The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and sequels (2009) (2011) Film Review

So, months ago I compared the US and the Swedish versions of the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (here’s a link) and promised that I would read the book and compare it also. Finally, I have done so – well, actually, I finished it quite some time ago and forgot to write about it. Oops. Now, I’ve finished all three books and, indeed, have watched all three Swedish films. Only the first of the three US films have been released. The second two are both listed on IMDB as being in development, but with no release date.

The one thing I wanted to know about the book was how it compared to the two films. Both films were similar, but with a few key omissions. Turns out, the Swedish film was originally a TV production, but I am not sure if any information was left out. Essentially, I felt after reading the book that the Swedish was more true to the book, although had a few hints toward the future volumes. Neither were quite aggressive enough to the killer in my mind, but the Swedish end was much more closely tied to the book.

The second novel, The Girl who Played with Fire has Lisbeth Salander, the marvellous protagonist from the first book, travelling the world, seemingly free whilst a journalist in the Millenium offices is researching a sex-slavery ring. He and his girlfriend are suddenly killed and Salander is the key suspect. And then, in the book, we hear nothing from her for ages. It’s magnificently clever. The reader believes that she has done nothing, but all we see and hear is from either the police investigation, with all it’s flaws and prejudices, or Mikael Blomkvist, the other key protagonist who worked with Salander in the first book. It is as if the author, Stieg Larsson, wants to totally draw us in before Salander resurfaces. It is so exciting and driven and totally sucked me in. The film is fairly true to the book, although does not have this long period of time without Salander. I guess it’s hard to fit it all in to two hours. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and couldn’t wait for the third. At this point, however, I read the third book.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is hard to read – or more, hard to follow. It is dense and complex, with an extremely deep conspiracy within a secret governmental department. Certainly, it is worth wading through this carefully, as it all becomes extremely heated in the last third of the book, but I can understand why some people will not have read this far. There are also several major sub-plots that only just manage to tie in with the main plot and felt, at times, unnecessary. This is one of the major strengths of the film. It goes for two-and-a-half hours, yet still shows only about half of the book. But, the parts that have been omitted really do not affect the storyline, and indeed, free it to really focus on the story we want – and that is, Salander all the way.

If you like fast-paced action books, they are worth it. They are nowhere near as easy to read as the Jack Reachers (which I love – thanks, Lee Child), but have a more complex and worthwhile payoff. If you’re not up for reading through all the complexities, but you do like a good action film with heaps of excitement and intrigue, the films are worth it. If you don’t like subtitles – well, either get over it and learn to like them, or perhaps wait until Hollywood catches up.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo vs The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) (2011)

**** WARNING – MAJOR SPOILER ALERTS ********

  

I’d intended to read the book before seeing either film, but good intentions pave the road to hell, or so they say. I was at the cinema a few weeks ago and it was the only film on that I wanted to see that was starting at the right time, so I saw the remake.  I just recently watched the original Swedish film on DVD.

Firstly, I was very surprised by the ‘Hollywood’ remake. It didn’t feel very Hollywood, apart from having the main character played by Daniel Craig. It had a real darkness, and the actors often looked their age. And unattractive – or at least, not as totally attractive as you expect in Hollywood films. I was a bit annoyed about varying accents at first, but got so immersed in the story that I soon forgot this.

There were a lot of similarities between the two films, which seems a ridiculous thing to say given they were both based on the same book. Surprisingly, there were also a lot of differences – and here come the spoilers. I don’t recall the second film mentioning anything about Blomkvist being sent to jail, and the first film has Lisbeth being randomly attacked by a group of thuggish males, as opposed to having a single man grab her bag.

So, how to decide which is better? The group of thugs seems to me to build directly on Lisbeth’s anti-social behaviour and deep distrust of men. On the other hand, I much prefer the performance of Rooney Mara as Lisbeth to Noomi Rapace in the original. The rape scene in the remake was far too graphic for my liking – whilst I don’t mind having to shut my eyes for parts of movies that I can’t watch, the Swedish certainly got the event across without the trauma to the audience of the remake.

Again, how can I decide which is better? I have read reviews that prefer the original because it is more arthouse, and that hate the remake because of Daniel Craig. Certainly, Michael Nyqvist brings a lot more warmth to the character, especially when he is interacting with the people that he interviews during his investigation. Unlike so many remakes (the US The Vanishing remake of the Dutch film Spoorloos – don’t bother with the remake. Really don’t), this one seems close to the original without being a scene for scene copy. I really look forward to reading the book now to see which is closest to the book. Although to get totally pedantic, I am aware that it is a translation, and so I don’t know what has been gained or lost in the translation.

Do I have to make a decision? I don’t want to. How about I say… ah, dammit. I think I preferred the remake until I got to the last half hour or so. The remake just confused things – it was so much better when Blomqvist hadn’t figured it out when he gets to the killer’s house. That look of sudden realisation, the moment before panic-  ah, it was fabulous. The end of the original for me was way better. In the remake, Lisbeth asked if she could kill the baddie, but I liked it a lot more in the original when she didn’t. Not asking gave her a lot more power, I reckon. Asking made her submissive to him – and don’t get me started on the rubbish with the leather jacket.

I’ll read the book and then write Girl with a Dragon Tattoo cubed – just give me a few months…