I've discussed my love of David Fincher's Seven and Fight Club through this blog and Strangers from the Internet, and I've written my full review of Nine Inch Nails' discography. Given that, you might expect that I loved The Social Network. In reality, I mostly found the film adequate. One of those films where I had no real complaints whatsoever, but there really wasn't anything there to make me fall in love with it either. However when the trailer for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came out, I took notice. This kind of crime drama seemed more appropriate for both of them, and I was excited.
While I was waiting for the film release, I checked out the subtitled Swedish version of the film thanks to Netflix. It's a long film, but the time really flies by as the mystery of the girl who disappeared forty years before unravels while we also get to know Lisbeth Salander. I quickly fell in love as I watched it. Language and cultural differences did not present any problems and I really got wrapped up in the story. Noomi Rapace gives a fantastic performance as Lisbeth, a girl who has been through a lot in her life and has built a tough exterior around herself in response. By the end of the film Lisbeth ranked high among female characters in fiction that I look up to. She's incredibly smart and she doesn't take shit from anyone. I love a girl like that.
While the American release is not a remake but rather an additional adaptation of the novel, I must admit by the end of watching this version I was wondering just why it was necessary to make another version. I suppose the easy answer is money, Hollywood not unfairly assuming the fact that some people out there just aren't going to sit through a movie with subtitles. It certainly makes me think of Let the Right One In/Let Me In, another set of adaptations where the latter American version was largely unnecessary.
Having now seen Fincher's version, I'm still asking the question. While there are a few scenes in each version that the other doesn't include, they are largely the same exact film with different actors. Daniel Craig's performance as Mikael Blomkvist is incredibly similar to Michael Nyqvist's, and Rooney Mara plays Lisbeth in much the same manner as Rapace did. The setting remains the same as does the plot. While I was absolutely blown away by the opening credits (set to that fantastic cover of "Immigrant Song" from the trailer) I soon started to feel a little impatient while watching the film as I watched the same exact sequence of events unfold. It's not that the film was bad, mind you. I once made the mistake of watching the movie version of Pet Semetary before reading the book, and ended up having to put the book aside for awhile because I was left with the feeling of "I already know what happens so I'm bored!" Given the short span of time between the two adaptations, I really feel like they should have tried to bring something different to the table.
That said, I still really enjoyed Fincher's version as once again it's a solid story and a well done film. His style is still evident, and his stylized quick cuts still excite me in a way that most other director's don't. The soundtrack done by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is wonderfully creepy and atmospheric, frequently enhancing the unsettling feeling that goes along with some of the more gruesome subject matter. Even in the more quiet moments it leaves us with a feeling of unease. I really think Reznor's style was made for soundtracks and I hope to see a lot more of them in the future.
I should probably mention the rape scenes in the film, largely because when the movie was in theaters it was a pretty big topic of discussion. Everyone feels a little differently about these things so I can't possibly tell you whether or not you would be comfortable with it. I will say this though, while the scenes are disturbing, they're not graphic. The violence is implied rather than shown, though the implications are more than enough. It's also not even remotely glamorized in any way. The fact that rape is a horrible act is not being glossed over.
I'm highly divided on telling whether you should watch just one version of the film or both. I saw them with a space of 4 months in between, and with my vivid memory I found that too soon. However I think they are both excellent movies so I hate to tell you to avoid one or the other. Perhaps a bit of space and time between seeing the two versions would allow you to enjoy both of them equally. I also hope to read the book, though obviously I'm going to have to wait even longer before I'm able to do that.