Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo


The inferior, American version. CONTAINS SOME MINOR SPOILERS!! One thing to get out of the way right off: I feared this would be horrible, and it’s not. I speak as one who adored the Swedish version, starring Noomi Rapace in the best performance by an actress in 2009. So, would I recommend this film to people? Yes, with the major qualification that it will seem like a damn good film only if you haven’t seen the Swedish original. But in every aspect I can think of, from writing to direction to acting, this film is … inferior. That’s harsh, but that’s the way it is.
The question everyone has been asking, obviously, is could this new girl, Rooney Mara, equal or better Noomi’s performance. The answer is that, though quite good and credible in the role, Mara can’t come close to Noomi. We can start off with the look of the two women. See them side by side here. Mara is a waif. That’s the word that’s been used a lot to describe her. Noomi, though small, is simply stronger looking. I think it was a big mistake to shave the eyebrows. It makes her look as if she’s starving. Look at Noomi’s eyebrows, the darkness around her eyes, the set of her mouth. I believe that the first time she smiled in the three Swedish films was in the third one, when she heard her father was dead. Whoa! I laughed out loud. Rooney doesn’t smile, either, but she just isn’t nearly as intense.
But where this film really missed it, in my opinion, was in the area that William Goldman calls “protecting the star.” Most male movie stars have a huge reluctance to play weak. In the book, and the Swedish movie, Mikael Blomkvist is clearly the weaker of the protagonists. Here, they have pumped him up a bit. (Thank god they didn’t make a James Bond out of him.) He displays fear, and Lisbeth still has to rescue him at the end, but they tweaked it, changed little things, so that he discovers who the bad guy is at the same time that Lisbeth does. This was flat-out wrong. They also took from Lisbeth her solving the Biblical clues Harriet Vanger left behind in her diary, making it just a coincidental thing that Mikael stumbles across. Once Lisbeth takes him to bed, she becomes too affectionate. Lisbeth simply is incapable of showing affection, except possibly to another woman, and for very good reasons, which come out in the second and third books. I got the impression that sex, to her, was like scratching an itch. She certainly did fall in love, of a sort, with Kalle Blomkvist, but it was a tentative thing, easily crushed. All these things weaken her and strengthen him. All of them were mistakes. If the screenwriter didn’t know that these books and the Swedish movies were a gigantic success because of, and only because of, the character of Lisbeth Salander, he missed the whole point.