ADVANCED THINKER: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2011)
This Christmas weekend, millions of people are clamoring to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The first installment of the Millennium trilogy, the film is generating much excitement among the millions of readers who blazed through the late Stieg Larsson’s international bestsellers. However, the bulk of anticipation is from typical American moviegoers. I, on the other hand, have muted anticipation because I have seen the original Swedish film from 2010.
With David Fincher (Se7en, Zodiac) directing the remake, there good reason to believe it will be one of the year’s better films. But I’ve seen the original, and because I know the surprises, the film can not possibly have its full impact on me. The original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was my third favorite film of 2010 (after Inception and Fincher’s The Social Network); it was a deep, compelling thriller that truly blindsided me with both it’s quality and content. The remaining films in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, were almost as good, adding up to one of the most impressive trilogies in cinematic history. The films are still very fresh in my mind, and I feel it is far too soon for a remake, American or otherwise.
Rooney Mara, who made a big splash last year in Fincher’s The Social Network and, to a much lesser degree, A Nightmare on Elm Street, is a good actress, but the role of Lisbeth Salander was inhabited so wonderfully by Noomi Rapace that her shadow will always be lurking over Mara’s performance. Ditto for that fine actor Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, the role played to perfection by Michael Nyqvist. The rest of the cast is equally promising with Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright and Stellan Skarsgård, plus Oscar-winner Steven Zaillian writing the adaptation. But it will be impossible for me to forget the original film. I can understand doing a remake several years later, but not less than two years, and I imagine any fan of last year’s global hit will feel the same way.
This is all a personal issue. On the other side of the coin, I found last year’s vampire thriller Let Me In effective because I had not seen the Swedish version, Let the Right One In. That 2008 film had the misfortune of opening amidst the Twilight frenzy and was completely lost, never to be seen by most moviegoers. Not having seen the original, I was able to enjoy Matt Reeves’ remake because it seemed fresh and new to me. If I were to see the Swedish film now, I would probably admire it, but find a curious lack of suspense.
Perhaps it’s just thrillers where this problem arises, since they depend so much on surprises for their impact. In 2007, there was a British comedy named Death at a Funeral, and the Frank Oz film was solidly funny from start to finish. Yet, I enjoyed the 2010 American remake even more, despite the fact that most of the story and many jokes were exactly the same. The difference, I think, was that Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan and the American cast brought more energy to their zingers and gags. I say this having seen the British film first, followed by the American version five months afterwards.
The new Dragon Tattoo has garnered strong reviews and a Golden Globe nomination for Rooney Mara. I have no doubt it is a strong film that will become a blockbuster hit, and possibly collect Oscar nominations. However, my affectionate memory of the original will be a constant ghost. I’m sure it will work terrifically for those who are not familiar with the Swedish films (or the books themselves), but, having spent nearly seven hours reading subtitles, I have my personal baggage to carry with me. Maybe my excitement for the new version would be greater had I never seen the original, but that is something I will never know.