You know the story by now. Boy meets girl. Boy rapes girl. Girl gets revenge by shoving a dildo up boy’s backside. They all live unhappily ever after. Yep, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is everywhere and has been for the past two years. It was a bestselling novel, a TV mini-series, and a Swedish movie sensation that took the world by storm. The end, right?
Not if Hollywood has anything to do with it. With remakes all the rage right now (and subtitles resolutely not), leave it to America to make the movie again, this time with English-speaking actors and a heavyweight director managing the megaphone. See, cynicism is director David Fincher’s first hurdle, and he knows it’s a tricky one. But he needn’t worry. He’s crafted a loving, brutal, darkly comic adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s original tome, as we knew he would. Problem is, there was already a loving, brutal and darkly comic adaptation of Larsson’s original tome. It came out two years ago, and Fincher’s film, though easily more stylish, is damn near a carbon copy.
Because of that, the surprises are few. Rooney Mara is clearly the deal breaker, snapping up the role made famous by Noomi Rapace. Happily, Mara is fantastic as the goth hacker, not content to rest in Rapace’s shadow and making her tattooed girl every bit as fierce, feisty and sporadically funny. Her dedication to the role (everything from the hair, to the body language and the accent is perfect) is admirable. She’s been Americanised only ever so slightly – Lisbeth now loves Happy Meals – but Fincher is clearly in love with his leading lady. So much so that he indulges the book’s pace-assassinating final scenes, in which Salander puts the world to rights and has her heart stomped on. It’s one of the film’s only real trips.
Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo is, by its own right, an extraordinary film positively creaking with the very best in Hollywood talent. It’s what it stands for that grates. It represents both the best and worst of Hollywood cinema. The aforementioned talent is clearly the best. But the pillaging of foreign cinema, not to mention the ‘we can do it better’ arrogance that remaking a perfectly workable film carries, can only ever be seen as utterly disdainful and something to condemn.
Still, there’s no denying Dragon Tattoo is a slickly shot, smartly edited thriller, as Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig, the only one playing a Swede but not adopting a strange accent) attempts to solve the decades old case of a dead girl. Like other Americanised remake Let Me In, though, throughout Tattoo you just can’t shake the feeling of crushing over-familiarity. Maybe in a few years when the phenomenon has settled, we’ll be able to re-examine Fincher’s film more objectively. For now, it merely feels completely unnecessary, if not something to be ashamed of. 3/5