Monday, 26 December 2011



Why, deep down, didn't we suspect this all along? Why did we have our hopes up for this revisitation over all the others? What had this got going for it that The Thing, Fright Night, Let Me In, Conan The Barbarian and all the other recent remakes didn't have? Well, it had Steven Zaillan scripting from a highly regarded source, it had a sterling cast including Daniel Craig, Steven Berkoff, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard and Joely Richardson, and of course it had David Fincher directing. Even ignoring the fact that outside of the Bonds (and even there he's only scored 50 per cent) Daniel Craig has an uncanny and unerring ability for picking duff projects (see Dream House and Cowboys And Aliens), how could this possibly go wrong?

Easily. Though The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo tells, frequently word for word, the same story as the Niels Arden Oplev version - crusading but disgraced journalist investigates the murder of a young girl forty years previously, aided by the angry, punk-haired computer hacker of the title, and in the process uncovers long-buried family secrets, corruption and sheer cold evil - it brings absolutely nothing to the table but the star names and English language dialogue (and the latter you could have as an English dub on the original's DVD release anyway). If you've seen the original, David Fincher's film holds few surprises, but even if you haven't, I genuinely believe it won't grab your interest.

It's as if they're really not trying. Oh, it looks great: it's drained of colour and light with the permanent snow, much of it takes place at night, everyone's dressed in drab colours and driving black cars. And I'll confess a liking for the modern Swedish architecture (mainly Stellan Skarsgard's hilltop house - if I win the lottery that's the kind of place I'll have). But it's dramatically uninteresting - neither Craig nor Rooney Mara are any kind of substitute for Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace at bringing their characters to life, and even the hideous rape sequence doesn't have the raw power of the original's. (If they didn't want to be compared to an earlier film, they shouldn't have made another version of it, and they certainly shouldn't have made an inferior version of it.)

There's also the language question: why is everyone speaking English when it's taking place in Sweden, the newspaper signs are all in Swedish and magazine covers are in Swedish? Granted it's a dramatic device as old as theatre - Hamlet doesn't have to be performed in Danish - but why are the TV news and the press cuttings in English? There's even an absurd moment when they spell a sign out - "S...N...that's a K.... Carpentry!" And why is no-one but Rooney Mara putting on some sort of accent? (Okay, they probably didn't want it to sound like a Muppets convention where everyone's come as the Swedish Chef.) It's an inconsistency that could easily have been avoided by just putting everything in English.

Matters aren't helped by the sound mix rendering chunks of the dialogue unintelligible (although that may have been the 35mm print or my local's audio system at fault), and by the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross score that's been indiscriminately ladled over the movie like custard - but ladled over roast beef rather than an apple crumble. How can a director who's worked with proper musical composers like Howard Shore, Elliot Goldenthal and David Shire possibly have signed off on this ambient soundscape of droning and plinky-plonk noises? (The album release covers three CDs and frankly you might as well listen to your fridge defrosting.)

So ultimately we've ended up with a nothing movie: an A-list director, a heavyweight cast, some fabulous set design - but it simply never hangs together the way it should - and the way it did a few years ago (and presumably in the book as well). It isn't different enough from the earlier film to make it much more than a translation rather than a film in its own right. Niels Arden Oplev's film was terrifically entertaining and gripping, and this just isn't in the same league. Most importantly, from the director of Se7en and Zodiac - and even Panic Room and Alien 3, which I believe is massively underrated - it's a crashing, crushing disappointment. (Sadly, it looks like a remake of the next of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire, is in development for 2013, although it doesn't appear on Fincher, Craig or Mara's IMDb pages.)


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