January 11, 2012
Not-So-Family Film Blogging: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Posted by Christine Hurt

Over the break, various combinations of family members went to almost every movie showing in the C-U area.  On opening night, the adults met with other faculty colleagues to go see the U.S. version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (or, as I like to call it, The Girl with Daniel Craig).  We had seen the three Swedish versions of Steig Larsson's posthumously published books -- the Millenium Trilogy.  I have to say that as excited as I was to see Daniel Craig, I was nervous that the Hollywood version of the Lisbeth Salander story was going to be embarassingly Americanized.

We were all pleasantly surprised.  I was worried that the movie would be like other blockbusters:  lots of special effects action with impossibly beautiful stars all around and set in Manhattan and upstate NY.  However, Dragon Tattoo is very faithful both to the books and to the Swedish films.  It is still set in Sweden, and the actors who are American at least try not to seem so.  (I still don't get Robin Wright's intermittent accent, but whatever.)  The focus of the film is still the haunting story of the disappeared Harriet Vanger from Hedestad.  There, the two lead characters, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) and legally incompetent but extremely smart Salander (Rooney Mara),are thrown together in what appears to be the coldest place on Earth.  Even though Mara is gorgeous and looks like Audrey Hepburn in her natural state, she appears here in full scary punk character.  Blomkvist's long-time girlfriend Erika Berger is played by the age-appropriate actress Robin Wright, who is actually a tad bit older than Craig, a first in Hollywood history!  (Neither actor is as old as the characters were probably written to be, but they are in the ballpark.)

Like the Swedish films, this version pulls no punches and depicts all the sadistic violence with the same graphic detail of the books.  If marketers' predictions of demographics carries any weight, note that the previews before the movie were mostly for spectacularly violent movies I will never go see, like The Devil Inside.  Of course, remember that the author's title for these books was originally "Men Who Hate Women."  The two monsters of the first film are evil in ways that really can't be given justice without the details, but I shut my eyes anyway.

Because the books were published posthumously, they did not benefit from a good editor, who would have pruned away some of the side plots that Larsson enjoyed.  The movies do a good job of cutting those away.  I do think the new movie did a better job of moving the narrative of how that mystery is solved at a much quicker pace than the books or the Swedish version.  This movie also made the ending not nearly as convoluted as the book did.  Without giving away the ending, note that the main conclusion of the mystery is still the same, but no one has to go to Australia to confirm!  I've read elsewhere a bit of snark because the movie radically tones down the love life of Blomkvist, who is a bit of a free-love guru in the books, temporarily mating with almost every woman he meets between the ages of 20 and 60.  This modification serves several purposes -- it trims down the side plots and also makes Blomkvist more likeable to non-European sensibilities.  Blomkvist also doesn't go to jail in the U.S. movie, saving plot time and avoiding having to explain why his Swedish jail seemed more like a meditation retreat.  Finally, the relationship between Blomkvist and Salander ends on the same note, nearly identical to the books. 

The one thing that will be interesting to see in the next two films is whether Blomkvist and Salander's friendship will have a happy Hollywood ending.  All I know is that I will be there to see!

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