Wednesday, January 28, 2015

In with the New Blogathon (hosted by Dell on Movies)


I’d love to say that I thought long and hard about this one before finally deciding on a ‘remake’ to feature here, but I’d be lying.  This was the first film that came to mind and it never left and there are so many reasons why this remake is so much better than I just, well, had to go with it.

Let’s get the formalities out of the way first.

So, I feel like a dick for dropping this ball, but I’ve been doing that lately, being late and shit for all these blogathons that I really want to be a part of and so I’m so happy that Wendell graciously extended his deadline so that I could participate (well, he didn’t do it specifically for me, but I was part of the problem that caused the extension). 

Basically, we are to pick a remake that we actually think is better than the original.  The only real rule is that we cannot chose a sequel (so no Spider-Man 2 was better than Spider-Man) and that we need to include the name of the blogathon (see my post title) and link back to Dell on Movies (which I just did).

So let’s talk dragons and tattoos and sadomasochists and David fucking Fincher!



Back in 2009, a trilogy of films inspired by a trilogy of books took the world by storm.  Stieg Larsson’s death didn’t hurt the popularity, as it caused people to dig deeper into his world, especially since his death was very…suspicious.  I was a tad late to the party, missing all of the films when they hit theaters (and they did hit theaters here, which shows just how popular they were, since foreign films rarely come this way) but once they hit Netflix stream, I binge watched them all one afternoon while I was supposed to be working.  As a whole, collective piece, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an extremely well thought out and engrossing narrative.  As individual films, they all work to certain degrees, with flaws throughout, and the second film, The Girl Who Played with Fire, suffers quite a bit, wedged between two finer films. 

But we’re here to talk about the original; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the film that started it all and introduced us to Lisbeth Salander’s world.

For me, the biggest draw to the 2009 film is the story, which is perfectly engrossing.  After seeing the film, I went out and bought the books and read the first one with rabid fascination.  It’s just so expertly strung, this mystery, and despite how horrific it can be, it all sits so well on your palate.  You can’t help but be fascinated by every twist and turn.  Then there was the character of Lisbeth Salander.  It’s odd how iconic this character has become, and so quickly, but there is no denying that she is a part of pop-culture as we know it and will remain such for a long time to come.  The development of this character, especially over the span of all three films, is tremendous.  Noomi Rapace’s performance here is brilliantly composed and constructed, allowing us in a little at a time, milking our interested for all three films in order to completely deliver on her promise.  Unfortunately, that makes her performance in the singleness of one film feel a little incomplete.  While I loved her work, in the context of one film, especially the first two, she doesn’t feel whole.  (One of the first posts I ever wrote on this site was about this performance)  She needs that final film, that full circle, that complete narrative, to make her character evolve completely.

Or does she?

No, she needed David Fincher.


Ok, so I’m usually the guy who gets all pissy about American directors who decide to remake a foreign film mere months after that foreign film gets released.  I mean, why can’t Americans in general just watch movies with subtitles?  It’s not that hard.  So, usually I’m all “SUPORT FOREIGN FILM” and in protest refuse to even see the remake.  But, I love David Fincher and so I basically broke my unwritten rule and actively anticipated his remake.

Yeah, Fincher’s 2011 remake kind of blows Oplev’s 2009 original out of the water in so many ways it’s embarrassing.  In fact, I didn’t realize just how amateur Oplev’s film was until I saw all the incredible things Fincher did with his, but you just can’t stack the two against each other without Goliath coming over and just trampling Oplev’s film to pieces.

First, the script follows Larsson’s novel better.

Second, the acting ensemble is stronger, as a whole.  Rapace, throughout the trilogy, delivers the best performance of anyone involved in any Dragon film, but singularly, like I said, she doesn’t.  Judging from just the ONE film, Mara’s performance feels far more reflective of the entire woman.  Fincher coaxed those full circle arcs out of the first film, giving us a more complete picture that isn’t reliant on any other films.  While Nyqvist and especially Haber deliver fine performances in the Swedish original, every aspect of Fincher’s ensemble is so uniformly cohesive and fresh, with Plummer, Craig, Skarsgard, Richardson, Wright, van Wageningen and really everyone else just hitting every mark perfectly.

Third, Fincher is a master of atmosphere, and he builds a tension that is so thick is haunts.  While the story is the same, the effect is different in the hands of a man who understands how to make the surrounding elements their own character, their own entity.  Against Fincher’s remake, Oplev’s film feels like a made for television mystery.

Fourth, Fincher has some really great friends in his corner.  From Zaillian’s cutting adaptation to Cronenweth’s breathtaking (literally) visuals to Baxter and Walls sharp edits to that incredible score crafted by Reznor and Ross, Fincher took a decent story with potential and brought it to a level that no one could have even imagined.

I like both films, but this is one of those rare occasions where the remake is SO MUCH better than the original for so many reasons that I honestly see absolutely no reason to ever look back; and this is coming from someone who gives Rapace a Fisti win for her ‘complete’ performance in the trilogy.

20 comments:

  1. Like you, I am generally highly skeptical of what I view as Unnecessary American Remakes (Learn to read subtitles, folks!) But I've only seen Fincher's version of this film, and I loved it. Mara was amazing.

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    1. I do hope that they eventually reteam for the sequels, but if not, I'm ok with this lone standing film.

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  2. Bold choice. Lots of people see this the other way around. I prefer Fincher's version, but have it a lot closer than you. I thought Rapace was astonishing in all three, both individually and collectively. My question for you becomes does each of her performances rely on each other simply because we have them? I mean, it might be easier for Mara's to feel complete since there is only one movie to this point. If the other two movies are indeed made with her in the lead might this one feel incomplete? I dunno. Just something to ponder. Anyhoo, I'm very grateful you participated. Thanks a bunch!

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    1. It's an interesting question to ponder, and you could be right, but ultimately I feel like Fincher coaxed out so many layers to Salander, especially in the climax, that Oplev reserved for the next two films, possibly because they were filmed in unison. Fincher looked at his film as a singular piece of film, which I believe all films SHOULD be looked at like, and because of that it had a better internal flow and felt complete, whole, especially with regards to Mara's performance.

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  3. I think both movies are good. Only, the latter feels so Fincher :) I always thought Fincher's version was adapting the novel, instead of remaking the Swedish movie. Yet, it's good that you liked Fincher's too, 'cause I also like that one.

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    1. I guess that is probably the case, and re-adapting is usually the way to go anyways.

      Also, what wrong with feeling 'Fincher'...? Hehe...I wish more films felt that way!

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  4. Nice pick! I didn't care for either movie, actually. I lean more towards Rapace's performance over Mara's, (I do love me some Rooney Mara though) but Fincher's film ultimately flowed better.

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    1. I'm surprised you didn't care for either, especially Fincher's, only because I feel like it's probably one of the best thrillers of this current decade. The more time goes by, the stronger I feel that I should have embraced it more in my personal Fisti awards.

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  5. I... did NOT care for Fincher's film, but I think that might have more to do with expectations - I had already read the book and seen the Swedish film, and the trailers and title sequence were so high-octane and exciting in ways the film was never going to be that I was left a bit bored by the whole thing. HOWEVER, having loved the book, I felt betrayed by Mara's performance as Lisbeth. Lisbeth presents an inscrutable front to the world, something Rapace played to brilliant perfection. Mara, on the other hand, played her too obviously, telegraphing every emotion and playing every subtext far too broadly. She played her like a character in a movie with an arc, as opposed to playing the actual person, and what's worse, Fincher did too. Completely missed the mark on that front, for me.

    Not that Swedish film is some great feat of cinema or anything, though. It's the very definition of "workmanlike", outside of Rapace's incredible work (and perhaps Nyqvist).

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    1. Seems I really did pick a controversial one here!

      I noticed all the 'emphasis' and the 'arc' in Mara's performance, but I felt like it was well used here and served the film's purpose of standing alone. Like I said, you get all that arc if you watch all three films or read all three books (I'm assuming, having only read the first), but here it feels like a 'complete' story without the need of any other film to make it whole. I think that was Fincher's intention (because he's the last guy who wants to be bogged down by two more 'required' films) and in that case it works beautifully.

      But that's just my opinion.

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  6. I completely agree with you!! Oplev's version basically throws away Lisbeth & Mikael's relationship. I mean it's there but the context is so different and Noomi's Lisbeth seems so less moved by it. I think Fincher's version of their relationship and Rooney's Lisbeth are more reflective of the novel. Oplev's doesn't even have the heartbreaking ending!

    Also, just the filmmaking and atmosphere as you've said are on such a better level.

    I'm not expecting them at this point, but I'd still be very sad if they completely rule out doing the sequels.

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    1. I've heard that Oplev's does have the ending in the television version (since this all originally aired overseas as one long television movie) but that it was cut from the theatrical version.

      I don't think they'll do the sequels. I think Craig asked for too much money and they were trying to find a way to rewrite them to not feature his character, and at that point I was just praying that Fincher and Mara would just walk away...because that would be a big mistake.

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    2. What?! Well I actually don't think it would have gone over as well in that version since Noomi's Lisbeth never seems that infatuated with Mikael.

      If they can't all come together then they shouldn't do it at all. And not having Lisbeth & Mikael's relationship further explored would be horrible.

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    3. Yup, I blogged about the sequel issues here:

      http://afistfuloffilms.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-girl-without-guy-that-jumpstarted.html

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  7. I have not seen the original but was deeply riveted by Th U.S. remake. Rooney Mara shone and the scenes she did were not easy by any means. She is a strong female force who is much strong than Daniel Craig's character to the point where he is the mansel in distress:) You did pick a controversial film. My niece loves the original and now has the dragon tattoo on her shoulder (sigh). Love the right up and agree with what you wrote on the U.S. film. I have been waiting for the 2nd and 3rd but now, from what your wrote, it seems they won't be made-shame

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    1. Hmmm, a literal dragon tattoo, huh? I didn't love it...THAT much ;-)

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  8. Good call, man! You are so right on. I wanted so badly to participate in this blogathon myself, but I just couldn't find the time, and I couldn't think of anything good. I loved this book trilogy. Just great! Fincher so did so did a better job with the material as you so perfectly laid out.

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    1. Wish you could have played along too...it's always fun to participate in these blogathons when you can. But, I also know how they can slip between your fingers.

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  9. I wish I fully agreed. It probably doesn't help that I saw and loved the trilogy when it was released in the U.S. in 2010, only a year before Fincher's Dragon Tattoo came out. I've always preferred the Swedish version, which does benefit from Rapace's fascinating performance in the 3 films. Fincher's style is a bit too intrusive for me in the case of Dragon Tattoo. I prefer the stripped down approach of Oplev's version. Still, I like both versions, but there is some distance between them. I'd give Oplev's film an A and Fincher's a B.

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    1. It's funny to me, because as I was writing this I was so cocksure that everyone would agree with me...and then I've discovered that, like, that isn't the case

      :-O

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