocity and stylishness to it that was otherwise lost on the original. I think this is due mostly to his familiarity with the source material, a novel of the same name by the late Stieg Larsson, and his unfamiliarity with the original Swedish film (he’s been quoted as saying that he’s never seen it).
By now the plot should be familiar to most, but I’ll run through it to give everyone a fighting chance. The story follows a journalist named Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) who’s been exiled by almost every news outlet and has been stripped of his credibility due to a story that he published that was “proven” false. On the other side of things, professional computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) has gathered information on Blomkvist for a large Swedish family that is interested in hiring him for a job.
The job is to investigate the murder of Harriet Vanger (Moa Garpendal), the 16-year old niece of Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), who is the head of a large corporation known as the Vanger Co. For the past forty years, Vanger has been investigating Harriet’s death with no luck at all. In his desperation, he hires Blomkvist, in the hopes that he might be able to crack the case. Blomkvist reluctantly agrees, but the only way that he can do it is to hire the same person who was hired to investigate him, Lisbeth. The two team up to solve the murder of what might have been the heir to the entire Vanger legacy.
David Fincher’s interpretation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is much better than the 2009 original, but in some respects it isn’t good enough. As a huge fan of the source material, the only way that this film could possibly live up to my expectations is by being four hours long, because that’s how long it would take to include everything that a film of this magnitude requires. But, from a strictly cinematic standpoint, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an extremely fascinating murder mystery.
At 158 minutes, the film is a lot to take in, but it’s unfortunate because the first 80 minutes require Lisbeth and Mikael to be apart until they finally meet to work together on the case, which is far too long in my opinion. I say that because they only spend about 45 minutes solving the mystery together, with the last 35 minutes being dedicated to the aftermath of the ordeal as well as Salander proving Blomkvist innocent.
Though the build-up seems unnecessarily long, once the two finally get working, the film ignites. Their chemistry is sheer beauty. Who knew that mixing such an “alternative” personality as that of Lisbeth Salander with straight man Mikael Blomkvist would create pure magic? It doesn’t hurt that the performances by both Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, especially the latter, are undeniably committed and mesmerizing. Similar to that of Justin Timberlake in The Social Network, I almost forgot that I was staring at two actors and not viewing the private exploits of such fascinating personalities. Lisbeth Salander is portrayed as much more personable and approachable to Blomkvist, turning their relationship from strictly physical and professional, to borderline romantic, an addition to her character that I’m actually glad they made.
David Fincher’s direction is undoubtedly stylish, but in comparison to The Social Network, which was steadily chaotic, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is chaotically steady. By this I mean that regardless of the amount of pulsating action that happens on the screen, the camera refuses to take the shaky cam route and is one of the few things in this movie that remains calm, which I’m thankful for. In keeping with the almost classy and dark style that the film seems to go for, remaining steady really helps set a tone rather than flopping all over the place, blurring everything out of view.
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Atticus Ross, who also did the music for The Social Network, again compose the soundtrack. Whereas the music in The Social Network seemed to be a crucial part of the look of the film, the music in this film serves more as background filler rather than a key aspect, sans a dazzling credit sequence set to a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”.
Overall, as a remake, and even as an adaption, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo succeeds, but its sometimes obvious representation of the killer, as well as the dangerously slow first half drags the film down from great to good, which I’m perfectly fine with. I didn’t expect another Social Network, and I definitely didn’t get one. I’ve never been a huge fan of the adaptations of the books, because there’s just too much to adapt into one film, regardless of its length, but Fincher makes it much more watchable than the 2009 Swedish version, and that in itself is quite the achievement.