Sunday 7 October 2012

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The movie remake:  ✮✮✮✩✩

This is a pleasantly entertaining mid-Atlantic remake of the 2009 Scandinavian original, sticking quite well to the events of Stieg Larsson's best-selling novel but losing much of its roots, its soul and its social conscience. Note that the 18 certificate is justified: sexual violence is a key theme of the story.

I watched the original film of this a year or so back, and found it powerful but rather confusing. Still, I was impressed enough that I then got the book, which made a bit more sense, followed by the rest of the Millennium trilogy. Now that the new film is available on Lovefilm I thought I'd give it a go, to see what that was like.

The first problem that struck me was the main characters. Lisbeth Salander is an angry, violent and incredibly intelligent young woman, walled off from most meaningful personal contact after many years of abuse and betrayal. Rooney Mara plays her as weak and sulky; in an early scene of rape and revenge she comes across as being mostly interested in money.

The other main character, Mikael Blomkvist, is a middle-aged investigative journalist. He's reasonably fit for his age but a most unlikely hero. He's a rather passive, courteous, stubborn man; a foil in many ways for the many powerful and abusive men who also people the novel - and, of course, a massive contrast with the angry Lisbeth. Daniel Craig tries hard, but he really doesn't fit; when he backs down from confrontation it jars.

Then there's the storyline. Watching this film it looks as though the scriptwriter has been through the book (it's a thick book) and extracted the main events that make up the basic story. Then it seems he just strung them together in a way which made 'movie sense', leaving out the themes about corruption, about hacking, about sexual violence against women, and about right-wing politics. They've turned a powerful crusading novel into a slightly strange, and safely foreign, 'entertainment'.

The feel of the film is curiously rootless. It doesn't have the dark brooding buildup of pace we are becoming accustomed to from Scandinavian drama, but it also doesn't have the action or shape of a US movie, nor the quirkiness of something from the UK. The lighting is gloomy and most of the actors speak with a slight Scandinavian accent, but to be honest it could have been made anywhere.

All that said, the film was entertaining: a pleasant enough way to spend two and a half hours. So three stars it is. Also, I'm now rereading the book, and plan to rewatch the original Swedish film version again, so this film can't be all bad.