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Monday, January 16, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011 movie)

I saw the 2011 Daniel Craig/Rooney Mara version of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last week. While I don't feel up to doing a full review (bottom line: I liked it, more than I thought I would, and it improves on the book in several places), I would like to jot down some random thoughts.

- The day before I saw this film, a total stranger with whom I was having a random conversation asked me if I found Lisbeth Salander attractive. I found this a little hard to respond to - I had only seen Rooney Mara in the preview posters and trailers, so I couldn't say for sure. As I read the book the character in my mind's eye variously wore the faces and bodies of three different women I know to varying degrees, none of whom really resemble the description in the book. When I finally saw Rooney Mara's portrayal my immediate thought was "no, she's not attractive." I hated her missing eyebrows and her I-just-cut-it-myself hairstyle. As her portrayal developed I found her more and more attractive, until by the end of the movie I found her completely attractive. I also noticed thanks to some close-ups that her eyebrows were actually there, but pale to the point of invisibility. This is consistent with the book, where Lisbeth is a natural blonde who dyes her hair black.

- Age-wise at least, Daniel Craig is a perfect match for Mikael Blomkvist, though while reading the book I imagined him as Russell Crowe. (It turns out I am just a few weeks older than Daniel Craig, so I too would have been a good fit to play this role, age-wise.) Blomkvist's character is portrayed as less of a slut in the movie than he is in the books. (I mean, dude, seriously.) There is a hilarious scene in the film where he sits on a bed sobbing "Somebody just shot at me!" and you just want to grab him and slap him and say "Dude! You're James-freaking-Bond! Man up!" (Lisbeth Salander effectively does just that.)

- Christopher Plummer delivered his lines at triple the speed I expected him to, which probably kept this from being a five-hour-long movie. My first thought was "A guy that old wouldn't be talking that fast," and then I realized that a guy that old was talking that fast. So instead of a staid, dour old man weighed down by guilt over a missed conversation and tortured by a forty-year-old mystery and its aftermath, we see Henrik Vanger as a sprightly, charming fellow who wants to take one last shot at solving this mystery before his time is up. And, hey, it's Christopher Plummer, dammit.

- Julian Sands played young Henrik Vanger. It was strange seeing him in a non-speaking role in flashbacks to 1966. It was stranger to realize that The Sound of Music, perhaps Christopher Plummer's most-viewed performance, came out in 1965. So Julian Sands is basically playing Christopher Plummer one year after The Sound of Music!

- I was very glad that the action of the story was kept in Sweden and not relocated to the United States. I was a little disappointed that newspaper stories were shown in English, but that's understandable. (Still, did Swedish newspapers in the 1960's use that much color? I don't think color really came into use in the U.S. newspaper industry until the 1980's, but that could just be a regional thing.) I liked the attempts at Swedish accents (I have no idea what a real Swedish accent should sound like) but the guy who played Martin didn't sound like he was even trying - he sounded more like Colm Meany. Yeah. Turns out that was Stellan SkarsgÄrd, a fairly prolific and famous Swedish actor, from Sweden and everything. Complete with a genuine Swedish accent.

- There is one scene that just blew me away and made me want to kiss the director or director of photography or whoever was responsible for it. It is shortly after someone has shot at Blomkvist, and he is meeting with Henrik, Martin, and Frode in what I believe was a meeting room in Martin's house. The windows are huge and white and glaring; I don't know if they were iced over or if a fresh snow had just fallen. The room is white, and everything in it is grey, or white, or black, except for the flesh tones of the men having the conversation. I was stunned. The very next scene is Blomkvist and Salander walking along a path on Hedeby Island, and the scene is mostly gray and black and some muted brown, with their skin again the only real color present.

- There were some scenes and lines created out of whole cloth for the film. The bit with Harald was fantastic. I haven't laughed at the antics of a Nazi that much since Hogan's Heroes.

- A great line that I don't think was in the book: "Can I go home now?"

- The solution to the opening mystery of the book (Who is sending Henrik framed flowers every year on his missing niece's birthday? And why?) is addressed almost as half-assedly as it is in the book (where it is mentioned in passing in Chapter 27, while the reader is saying "Wait, the mystery is solved, why are there still over 100 pages to go?")

- Salander talks to police throughout her investigations. This is a sharp departure from her character in the book. Still, if the film had remained completely faithful to the book, most of her scenes would have  consisted of her looking things up online. She also openly admits her photographic memory to Blomkvist, something that was a major point of conflict in the book. And we see her going to a club and picking someone up; in the second book it is asserted that she has not gone to a club in years, and she is not likely to pick up a stranger for a casual encounter.*

- The temporal setting of the story is a bit vague. We know that pivotal events took place in 1966, and I believe Henrik refers to this as being 40 years ago. (In the book 36 years have passed, but I am uncertain what year Harriet disappeared.) That would place the action of the film in 2006 or earlier. I don't know if the technology we see throughout is consistent with a 2006 setting, though in a few years it will all look antiquated.

- The film's ending packs a bit more emotional punch than in the book. Salander's intended gift involves much more thought and emotional (and financial) investment. Blomkvist's unthinking betrayal, while consistent with his behavior in the book, is probably less obvious to people who have only seen the movie.

- Some plot points are spelled out in this film that may come from the second and third books, so...spoiler alert, I guess.

So there you go. Sorry I wasn't able to go into more detail!

ADDED 1/16/2011, 8:12 PM:

- Both Blomkvist's ex-wife and Martin Vanger use the same wine glasses. They're probably from IKEA, but they look disturbingly like ISO standard wineglasses. I've always thought that you would cut the bridge of your nose with those things if you drank more than a sip at a time.

- Everyone grabs for their cell phones when Blomkvist gets a call at the Christmas party. It's a hysterical little scene, but does everyone in Sweden use the same ring tone?

- Blomkvist repeatedly can't get a signal at the cottage on Hedeby Island. This is a major plot point later on, It appears, incongruously, hilariously, in the action-packed teaser trailer at 1:11.


*And as I'm pushing my way through The Girl who Played with Fire, I just discovered that the touching scene at the end with Holger Palmgren is completely non-canon, and is apparently contrary to Salander's actions. The scene is essentially a stand-in for the absent scenes of Lisbeth interacting with her mother, so I'm not going to complain.

1 comment:

Jen (emsun.org) said...

I haven't read the book or seen this version of the movie. I'm going to have to put both on my to-do list.