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Can “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Slay a Stieg Larsson Virgin?

December 22, 2011

I confess: I never finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In fact, I barely even started it. Fifty pages or so into Stieg Larsson’s international bestseller, I gave up, bored with the digressions about Swedish politics. (I’ve heard the same thing from several other people—and even some devotees have told me it takes a while for the story to get moving.) I also didn’t see the subtitled original film adaptation; if I didn’t read the book, I wasn’t going to read the movie either.

So I went into director David Fincher’s English-language remake with low—no, make that no—expectations. And I loved it. True, it takes a while for the plot to kick in—disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig) and heavily inked hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) don’t meet face-to-face until halfway through the 158-minute(!) film, when he recruits her to help him track down a serial lady-killer. But Fincher’s visual style is so subtly hypnotic, and his film so brilliantly cast, that there’s never a dull moment.

In these media-bashing days, I’m inclined to like any film that casts a member of the mainstream media as its hero, even if his “research assistant” Lisbeth ultimately uses hacking tactics so blatantly illegal they’d make even Rupert Murdoch blanch. But to have the dashing Craig—007 himself—play the role is downright thrilling. Not since Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman embodied Woodward and Bernstein in All the President’s Men have investigative reporters seemed quite so charismatic.

And kudos to Fincher for casting a relative unknown like Mara as Lisbeth—I can’t imagine a bigger name like Scarlett Johansson, who was rejected as “too sexy” for the role, disappearing beneath the character’s elaborately illustrated skin in quite the same fashion. Mara appeared in last year’s equally mesmerizing Fincher flick, The Social Network, and giving her such a kick-ass (literally and figuratively) role seems like apt penance for that film’s cavalier dismissal of women.

Dragon Tattoo was adapted by the great Steven Zaillian, who collaborated with Social Network scribe Aaron Sorkin on another of 2011’s best films, Moneyball, and he’s successfully boiled down the 600-page paperback into a compelling thriller, although I could’ve done without the last 20 minutes or so, after the case has been wrapped up. Still, Fincher finds images throughout the story that are as indelible as Lisbeth’s tats.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I believe I was on page 50…

Did you see—and/or read—The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Or are you still a Stieg Larsson virgin?

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17 Comments
  1. I really thought I was done with the trilogy – having read all three books & watched all three Swedish films. But after the second trailer for the American version came out I kinda got excited about the possibilities for this version. I haven’t seen it yet – but I did blog about Rooney Mara… and I’m looking forward to seeing her in the role!
    http://aliceinactionland.blogspot.com/2011/12/rooney-mara-you-go-girl.html

  2. Matt Stewart permalink

    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo just does not seem like a film I would enjoy, so I’ll probably wait for the DVD release to catch it.

    Honestly though, it does not seem necessary for this film to have been made in the first place, and I don’t think it will stand the test of time like some of Fincher’s other films.

    • bruceafretts permalink

      Interesting that it’s the third film Fincher has made about serial killers, after Seven and Zodiac.

  3. Finesse permalink

    Agree Bruce. This is one of those rare instances where movie is so much better than the book. It’s similar to the Swedish version but I like Daniel Craig better than the the sour-puss they cast in original. And Fincher takes it to a whole new level

    • bruceafretts permalink

      Good to know—maybe I won’t go back and finish the book after all…

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