I came to the Millennium trilogy unfashionably late. People at work had raved about it. My wife had raved about it. I found their raving off-putting. I am naturally rave averse.
But the wife sneaked under my rabbit proof fence of assumed taste and invested in the DVDs of all 3 movies – the original Swedish ones starring the magnificent Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander. I was hooked. And further gratified when Karen bought me the books for my birthday last year.
And so it was that I came to add myself belatedly to the Stieg Larsson fan club. I can now see that my resistance was childish and ultimately self defeating. Sometimes when people rave about things it is for a very good reason: they are worth raving about.
Holding the Swedish films in such high esteem, then, it was with nervous apprehension that Karen and I went to see the new English speaking remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara last Friday. Would it live up the original? The cast was excellent but that’s not always a guarantee of a great film. Would they botch the whole thing and have Larsson turning in his eco-grave?
Larsson can rest easy. It was a superb adaption – in many ways superior than the original. More of the story is covered. Admittedly parts are compressed or various elements brought together into a single composite, but on the whole it was all there. The settings were excellent – weirdly this version seems to capture my idea of Sweden so much more than the original. Sometimes it takes a foreigner's eyes to see how things really are, I guess.
There were naturally a few bug bears: the Millennium magazine offices and team are a lot more plush and populated than those of the books. Sometimes newspaper headline appeared in English (the ones we needed to understand) and others in Swedish. I would rather there was consistency here. But these are small complaints against the backdrop of an excellent film.
It is an intelligent and sensitive adaption. It pays much homage to the original and yet remains truer to the book than the first film. In a lot of ways it reminded me of the True Grit remake in this respect. The cast are excellent. I can’t really fault anyone. Does Rooney Mara match up to Noomi Rapace? It’s a close run thing. Rooney was stunning and carries the film seemingly without effort. For me Noomi will always edge it – “edge” being the operative word; Rooney wasn’t quite edgy enough – but Karen thought that Rooney’s rendition of Salander was much more closer to Larsson’s original literary creation. So there you go: each to his or her own. Either way – whichever film you choose to see – Larsson’s metaphor and symbol for the abused woman getting her own back on male dominated authority is magnificently represented and portrayed.
Daniel Craig gives good service as Blomkvist. Laid back, intelligent, approachable and yet also a little cold. That old Swedish charm. His relationship with Salander is somehow more fully realized in this version than in the Swedish. Robin Wright is excellent as Erica Berger and, for me, encapsulated Larsson’s character perfectly. Just as I’d imagined her in fact. Joely Richardson didn’t quite work for me as Harriet Vanger but appears only twice in the film: I can let it go. Everybody else steps up the plate and delivers faultless performances.
My only complaint – and it’s possibly a petty one – is that the opening credits are wholly, monstrously inappropriate. Music by Trent Reznor, slick CGI animation that is overblown and overly sexualized in a way that does the film and Larsson’s story a huge disservice. It was like a rock video or the opening to a James Bond film. I actually thought we’d ended up at the wrong screen it was that bad. Imagine Downton Abbey with an anthem by Lady Ga-Ga. Or Wallander with The B52’s providing the incidental music. It was that incongruous. Reznor you’re an arse. Did you even read the book? Or did you just look at the title and think “girl with a dragon tattoo? Yeah! Let’s rawk!”?
Go see this film. It’s set the bar high for the rest of the year. Just make sure you buy your popcorn while the opening credits are rolling through...