The rise of American remakes following on the heels of the foreign original seems to be spreading of late. The last one was Matt Reeves remake of Let the Right One In and it continues with David Fincher’s interpretation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’ve read the novels but haven’t seen the Swedish originals which are apparently the best thing since sliced bread. I hope that’s true because Fincher’s film is drawn-out, at times exceedingly tedious, and filled with scenes that are the definition of the word “filler.”
Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is asked by a wealthy man to investigate the disappearance of a young girl in the 1960s. As Mikael delves deeper into the world of the family, the Vangers, he discovers there’s a reason they’re all estranged from one another. With the help of a troubled but brilliant researcher named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the two seek to crack a mystery forty years in the making.
Having read the novels, Fincher definitely retains the core elements of the story. He delves deeply into the world of both Blomkvist and Salander, creating characters that have dark backgrounds and numb the loneliness in sex, unable to connect with others. The mystery is tightly wound and fleshed out so even if you know what has happened there’s enough twists and turns that you’re always engaged in the plot, for the most part. The character of Lisbeth is strong, frightening, and compelling making her one of the strongest female heroines out there and Fincher devotes of the film’s runtime to showing how she lives day to day.
The acting in this is worthy of awards, obvious from how Mara was recently graced with a Golden Globe. She bares all, physically and mentally, in this role and has such grace and vulnerability but also a fierce will and independence. Mara is a slight girl, almost like a porcelain doll at times, but in how she fends off a mugger to how she seeks vengeance after being raped, you can tell she doesn’t break easily. Craig plays the straight man in a sense to her insane performance, preferring more to solve the mystery as a standard detective. In most scenes Craig just fades into the background, using his facial expressions to tell the story. This makes him a less necessary part of the film, giving everything to Mara, but the two have the most sizzling chemistry you’ll see on the screen this year.
Unfortunately, Fincher just goes on too long with the story and makes some pretty big changes that don’t gel with the rest of the story. The first half of the film sets up Blomkvist and Salander, but there stories are cut and dried in a back and forth motion that is abrupt and becomes two separate movies. It makes the first half feel longer than it should and it’s not till Salander and Blomkvist team up that the movie really hits its stride and becomes exciting. That excitement takes us to the climax where the ending is changed in a pretty big way leaving a gaping logic gap that makes no sense. A certain character is revealed to be someone else and if you think about it for even an instance you’ll realize it makes no sense. It would seem logical to end the film after the mystery is solved yet Fincher adds an extra 25 minutes of epilogue that piles on endings in a Lord of the Rings fashion making everything seem even duller. He also tweaks Salander’s character turning her into a lovesick girl that makes no sense in the grander scheme of the story, and also changes how we’ve seen her from the start. It’s not believable to have her fall for the first man that’s nice to her after seeing how she thrives on her independence. It just seemed like a cheap cop-out that fleshed out the story well beyond its breaking point.
Much like Tintin, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is okay, but not as fantastic as critics are saying. Fincher took a film that didn’t need to be remade and made something good, but he doesn’t know when to quit. Add in some illogical changes that make the mystery seem moot and you have a movie that loses its potential.