Dragon Tattoo Redux

ImageIt’s true I haven’t reviewed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and here it is out in DVD and Blu-ray already, but that’s because I didn’t really see the point. A perfectly good film version of Stieg Larsson’s international bestseller had already been produced, a moody Scandinavian scald-fest that honors the novel without replicating all of its tiresome exposition about politics and magazine publishing. I like the trilogy despite its problems with exposition and the fact that the writer (or the translator) seems to write with his knuckles. Still, strong story and a fascinating central character and a powerful sense of scene. More than enough reason to brave the arid parts.

Along comes David Fincher with an American version of the Swedish film that feels too often like a shot-for-shot emulation of the original. Even the lighting seems exactly the same. Fincher says he had never even seen the original before shooting his film, but look at the parade scene in both movies. Even the camera angles are the same.

And why re-film it at all?

The only reason to remake it is American audiences are too lazy or too near-sighted to read subtitles. And it’s such a shame. Fincher’s movie is fine. Daniel Craig was the right choice to play Mikael Blomkvist. And though I had doubts about whether Rooney Mara would make a good Lisbeth Salander, she does a fine job (though Noomi Rapace is still the quintessential Lisbeth).

The problem is the movie just wasn’t unnecessary.

There’s a long history of Hollywood making unnecessary remakes of perfectly good (and sometimes great) European films. The most striking example before Dragon Tattoo was Let Me In, the tamer and more domesticated version of the strange and compelling Let the Right One In.

But hey, I’ll never get my lawn fertilized if I go through the whole list of Hollywood remakes. Most of them end up as sanitized versions of the original (compare The Vanishing to The Vanishing).

The magical thing that happens when you watch a great movie that happens to be subtitled —or even just a pretty good one—is that you forget you’re reading. So next time a subtitled movie comes to town, America, don’t forget to bring your glasses . . . no, not the 3D glasses, your reading glasses . . . right there on your bedside table, next to that novel you’re reading. What? You’re not reading a novel? In fact, you don’t read books at all? How said for you.


Author: Brent Spencer

I'm a writer of fiction, creative non-fiction, and screenplays. My most recent book, a memoir, is Rattlesnake Daddy: A Son's Search for His Father. I live on an acreage in eastern Nebraska and teach creative writing at Creighton University. You can find out more about me and at http://brentspencerwriter.com. (Photo credit: Miriam Berkley)

3 thoughts on “Dragon Tattoo Redux”

  1. Brent,
    Can we buy a DVD of the original? I love the American version. I also read all three books one after another on my ebook reader. I think you are being too picky. There is nothing wrong with multiple versions. It makes it even more interesting. I do love your honest and thoughtful reviews. Keep them coming! I wish you would also publish them in print.

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