Monday, January 09, 2012

Credit Where Credit’s Due

Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth SalanderI 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...



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22 comments:

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

I had sky plussed the swedish version of Girl with Dragon Tattoo and just mentioned to t'husband that we should watch it. He informed me that he'd deleted it thinking I'd recorded it in error!

We both enjoyed the books and it's so refreshing to have a central character that is not your usual Hollywood sex siren. I guess I'll have to wait until either the Swedish or American versions come back on Sky.

Steve said...

Very Bored in Catalunya: my guess is you'd prefer to see the Daniel Craig version...? ;-)

John Gray said...

I will stick to the original .....perhaps I am too much of a film snob, but I find it interesting that the American market in the main just WILL NOT accept a film with subtitles....

Steve said...

John: I totally agree but if this film gets them interested in European cinema and European literature that can only be a good thing in the long run.

libby said...

Exactly our thoughts.... loved the film ....and my son hated the opening credits but I quite liked them...until after the film and then I realised they didn't fit!

Steve said...

Libby: Karen and I shook our heads all the way through them and began to think the film might be shit. Thankfully once the overly macho credits were out of the way the film content was handled very sensitively.

TheUndertaker said...

Unfortunately, being Swedish, I have this one aversion to the adaption... Eh... it's not in swedish, duh?
Pathetic attempt of the americans to claim something as theirs, just because they cannot read subtitles!
I am sure the film is great and stands on it's own, but they already ruined the movie 'Let the right one in' as 'Let me in' and I find this hard to stomach as well.
The beauty of the original movie is that it is very Swedish, with people that speak the language and portrays us as we are as people, with the country as it is. No american have no hope in hell to capture this!
But then, that's just my opinion...
Heja Sverige for fan! : D

Steve said...

TheUndertaker: I would take the Swedish version over this for that very reason. To hear the language and see real Swedish actors. However, this is an excellent remake. They've done a fine job, one I think Larsson would approve of. And as I said to John above, if this film encourages Americans to watch more European cinema and start looking outside of their own borders all to the good.

Alienne said...

I preferred the Swedish version too; the remake is quite good, but I didn't like Daniel Craig as Mikke - in the book he is meant to be middle aged and a bit paunchy, not bloody James Bond. And for those too lazy to read subtitles, my younger daughter (who is that lazy) pointed out that the DVD has a dubbed version on it! She said it was very well dubbed and that the lip synching was pretty good so it didn't irritate her when she watched it.

Vicky said...

I think I am Dragon Tattooed Out, every where I bloody turn they are spruking the movie........
Mind you might have to see the movie just for the Daniel Craig fix LOL

Owen said...

Must have missed this while out doing photos somewhere... another one to add to the list, for if it has gotten around your rave deflectors, than it must be good...

Steve said...

Alienne: no matter how well something is dubbed I think I'd still rather hear the native language and read the subtitles.

Vicky: DC fans will certainly get a good fix!

Owen: you can always rely on me as a benchmark!

Nota Bene said...

I've managed to not read the books, see the original films, nor this one. I don't know why. Please tell me.

Trish @ Mum's Gone To ... said...

Planning to go to Sweden for our summer holiday so maybe I should get tattooed and pierced before I go?

Steve said...

Nota Bene: you are rave averse.

Trish: I'm sure you could find someone there who'd do it for you...

Mark said...

All this has passed me by - as usual!

Steve said...

Mark: the boat is garishly lit and still sailing around the harbour - there's still time to leap on board!

The Sagittarian said...

I have a dilema when having read a book, the film comes out - do I go and see it? Sometimes the stuff in my head is so much better than when someone else visualises it (in film) for me...this is a film that I have ummed and awwed about - I think I will go and see it. Thank you. The cheque is in the mail...

Being Me said...

I'm rave-resistant too.

Steve said...

Amanda: is there a good or bad time to cash it? The film won't disappoint; trust me.

Being Me: I never got into E's and whizz either.

Livi said...

I hated the first 2 books and therefore didn't read the last one! Loved the first film (Sweedish), but the second film flopped for me, probably because imo the 2nd book was plotless and awful!

Looking forward to seeing the Hollywood version though!

Steve said...

Livi: half way through the third book now and loving it! The Swedish films will always be the authority for me.