Well, this is the third time I’ve gone through this story so it’s becoming difficult to approach it with an unbiased or unknowing eye, so for comparison and thoughts on the story itself, here are my thoughts on the book and the first film.
This adaptation directed by David Fincher stars Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. I think they both carry it off very well actually. Daniel Craig plays a Blomkvist as a knowledgeable and engaging character and Rooney Mara plays Salander in a similar but subtlety different way to Noomi Rapace from the original. Mara’s Salander is a little younger as well as more frail and vulnerable and this perhaps sits better with her situation and helps explains her violent responses a bit better.
On that point, a lot of people feel the violence is excessive in a couple of key scenes with Salander’s guardian and I have to disagree completely with that view. I think that although the events are terrible, none of the actual acts are dwelled upon or even seen by the camera. I also think that the whole situation is an absolutely key backstory in Salander’s character when it comes to Blomkvist proposing that she helps him. Her instinct would be to be to instantly reject pairing up with someone, but when Craig delivers the (admittedly cheesy) “I want you to help me catch a killer of women” line, Mara’s twinkle of interest is made all the more believable by the events seen previously.
In between those scenes we see Salander visit a club and pickup a woman before going back to her flat for some extra curricular activity. Now this scene I do see as unnecessary – its always nice to see attractive naked women, but I have to admit it isn’t necessary for the story and doesn’t add to her character in any way that I could tell.
There is still a bit too much ground to cover in one film and the initial setup is still a bit bewildering and, really, completely unnecessary. The plot expositions and montages later on in the story are as generic as ever too, but there is an element to the investigation that seems glossed over on all three versions of the story that I’ve read/seen and that is [PLOT SPOILER!] that when Blomkvist first meets Henrik Vagner he explains how Harriet used to give him a pressed flower every year on his birthday and that this has continued. He presumes by the killer to torment him, but to me it is blatantly obvious that this is Harriet trying to send him a signal that she’s alive whilst maintaining her anonymity wherever she is. I would have thought that the bible verses would have been picked up earlier too, especially as Harriet is painted as very religious in this film.
Mara’s more vulnerable Salander is again noted in one of the final scenes where she goes to give Boomkvist a present but sees him leaving with Erika Berger and changes her mind, slams her defences down and rides off into independence again. It’s actually very sad.
Oh, and I haven’t mentioned the opening credit sequence yet. How could I forget – they are awful. There is a terrible Trent Reznor version of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song playing over a near-monochrome montage of cables and dripping T100-style metal. It says “Okay, we want a Bond-esque franchise establishing title sequence here. Get me a music video director to inject some grit and attitude” and then when it’s all finally over you can take a breath and get on with the film rather than the posturing.
So, overall then, not many directorial changes – I’d have liked to have seen a stronger individual mark on the telling of the story rather than just a translation – but an acceptable introduction if you haven’t seen the original film or read the book. I’d say that you’re better off with the book though.
3 on 5
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright, Christopher Plummer
UK Release: 26th December 2011
PS – I have just come across this teaser poster which passed me by a couple of months ago. Quite incredible how it misses the point of the story by a very long way, but that’s a whole other post!