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.