2012 / English / Movie Review

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2012)

On Why You Won’t Hate The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Depending on what you expect from director David Fincher you’ll either love The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (TGWTDT) or you’ll be disappointed. Don’t worry, you won’t hate it. Let’s deal with the bad news first:

Love Me, Love Me Not!

Love Me, Love Me Not!

Why TGWTDT Will Disappoint You

David’s been there, done that. Then what made him take up Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel Män som hatar kvinnor? We’ve seen David successfully deal with serial killer trails before. Be it the Biblical Seven or the cryptic Zodiac. David’s proved himself in the crime—suspense—neo–noir genre. There’s nothing stopping him from revisiting the genre he’s most comfortable with but if serial-killer flicks is what David wants to make then it better outsmart his previous gems; it better keep us guessing till the very end; it better be way better than most other serial-killer thrillers. Sadly, TGWTDT doesn’t completely live up to that.

Why? One obvious reason is the immense popularity of the novel by Larsson, which though yours truly hasn’t read, might have motivated David to adapt it on celluloid; there’s franchisee written all over it. Talking of popularity, what is popular is usually quite entertaining but not necessarily philosophical or literary. In short, lacking in depth. For me, TGWTDT is not too different either. It does sublimely raise some questions on violence and abuse against women, the ugly truths behind neatly clad societies, opportunistic journalism and other harsh realities that haunt us. Yet all of this only in passing reference and nothing more.

For instance, there’s some sexual content involving Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) that leaves you confused: Should we sympathize with her? Is there a sub-text to all of this? If there is, it doesn’t really come across clearly. Her not-so-central character zombies around trying to lead an existential life and seems superficial in most parts lacking depth of characterization. Her role in this first installment of the Millennium series is restricted as a catalyst to propel the plot further but is not essential to the plot itself. It seems forced. Maybe that’s how the book is and the remaining two books delve deeper into her psyche and character. But then the title sure is misleading.

Rooney is definitely notches ahead in terms of performance when compared to, say, a bland Gina Carano in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire but we would have loved to see Rooney play a crucial role in the plot. Having said that full credit to Haywire’s leading lady, the mixed martial artist (MMA) Gina Carano for making up with flying kicks, which can give Jackie Chan a complex, what she lacks in emoting. She never was expected to do more than that. With Rooney, however, the stakes were high and hence the disappointment.

Watch Rooney Kick Some Ass!

Now, Watch Gina Kick The Living Daylights!!

Why You’ll Love TGWTDT

The screenplay. One must credit David for an excellent screenplay that does keep you guessing and lets you play along well enough to arrive at a few probabilities and possibilities about what’s going to happen next. A good suspense flick gives the audience enough clues to decipher things before they happen and then BANG: Gotcha! And TGWTDT successfully and faithfully does that. A little too faithfully perhaps and hence a sense of déjà vu with David’s previous flicks Zodiac and Seven prevails throughout.

Rooney Mara with her anemic-but-alluring, dragon tattooed, creatively pierced and biker chic look kicks some bad ass, and has a neat one herself, is sure to keep your eyes glued to the screen. Bond guy Daniel Craig as journalist Mikael Blomkvist takes advantage of whatever meat his character has to offer (which is hardly anything), does most of the talking and let’s Rooney handle the fighting. Despite being worlds apart, their sexual chemistry at one point is exciting but the end credits start rolling when it was all just building.


Why did the director not do complete justice to this subject? There is no clear answer but it would have been nice to see David’s interpretation and recreation of Larsson’s world rather than an almost-faithful copy of the original (which, probably it is. Thank you Wikipedia). Dragon tattooed Rooney too gives it her career best to make this work and it shows in her body language, stoicism and attitude. All the best Rooney! For the remaining installments (if they ever get made).

A line in the film states, “…the fear of offending can be stronger than the fear of pain…”. And TGWTDT doesn’t offend your intelligence but neither does it successfully communicate what it intends to: the pain and evil that exist in society.

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