The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – Remake or rehash?

Steig Larssons’s Millennium Trilogy consisted of three novels which focused on Lisbeth Salander, a feisty computer hacker with a troubled past who helps a newspaper editor investigate and uncover some secretive and sinister goings-on in sunny Sweden.

The novels received Swedish-language remakes, and the first was particularly well received. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a fast-paced, thrilling and captivating piece of cinema, driven by Noomi Rapace (seen recently in Prometheus and Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows), who put in a stonking performance as Lisbeth.

In the first entry, Michael Blomqvist, the editor of Millennium magazine, is hired to find out what happened to a wealthy man’s grandniece some 40 years previous. Blomqvist, in turn, finds the legendary hacker Lisbeth, and convinces her to help him. She is under legal guardianship and has to report back regularly to a man who is basically hideous scum. As she copes with this grotty fellow, she also manages to unearth some fairly horrendous information which will help Michael in his quest for the truth.

Some scenes in the original made for uncomfortable viewing, but it was all there as a key part of Lisbeth’s motivation; the way she acts, with a cold, calculated and distant demeanour, as well as her attitudes towards sex and violence, were justified by story elements which occurred both on and off-screen. It was at times torturous to watch, but at the same time you really rooted for Lisbeth, and Rapace deserved all the acclaim she received and more.

So, with this film being awesome but in Swedish, those marvellous chaps at Colombia Pictures started the process of doing an English-language version. From this point onwards, scepticism shall be rife.

Any fan of the original movie will assume the real reason for the remake is to make cash by pandering to those too lazy to read subtitles. What other reason is there to remake it? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not old, and so not outdated, and the third and final entry from the original Swedish-language movie trilogy had barely made the DVD shelves before this remake of the first hit the cinema.

Having recruited outstanding Brit director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en), a man who quite clearly chooses his films carefully and cares about his craft, Colombia also brought on board Daniel Craig to play the newspaper editor Michael Blomkvist, whilst choosing promising talent Rooney Mara for the lead role of Lisbeth.

All very wise and encouraging moves, but it still doesn’t justify making the movie again. Something else needs to be brought to the table, other than having some other people play the same roles under a well-known director.

Fincher’s direction is sharp and fluid, and the crisp visual quality makes the film look more expensive and glossy than the original. This, of course, doesn’t necessarily make it better.

Mara is excellent as Lisbeth, but so was Noomi Rapace. Claims that Mara brings something different are not really accurate though; she is playing the same character as Rapace did, with the same character traits, and Lisbeth is a very specific character. She is troubled, intense, closed, tough and discontent, and both actresses portray this with genuine skill, but they are very similar for very obvious reasons, and thus the performances are close. Both outstanding, but still close.

Craig is typically dry, and in some ways not too far removed from his gloomy Bond. But Craig, who has received plaudits for his work in this film, is one of the glaring reasons that this version of the story is overrated. He sports the Queen’s English, whilst the rest of the cast put on convincing Swedish accents.

What has happened here? It is set in Sweden, and all the characters maintain their Swedish heritage from the original story, so if we are going to make things easier for subtitle-wary viewers, and go with Swedish accents to convey people from Sweden in Sweden, then there is no excuse for relieving one single central character of that trait. Craig obviously can’t do a Swedish accent, so they let him off. This makes no sense and roots the film in a realm of unreality. On top of this, rewarding Craig for his work becomes simply laughable.

This might seem minor, but it really isn’t. The mere fact the film has been made is questionable, but to then go with this bizarre Swedish accent malarkey, but letting Craig duck out of it, takes yet more authenticity away from the work.

The film is a fine piece of work in truth; it looks great, the story retains its intensity, and the actress portraying Lisbeth is, once again, startling brilliant, but the whole thing is just a rehash of a brilliant piece of cinema in an unfamiliar language.

But it made bucket loads of cash. Enough said.

If you want to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, watch the original.  It is exceptional.

DVDRental Rating: 6.5/10

If you are interested in the original, check out our review of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo from July 2010.

One Response to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – Remake or rehash?”

  1. simeon jackson says:

    i loved this film, daniel craig proves that he is more than just bond!

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