April 9, 2013

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Grade: 55/100

Director: David Fincher
Stars: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer

What it's about. The Hollywood version of the 2009 Swedish film, which in turn is based on the spectacularly successful posthumous "Millenium" trilogy by Stieg Larsson. The story is similar (my review on the Swedish version is here) but there are a few relatively minor differences:

But the basic story, and its major weaknesses, are the same. If anything, the tweaks have made things more believable, except that Lisbeth appears more in love with Mikael in this movie. Must be the James Bond connection.

Two of the key roles went to moviestars. Daniel Craig is the magazine journalist who loses a libel suit, and Christopher Plummer is his aged benefactor intent on solving the decades-old murder of his favorite niece. Rooney Mara lands the plum role of the brilliant but antisocial Lisbeth. Stellan Skarsgård is the upper class serial murderer of luckless women, and Yorick Van Wageningen is the obese and sadistic abuser (and eventual victim) of Lisbeth.

How others will see it. The Hollywood version was an even greater success than the Swedish movie, although of course it did cost much more to make. The movie was widely acclaimed, and garnered five Academy Awards nominations, including Best Actress (Mara) and Best Cinematography (Jeff Cronenweth).

At imdb.com, the movie has a whopping 191K user votes and a very high user rating of 7.9 out of 10. There is only a marginal decline in grade with advancing age, and women, despite the film's violence, like the movie slightly more than do men.

How I felt about it. This is the fifth Fincher movie I have seen, and it grades about the same as the others (Fight Club, The Game, Se7en, The Social Network). All have consensus grades that vastly exceed their true quality. The problematic pattern with most of these movies (The Social Network is the exception because it is ostensibly based on a true story) is that the audience is expected to take voyeuristic pleasure in the tortures given and received by its leads.

Thus, we must endure Lisbeth's rapes by the parole officer in even more graphic terms than in the Swedish film, as well as her inevitable "triumph" in torturing and maiming him in return. This scenario repeats in the subway scene, and again with Martin.

By the way, once you hit Martin in the head with a golf club, you should finish him off while you have a chance. In real life, Martin would pick up the gun and shoot Lisbeth instead of fleeing the house. Once he has left the house, his life is essentially over, since the best case for him is inevitable capture and life imprisonment.

The messages of the movie are all wrong. Rapists and murderers require vigilante justice, and the police are so useless as to be best ignored completely. Here, a 20-something woman with a computer and no friends can accomplish practically anything. Women are spectacularly powerful, and men are either weak or evil.

And if a man and a woman work on a case together, they must shag frequently, even if the man is old enough to be her father, and even if the woman is a humorless lesbian covered with tattoos and piercings. It is particularly odd that Lisbeth first initiates sex when Mikael is still bleeding from a head wound. Does that turn her on?

But aside with the problems with the story and its insinuations, Fincher's direction, while competent and workmanlike, is drab in comparison with the Swedish version, which had about one-tenth the budget.

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