That's not exactly the feeling I had going into the American remake of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"...but it was close.
It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I hated the Swedish trilogy based on Steig Larsson's "Millennium" series, since I've made my hatred clear and detailed. And although I respect the fact that a lot of people like them, I still stand by my position that the Swedish films are hateful, male-bashing yet at the same time misogynistic, sleazy, confusing shlock that features arguably the most despicable female protagonist I've ever seen, and for a series condemning rape as much as it does, it sure does seem to get off on it. I felt like I needed a shower after those films, and not in the good "A Clockwork Orange" way. So you can imagine, I was not looking forward to the remake.
So imagine my surprise when I found that the American version of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" wasn't just far, FAR superior to the Swedish film, but I would go so far as to say that it was actually pretty good, and I found myself liking it a fair amount. Someone find the bolts to my neck, because my head is spinning at the thought.
|Hard to believe, but she cleans up nice...|
But I cannot believe how much of a difference a better script and director can have.
Of course, from the beginning I knew that there was talent going on here. Director David Fincher has made some of my favorite movies ever, and although I feel he's been on a losing streak lately, I still see his movies when they come out, just because it's him. I'm not sure how much input he had with the script, but Fincher definitely had the right idea of how to make this film and seemingly get rid of or fix everything I hated about the original, almost like he read my blog.
The first thing they did was to cut back on the rape. Now, there's still rape in this movie, and it's still brutal, although I found it slightly toned down (but not by much). But they got rid of the rest of the assault and rape that was in the original. That really helped to make it not so in-your-face, obnoxious and exploitative.
The other BIG improvement was the casting. In the original Lisbeth was played by Noomi Rapace, who played her with all the humanity of a block of tofu left out in the sun for a week and slathered in hair gel. She was wooden, stiff, and looked almost bored most of the time. That is, except when she was being raped, which was roughly 87% of the time.
Now she's played by Rooney Mara, and while many mannerisms were carried over from Noomi's portrayal, notably the quick, cutting delivery of her lines and the slump-shouldered double-timing walk she has, Rooney manages to squeeze some humanity into this character. I think that overall it's a combination of her choosing to not act like a complete robot, and a script that isn't afraid to show her as something other than a walking ball of rage.
|That shirt would make Joe Pesci proud.|
That's where I feel the stories have their priorities in different places. The original focused on Lisbeth's anger, while the remake focused on her isolation. And in the end, the isolation angle made me care about her much more. In fact, I felt sad for Lisbeth at the end of the film. I couldn't even fathom that before.
Bravo to David Fincher and the rest of the people who made this, because this is how this story should have been told in the first place.
I'm feeling slightly conflicted over my own feelings, though. Is it that I really enjoyed the film, or is it that I hated the originals so much that any significant improvement is enough to make me applaud and say "YES! THAT'S IT!" even though under normal circumstances I still may not have liked it?
I think too damn much.
THE BOTTOM LINE - I would actually recommend this film to people. I can't believe I'm saying that, but I am. If you've never seen the originals, don't. They're terrible. THIS is the version to see. The story is the same, but told through different filters. And based on discussions I've had with people about the books, this is probably closer to the feelings about the characters you are meant to have. Recommended. I'm shocked.