The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

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

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (2011)

Explosions. Gypsies. Gunfights. There’s a lot going on in Sherlock Holmes’ second big screen sleuth-‘em-up. But to director Guy Ritchie’s credit, Game Of Shadows never loses sight of the thing that made the first Holmes so explosive – the crotchety interplay between the titular detective and his eye-rolling sidekick. Who knew that homoeroticism could be so lucrative?

Clearly the minds behind Shadows do. Whereas the Holmes/Watson bromance of the first film felt almost like a happy mistake, here Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law’s married couple-aping bickering is cranked up another notch. To the extent that the duo even sweep the ballroom, hand in hand, for a brief musical interlude. Because yes, Shadows is all about this twittering twosome. Sure, Noomi Rapace (of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo fame) has been recruited as a French gypsy, but even she ends up merely staring at her quarrelsome male companions in wonder and bewilderment.

Thank goodness, then, for Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), who ensures that this isn’t a game without purpose. Like Holmes himself, you’d need a ball of wool and a very big wall to fully understand Shadow’s convoluted, runaway train of a plotline. But that’s OK, because with Moriarty established as Holmes’ foe early on, we know that wherever this wild goose chase is going, it’s all going to come to a climax with Holmes going giant brain to giant brain against Professor M.

Game Of Shadows is a far more assured film than its predecessor. Though the action set-pieces are plentiful, it knows when to take a breather. The humour is also pricklier, with Stephen Fry landing some chucklesome barbs as Sherlock’s flouncing brother. Who cares if it’s all completely ludicrous? Who cares if Holmes seems more psychic than cleverly deductive? In Ritchie’s film, even the mystery plays second fiddle to Downey Jr and Law’s verbal (and occasionally physical) tête-à-tête, meaning even if you haven’t got a clue what’s going on, you’ll be having a rollicking good time anyway. 4/5

So that was Comic-Con 2011

Every year, the San Diego Comic-Con – to embrace geek speak – shoots by faster than a speeding bullet. And the 2011 Con was no different, with four whirlwind days of nerdtastic programming screeching by at a breathless pace. Most of my time this year – as with in 2010 – was spent in the dark and hallowed Hall H, where all number of fantastic panels rolled out stars and exclusive footage. Even films that I had no interest in (uh, Underworld 4…) had their plus points (in that case, an on-form Kate Beckinsale).

Highlights? Clear frontrunner The Amazing Spider-Man took the biscuit with its exclusive clips and exhaustively entertaining panel (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, director Marc Webb). Snippets showing off Garfield both as Peter Parker and Spidey himself had a more-packed-than-ever Hall H heaving with whoops and cheers, as the webhead reboot proved that Webb had a perfect hold on the dark drama as well as the more comic-book-y humour.

Not only that, but we got our first glimpse at Ifans as the villainous Lizard – replete with the CGI antagonist’s stunning reveal. Sam Raimi’s trilogy clearly has its fans, but after seeing this footage, I’m more than confident that Webb can blow Raimi’s increasingly-dated movies out of the water.

The other main standout of Comic-Con 2011 was the eagerly-anticipated panel for Prometheus. Though director Ridley Scott and star Noomi Rapace couldn’t make it, they still showed fans some loving by speaking live via video link from Iceland, where they were completing the final week of shooting on the sort-of Alien prequel.

In Hall H, writer Damon Lindelof and other star Charlize Theron traded banter, before presenting the first ever footage from the flick. And even though the film’s not based on a comic book, the images chucked our way were a marvel. Scott’s crafted a film that – while not a direct prequel to Alien – is visually and stylistically linked to it. From the sliding Alien-like title card to the set design and music, all Scott’s talk of Alien DNA suddenly made sense.

Charlize Theron was also part of another stand-out panel, this one for Snow White And The Huntsman. Joining her castmates Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Sam Claflin on-stage, the quartet had apparently only met on the plane to the Con, but were already trading barbed banter like pros.

The film hasn’t started filming yet (it starts shooting this week here in the UK), but director Rupert Sanders still managed to wow the crowds by debuting images of the cast in their Snow White costumes…

Not bad, nuh? Equally impressive was the mood piece that Sanders had crafted for Universal to show them his vision for Huntsman. Though it was only shot in three days, the short film contained some stunning images, and hints that Sanders’ version of the fairytale will be both visually rich and forboding in tone.

Elsewhere at the Con, Nic Cage showed off some surprisingly gritty and exciting footage from Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance, the cast of Knights Of Badassdom chucked us the film’s first trailer (which hinted it’s on a path to definite cultdom), Steven Spielberg revealed we’re getting a Jurassic Park 4 in the next few years, the Twilight stars unveiled some decent footage from Breaking Dawn, and Kevin Smith hosted his annual ‘An Early Evening With…’ one-man show, soaking up the love from thousands of adoring fans.

So that was Comic-Con 2011. Mad. Restless. Crowded. But just as exciting as ever. Bring on Comic-Con 2012…

For more on Comic-Con 2011, read The 12 Best Things About Comic-Con 2011 over at Total Film, which I wrote with Richard Jordan.

Scott in space

“It’s daring, visceral and, hopefully, the last thing anyone expects,” raves Lost and Cowboys & Aliens writer Damon Lindelof. And rave he should; he’s just inked the script for Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s inscrutable new film and the director’s first sci-fi expedition since 1982’s Blade Runner. Originally set up as a prequel to Scott’s own genre-defining ’79 Alien, Prometheus has now (xeno)morphed into its own standalone beast. “While Alien was the jumping off point,” confides Scott, “out of the creative process evolved a new, grand mythology. The ideas tackled in this film are unique, large and provocative. I couldn’t be more pleased to finally return to this genre that’s so close to my heart.” Just what an Alien-inspired sci-fi has to do with the shamed Greek Titan Prometheus is anybody’s guess, though with original Swedish Girl With The Dragon Tattoo actress Noomi Rapace starring, we’re chomping at the bit to find out. Welcome back, Ridders.

Via Total Film