How many times have you questioned why a movie is being remade? The examples are endless: classic ‘80s slashers, foreign films of all genres and even Hollywood films that debuted fewer than two decades ago. The majority of these remakes waste millions of dollars on a weaker script, poor casting and campy taglines. But once in a while there comes a remake touting some redeemable qualities.
Last month saw the release of David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the first book in the Millennium trilogy by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. The books have dominated bestseller lists for the last few years and it was only a matter of time before Hollywood picked up Dragon Tattoo for an adaptation.
Despite the hype surrounding it, the film fell behind two others its opening weekend. Many critics, however, praised Fincher’s stylistic choices. As a director, Fincher is known for creating distinct moods for each of his films. His Dragon Tattoo was a polished, yet graphic, interpretation of the novel that leaves viewers slightly disgusted with the darker side of human nature.
Trent Reznor’s raw score underscores the dark tones of the film, but falls a bit flat in comparison to his haunting accompaniment for The Social Network. The true heart of the film lies in Rooney Mara’s portrayal of Lisbeth Salander. The young actress fully immerses herself in the role of the hacker with a disturbing past.
Despite the film’s many positive attributes, there is no concrete reason why it needed to be made at all. Just two years ago, Swedish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev directed an adaptation of the trilogy. The three films are all viewed in high regard, with special recognition to Noomi Rapace in the role of Lisbeth Salander. The first won the prestigious BAFTA award for Best Film not in the English language and was recognized by many other organizations – and yet, Hollywood still felt there should be an American adaptation.
Even if Fincher’s film is the most innovative piece of the year, there would still be no solid reason for a remake other than Hollywood’s superiority complex. There is no doubt in my mind that the original Swedish version is the better of the two.
Although it is without a flashy opening sequence and an Academy Award-winning composer, its narrative is strong and consistent. The newer film is all over the place and hard to follow if you haven’t read the books or seen the original.
Most importantly, characters are fleshed out enough in the original that the audience cares about their well-being. That being said, Daniel Craig’s charisma and leading man-status in the remake do add a nice element to journalist Mikael Blomkvist.
The remake, however, is yet another indication of Hollywood’s practice of putting financial gain over artistic intent. If you want to explore the stimulating story of murder, corruption and human nature that Larsson intended, you are much better off sticking with the original. Remember, subtitles are your friend.