You know you aren’t well yet when half your exercise for the day is walking to the multiplex to see the latest release of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
My Christmas Nightmare this year was an horrendous head cold kicking off on Christmas eve. You can read about it here.
Suffice it to say three days later I was still not able to do anything as strenuous as riding my bike.
So, what about Stieg Larsson’s international whodunit and whodunwho bestseller just made into a major movie … The Girl …?
First, you need to dissect the dichotomy of viewers. I happen to be one of the 43 million readers who inhaled The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. In addition, I also saw (and own the videos) the three Swedish made versions of the trilogy. The Swedish film version earned more than $100 million at the worldwide box office and was the biggest foreign-language art-house hit in North America since the Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose, according to Time Magazine.
The main reason you can’t unsee the original is the job Noomi Rapace does in breathing fire into The Girl. Rapace’s Lizbeth Salander is a force of nature in the guise of a waif-like little girl who happens to be an ace computer hacker and general ass-kicker. While NFL Royalty Rooney Mara’s version is more of an alien creature from another planet still learning our ways on earth. Mara creates a viable character but she seems more reactive as opposed to Rapace’s high energy proactive version.
There is a scene early in the film where some toughs attack Lisbeth in a subway station and in the ensuing fight her computer becomes badly damaged. In the Swedish version the scene is extended and Rapace, beaten on and bloodied, grabs a bottle, breaks it and charges the toughs shrieking. They run away cursing her.
In the Hollywood version, Mara engages them without fear, but ends up fleeing with her broken machine.
This also encapsulates one of the major differences in the films. David Fincher, lately of The Social Network, about another computer hacker/nerd, directed the Hollywood version.
While Girl … runs in excess of two hours, there is a lot of truncating of the original story and Swedish film version.
Fincher brings high style to the event. The opening credits are nearly worth the price of admission setting a tone of punk rock, goth and cyberspace that characterizes the story we are about to witness. This reworking of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song blasts the film to super-charged takeoff.
And what Christmas blockbuster would be complete without an extended anal rape scene or two?
Niels Arden Oplev directed the 2009 Swedish version and created a truly cringe-worthy experience for the viewer (not to mention the victim). While I was repulsed by the scene it happens to be critical to the story and relevant to all three of the books, so I understand that it could not be downplayed.
Fincher’s blockbuster carries an R rating and while he shortens it somewhat nonetheless it creates a seriously disturbing scene in his version, too.
And then there is Daniel Craig, Agent 007. He does a good job of creating the Mikael Blomkvist character but he still looks like a movie star to me even with the glasses. I found it much easier to relate to Michael Nyqvist in the original version who looked a little overweight and more like the 40ish journalists in my experience than the buffed Craig. On the other hand, I imagine there are female viewers out there who are just fine with the Craig version of the character for the same reason we guys like hot chicks in films.
One reviewer thought it was easier to relate to Blomkvist and Salander’s sexual attraction with Craig as opposed to Nyqvist. But in the original version, they end up in bed right after a scene in which she has nursed him back from a harrowing experience and I thought it worked.
The cast of the Hollywood version are all upgrades that play well. Christopher Plummer plays the Henrik Vanger character, the Swedish industrialist with the 40-year mystery of a missing and likely murdered grandniece.
For the most part I liked screenwriter Steve Zaillian’s version. He did a wonderful job on Moneyball which I wrote about here. I did not love his truncating of the story as he left out some interesting characters and scenes that worked in the original and added to its depth. The Zaillian-Fincher version is much more streamlined despite its long running time.
Bottom line, I enjoyed the original version more. Even though the Hollywood one offered a glitzier look it didn’t distort the substance of the story. You will probably have to see this version to talk about it at the water cooler next week at work. But I think you will find renting or buying the originals to be very much worth your while.
And I hope you are well enough so that your trip to the multiplex doesn’t amount to half your exercise for the day.