Wednesday, January 4, 2012

the girl with the dragon tattoo: movie review

i'd been looking forward to the remake of the girl with the dragon tattoo ever since daniel craig was cast in the role of mikael blomkvist last year.  while craig was an inspired choice, i must admit that i was skeptical when rooney mara was cast as  lisbeth salander.  but rooney made the character her own and it worked beautifully (a term some might find ironic to describe a edgy gothic lisbeth).  it isn't often that a remake can stand on its own, but in nutshell, david fincher's adaption is worth the effort.  fincher's take is generally faithful to the 2009 swedish original.  but anyone who hasn't read stieg larsson's millennium trilogy or seen the original film, will not have a problem settling into the atmospherics of the graphic thriller.

it's the hollywood production values - read glossiness - that really set fincher's version apart from niels arden oplev's film.  the subtitles may have been a factor because listening to the story transpire in english is a lot easier than reading it.  i hate such generalizations but here, with so many plot details lurking in the storyline, i found it more enjoyable the second time around.  with respect to the story, i laid out the narrative in more detail in my review of the original film. i'd rather focus on a couple of interesting changes this time around. the main twist is the eventual meeting between blomkvist and lisbeth - which arrive more than an hour into the film.

in the original, lisbeth continued to hack (pry) into blomkvist's life, post-libel conviction.  she triggers the eventual meeting by sending him an email that explains the references - the story's major clue - found at the back of harriet vanger's diary.  in the remake, blomkvist's daughter tossed off an offhand remark that led mikael to realize the significance of the numbers.  armed with that clue, he then tracks down lisbeth to enlist her aid in his research.  character-wise, this paints their relationship in a completely different light.  in the remake, lisbeth had no continuing interest in blomkvist once she turned in the dossier to her employer.

moreover, while their meeting took place in similar circumstances (an unannounced arrival at her apartment after she had just spent the night with a girl she met at a club), craig exhibited an almost bond-like insouciance when he barged in, demanded the friend leave, and they had breakfast together!  over the take-out breakfast he had brought along, and insisted she eat, he related the harriet vanger mystery and the sought lisbeth's help in researching it.  in the original, blomkvist barged in threatening her with prosecution for continuing to spy on him - and settled for a cup of old, cold coffee!

that was the most significant twist in story line.  there were minor ones too, but they really didn't change the story (london versus the australian outback as one such example) - just the tone. does leading the life of an investment banker over that of an archaeologist add glitz?  why make that change?  similarly, while the lisbeth's financial re-engineering was implied in the original, it was achieved explicitly - dare we say underwritten - with mikael's funds in the remake.

there were only two things i didn't care for in this version.  the first was the opening credit sequence - done over a fantastic cover of led zeppelin! - which involved some of the most disgusting (imho) images of rubber fetish extremes imaginable.  it seemed like a nightmarish cross between a james bond opening credit sequence and outright sadomasochism.  call me a prude, but i found that utterly repulsive - and the memory still leaves a dank taste.  the second was the contrived emotion lisbeth felt for blomkvist at the end - and the equally ridiculous denouement in the final scenes.  contrast that to the scene in the swedish version of a country club prison where blomkvist was doing his jail time - now that ending worked.

all in all i enjoyed the remake - and look forward to the next two instalments

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