Thoughts on David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I have come to the conclusion that Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy must be literary dynamite. The first novel must combine the descriptive prowess of Charles Dickens, the wit of Oscar Wilde and Agatha Christie’s flair for mystery. For what else could explain the success of a book that has spawned two mediocre film adaptations?

When I first heard about an English-language cinematic adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I really could not see the point given how recently the Swedish film had been released. I was much more enthused when news of David Fincher and Trent Reznor’s attachment to the project was announced. Fincher would be the man, I thought, to fix the numerous flaws present in Niels Arden Oplev’s cinematic version of the book. The narrative would be tidied, the pacing would be rectified, and the film would sound fantastic to boot.

Unfortunately only one of these three is true of Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is pretty tough going when the best thing about a film is the title sequence. It is worse when that film is almost two and a half hours long. The title sequence is amazing, the combination of the visuals and the version of ‘Immigrant Song’ by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Karen O works sublimely. However, the rest of the film is a let down. Although it is more stylish than its predecessor, the flaws are all too apparent.

This leads me to believe that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not a very good story. The murder mystery premise is intriguing enough. However, it is poorly executed; the climax of the action arrives prematurely. This poor pacing means that the ending feels as if it lasts for an age. Moreover, if this mystery is secondary to the two protagonists’ journeys, than the characters should be more interesting. Neither Lisbeth nor Mikael are particularly fascinating characters; they offer nothing that really engages the viewer. Without a good narrative or absorbing characters, David Fincher’s film simply offers decent visuals and a great soundtrack.

In summary, no more film versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo should ever be made. David Fincher should be more picky about his projects. So should Trent Reznor, who should return to contributing to film projects of the same calibre as David Lynch’s Lost Highway.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stills

Here are some stills from David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, due for release on 26th December 2011. Not too much can be ascertained from this images, but it is fun to guess what might be going on. In the above image it looks as if Lisbeth (Rooney Mara) is in a library, or some kind of building with a shelf and a chair. More distracting, however, are her most unusual pale eyebrows. Her look is almost reminiscent of the Mystery Man for David Lynch’s Lost Highway, and no-one wants to relive those nightmares. Below it seems like Daniel Craig is struggling for phone reception in the snow. Perhaps more than anything, I am looking forward to Trent Reznor’s score for the film. Incidentally, Nine Inch Nails also provided music for Lost Highway

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Posters

New posters for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows have been released. What I am really looking forward to is seeing images of Jared Harris as Moriarty. At one time Daniel Day Lewis was rumoured to be taking the role. This would have been a stroke of genius, as he is exactly how I have always imagined Moriarty to look. Nonetheless, Harris is an interesting choice. The film also stars Noomi Rapace, who was the best thing about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the two following films. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is released on 16th December 2011.

Film Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest ends the Millennium trilogy much the way it began; like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the film moves at a sedentary pace for the most part, and lacks credibility as a serious crime thriller.

Lisbeth Salander is recovering from her multiple injuries in hospital when she is charged with the attempted murder of her father. Mikael Blomkvist and his sister Annika face an uphill battle to defend Lisbeth against the charge, while others would be only too happy to see her committed. To complicate matters, Niedermann is still at large…

There is little action in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest until the final quarter. For the most part, the duration is filled with Blomkvist and his associates struggling to find evidence to help Lisbeth, and The Section attempting to silence her and cover past discretions. Given the numerous characters invested in the case, there is a lot of exposition before Lisbeth’s story progresses.

Part of the problem of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is that for a large part of the film the central character is incapacitated. Either stuck in hospital or in a jail cell awaiting trial, Lisbeth is out of the action, waiting for Blomkvist to find evidence to clear her name. Lisbeth was so central to the investigation in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and pivotal to the action in The Girl Who Played with Fire. Here, she is demoted to helpless victim for much of the film, relying on others to fight for her.

Despite her portrayal as a strong and independent woman in the first two films, Lisbeth’s fate lies in the hands of male hero Blomkvist. Stieg Larsson and screenwriter Ulf Ryberg have given a rather archaic depiction of genders in these films. Crimes are solely perpetrated by men, with women and children frequently victims. Despite Lisbeth’s independence, it is ultimately a man who swoops in to save the day. Men are both heroes and villains, while women always have to rely on men.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is almost two and a half hours long, and unfortunately this duration is really felt. There is such a long build up to the court case and the Niedermann storyline, that when each narrative reaches its climax both feel rushed as a result. Furthermore, the two protagonists’ personalities start to grate in this film. Lisbeth appears uncooperative and ungrateful to those who are clearly trying hard to help her, while Blomkvist appears cruelly indifferent towards the threats to his co-workers.

Not a fantastic crime series my any stretch, the series is riddled with plot holes. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is a perfunctory ending to the patchy trilogy. It will be interesting to see how David Fincher fares with Larsson’s material.

Film Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire

The second installment of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire ups the pace from the first film, creating for the most part a more immediately engrossing thriller, but one with more flaws than its predecessor.

Journalist Mikael is investigating a sex-trafficking ring when three people connected with the case are murdered. Computer hacker Lisbeth is accused of the murders and, with Mikael’s help, must clear her name by finding the real culprit…

The main drawback with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was that it took too long to really get going. The Girl Who Played with Fire doesn’t suffer with this affliction, and is more instantly engaging because of this. Furthermore, some of the mysteries of Lisbeth’s past (introduced in the first film) are revealed in this installment, making it more satisfying to this end.

With much of the character development taking place in the first installment, director Daniel Alfredson is free to concentrate on the action of the case itself. It is just a shame that the mystery in this film isn’t as interesting as the case in the first film. The missing teen and the family empire of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo presented a more fascinating series of events than this case of a trafficking ring, which is never really investigated in any depth. Instead, the plot shifts to clearing the name of Lisbeth, which entails more action but less investigation.

The Girl Who Played with Fire presents a very clear depiction of women as victims and the perpetrators of crimes as solely male. Whilst Lisbeth may not be a typical heroine, she appears to fit in with the other main female characters in that she is a victim of violence. This rather primitive representation of genders detracts from the mystery aspect of the crimes, in both installments of the trilogy.

As with the first film, The Girl Who Played with Fire builds the tension to the climactic sequence. Although the climax is exciting, it also lacks credibility. Whilst the film has an overall basis in reality, events in the final scenes betray this with an absence of believability.

Casting for the American adaptation of Larsson’s books has recently been announced. It will be interesting to see how closely they resemble this Swedish attempt.

Film Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

When a film actually feels long, it’s never a good sign. The problem with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is that it takes far too long to build momentum. It is only in the second third of the film that pace is generated; prior to this there is exposition and little else.

The film centres around the mystery of a missing young girl, disappeared decades before from her wealthy family. What distinguishes The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo most from others in the murder mystery mould is the explicitness in not only the crimes that are discovered, but also in the violence that is depicted. At times, the graphic nature of the violence and sadism on display is difficult to watch. Unlike movies such as Saw, which seems to function on the ‘gore for entertainment’ premise, it is hard to see what is gained from such graphic scenes. Murder mystery for the Hostel generation perhaps.

The selling point of the books and this subsequent film appears to be the central character of Lisbeth. With her shadowy background and non-conformist appearance, Lisbeth is a researcher and hacker who is drawn into the case after completing research on reporter Michael Blomkvist, who is originally tasked with the case.  With her piercings and tattoos, Lisbeth may seem a world away from Miss Marple, yet there is little more to her beyond this outsider persona.

The film is the first instalment of a trilogy, so presumably more will be revealed about Lisbeth and her background. The ending of this film, however, feels protracted; it goes on at least fifteen minutes longer than what appears to be a logical conclusion.  Whilst the next two films may pick up the pace, it is questionable how many viewers will return after this mediocre start.