The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) movie poster

(2011) director David Fincher
viewed: 12/23/2011 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA

I was pretty tired of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) as an entity by the time that I watched The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (2009).  Those would be the original Swedish adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s “girl” trilogy, of which I had also read the first two of the three books.  I pooped out on the books and just watched the final movie of the series to complete the narrative.

In the hands of almost any other director, I would probably have had zero interest in the American re-makes.  But David Fincher (The Social Network (2010)) is not only one of the more interesting active Hollywood directors, but the initial trailer for the movie was pretty damn slick, cut to highlight the goth kinkiness of the film and the main character, set to a Trent Reznor-produced cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”.  It successfully teased its subject.  I was in.

The film actually opens to that same track, with vocals by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  Unfortunately, the opening sequence is a strange oily black digital series of morphing images of the two leads, with snake-like tentacles and S&M underpinnings.  It’s just a lot less effective than the trailer.

The film stars Daniel Craig as the righteous journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander, the “girl” of the titles of all the books/films.  The prior film trilogy was pretty good.  Noomi Rapace was pretty spot-on as Salander and Michael Nyqvist was pretty good as Blomkvist.  These are Swedish books after all, set in Sweden.  Outside of the obvious desire to capitalize on the American market (who along with much of the world has gone on to make best-sellers of the books), there seems no reason, no real need to re-make the films.  But Fincher found something.  And Mara was more than game.

It’s a little weird watching the film.  I only read the books like 2 years ago or something and then have seen the movies very recently.  There is no drama, no surprises left in the mystery.

The most compelling thing about the stories is the character of Salander, the troubled, antisocial, genius goth girl hacker with the life of abuse who finds her calling as a detective/researcher.  I’ve read some criticisms of Larsson’s stories that posit his anti-misogynist tales still titillate with great detail on the rape and abuse of women and that Blomkvist, an obvious stand-in for Larsson, is quite the ladies man, bedding Salander despite the fact that she mostly seems interested in women.

There is most definitely this voyeuristic sensibility, this attraction to this goth-punk girl, whose look is a combination of aesthetic and anti-aesthetic (the bleached eyebrows do indeed give Mara a weirdly haunted look).  She is sexualized, brutalized, coveted, objectified.  Many might say that she’s empowered to an extent.

Frankly, Fincher’s film is a better film, hands down.  He’s a more auteur-ish director and he certainly takes ownership of the material, or at least identifies with it or its characters.  Ultimately it’s a murder mystery.  A potboiler.  With a riveting female lead whether it’s Rapace or Mara.  I’d personally rather look at Craig than Nyqvist.

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