Film Review – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
I am going to begin this review by saying that I started the novel on which this film is based and never finished it. I thought it was poorly written and more than a little dull. Don’t bombard me with hatred over it, it is only a matter of personal preference. I thought, structurally speaking, that it wasn’t very well constructed and it doesn’t deserve the praise that gets heaped upon it. It is a lot like The DaVinci Code in my eyes. A book that garners a lot of attention due to manufactured controversy with the actual content between the covers being average at best.
That having been said, I have seen the original film adaptation and felt that all of the problems with the book were still present on film and that it was highly unlikely that they could be fixed without a major overhaul. When talks of the remake started popping up I wasn’t interested simply because of my problems with the novel and the original adaptation. I figured that a remake wouldn’t help those problems and that the film wouldn’t be worth my time. Then I found out that David Fincher would be involved and that the cast included Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, and Stellan Skarsgard. I was starting to think that perhaps there could be something there of interest to me. I heard rumors that the script by Steve Zaillian deviated quite a bit from the source and that Fincher would be doing a true “adaptation” rather than a direct translation from book to screen. I began to put my trust in a film that I could be forgiven for dismissing.
Then the trailers started to hit and I’ll be damned if it didn’t look like a real Oscar contender of a film. Fincher had seemingly crafted something stunning in terms of texture and mood that hooked me in and really made me want to sit down and watch with an open mind. I went in willing to give the material a fair shot and be proven wrong in regards to my feeling that the story was a dull, plodding mess that strove for intricacy but collapsed under its own sense of grandeur and intrigue.
I will say that this adaptation has mood and texture in spades. It is a well made film. It’s crafted and acted in a way that really is quite amazing. Rooney Mara gives a performance that really showcases her range and subtlety and Daniel Craig does a great job handling the part handed to him. The problem with the film, once again, is that the story is a muddled, dull, and honestly not-that-interesting mess. The narrative is extremely disjointed in the first hour and a half and by the time Craig and Mara finally pair up I had pretty much lost patience with the flow of the story. If someone like Fincher who did such an amazing job weaving the narrative of a film like Zodiac has trouble with something as pedestrian as this you know there’s a problem. The film really did not need to be as long as it ends up being and calling it a slog is being a bit generous. As an acting showcase it’s quite interesting but as an overall film it’s a disaster.
Fans of the novel will probably be pleased with this American adaptation but I can’t muster much excitement about it. I had hoped that Fincher could pull together the parts that did work in the novel and weave them effectively into a manageable film but what he released is a choppy, disjointed, over-long mess and I can’t really say that it was worth the money it took to make with the original Swedish version doing everything this one did. The only difference is a perceived upswing in production value and I do think that Craig did a better job in his part than his Swedish counterpart (who incidentally played the villain role in Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol and didn’t really bring much to the table there either).
Sad to say, this was a real disappointment, even looking through the lens of my initial low expectations. Hopefully Fincher will put out something with the same sort of zing that The Social Network had before getting locked into the sequels for this because I’m almost certain that my sentiments will not be echoed by the majority of people who will see this and consider it cinematic gold.