One film, two versions: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I don’t read as much as I used to, and the last few years I have read very few books. But one I did read was Stieg Larsson’s ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’. In 2009, I saw the film based on the book was being released, so hurried off to see it at a London Cinema. I wasn’t disappointed. Unusually, the main characters (played by Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist) were exactly as I had imagined them in my head, and the Swedish locations were just right too.

The story is the first part of a trilogy. So not unlike a serial, it leaves you wondering at the end. But what an unusual and involving story it is, with the twists and turns surrounding the lives of a crusading journalist, and the abused and damaged girl he encounters. It’s a tough tale, featuring a domestic violence, an abused child, sexual assault, rape, and elements of torture too. But it is so well done, those incidents never seem exploitative, or salacious. A web of corruption, murder and betrayal, abuse of power, and sweet revenge. It all adds up to an edge of the seat thriller that leaves you wanting more. And you get more; two more episodes, in separate films.
The leads are brilliant in their roles, and well supported by a list of very good actors that all earned their money, and my admiration. Direction is tight, the script sharp, and the experience for the film-goer is completely satisfying. Please watch it, if you like hard-hitting thrillers.

Just two years later, the talented American director David Fincher made a straight remake of the film, in English. He filmed it in Sweden, and packed the cast with A-list talent. We got Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, the excellent Stellan Skarsgard, Joely Richardson, and even Steven Berkoff. They were all well-cast, and nicely suited for their roles. Fincher didn’t mess around too much with either script or story, making it as a scene by scene copy, and everyone did their job just right. I left it alone, still reeling from the excellence of the original film. The audiences loved it, the critics liked it a lot, and suddenly it became ‘The’ film of the book. I waited almost two years to see it, when it came on television.

So, given all of the above, why didn’t I like it? Here’s a list of reasons why.
1) It was pointless.
2) The only purpose it served was to make the same film in English.
3) The first film was better, in every respect. Cast, atmosphere, sense of menace, acting.
4) Having A-listers like Craig makes you think of him in other roles, especially Bond. That makes it harder to take him seriously as a worn-out crusading journalist.
5) It didn’t have Noomi Rapace in it, and she owned the role as the girl.
6) It was pointless. (Did I mention that?)

I failed to be interested enough to even watch it past the first hour. Two weeks later, the Swedish film came on TV again, and I watched that, enjoying it even more the third time.

Just stick with the original, please.

57 thoughts on “One film, two versions: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

  1. Loved the books and the first film ..I didn’t have any desire to see the second one …and still don’t but have reread the books and seen the first one twice and methinks I will leave it there πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carol, the Swedish-made sequels are great, and well-worth watching, I assure you.
      (Played With Fire, and Kicked The Hornet’s Nest)
      Just ignore any English-language remakes. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I somehow missed on the book. I visited my friend in Paris and everybody was reading it there and talking about it (in a French translation) but hadn’t reached the UK. I watched the three Swedish movies following a friend’s recommendation and really enjoyed them, and I never felt inclined to watch the English remakes (I remember having a brief look at the Psycho remake and wondering why on earth would anybody do such a thing). I’m pleased to know I don’t need to bother. Thanks, Pete. (Unless a new adaptation is totally different, or takes on a different slant of a book, these “translated” versions make me cringe).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to agree of course, Olga. The latest ‘Girl…’ film is based on a new book not even written by the original author, (who died) and stars an English actress as Salander. I won’t be bothering with that one. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  3. Like you, Pete, I first read the book. I fell in love with it. I was like Yes! Finally! Now this is a great thriller. Then I saw the original film and I felt the same way. Fantastic. Well done. Rapace was wonderful. Then I saw the remake and I liked it too. A lot. I think Daniel Craig is a very good actor who has the chops to overcome his James Bond role. Mara’s good, but not as good as Rapace, no doubt.
    Was the remake pointless? Ummm…I don’t think so. Some people just can’t do subtitles. My husband is one of those. Pointless to me, yes–to people like my husband, not so much. Great post, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pam.
      I have a big issue with most remakes, that is obvious. I also have issues with dubbing films, and cramming blatant remakes with A-list stars to ensure they are palatable to the viewing public. But perhaps my biggest problem lies in the element of deception, where an unsuspecting audience are totally unaware of the excellence or even existence of a better film.

      My wife doesn’t like subtitles either, but I have just never understood why anyone cannot cope with them, as I have watched foreign films since my schooldays. Of course, there are remakes the other way round, when European film-makers have remade an English language film for the benefit of a French or German audience, though they are rarer.

      Another of my personal problems comes when wonderful Japanese animated films like ‘Princess Mononoke’ and ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ are dubbed for the benefit of American and English audiences. The actors used are usually big stars, but it NEVER works for me. Part of the experience of watching those wonderful films is hearing the original language that delivers so much nuance, even though I don’t understand the words. A friend who lives in Poland has told me that foreign films shown there have a ‘commentary’, speaking over the film. Imagine how awful that must be! πŸ™‚

      I suppose I am something of a ‘Fundamentalist’ when it comes to subtitled foreign films. I can think of so many classics that have escaped a poor remake, so I am thankful for that small mercy. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  4. I love the orginal. It is just a masterpiece! 😊 I read books and got it all on DVD I watched the other version just once and it was just ok. And I agree with you that is pointless to make remake of movie who was done so good in the first place. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pete, I own all three of the swedish films in newly remastered, longer cuts…the US version was icy cold with no passion or energy…he made a chilly mood piece that was completely unnecessary…that said, here is the trailer for the next installment of the series, with Claire Foy taking over a Lisbeth Salander:

    https://johnrieber.com/2018/06/07/the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-is-in-the-spiders-web-see-the-new-trailer-here-claire-foy-is-lisbeth-salander/

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Completely agree with you on this one, Pete.
    Now I hear there’s another one afoot with the actress who plays in the series ‘The Crown’. Claire Foy. It will be hard for me to see it. I so loved Noomi Rapace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really cannot see the point, Cindy. Claire Foy is a good actress, but we have the three originals to enjoy already. Are subtitles REALLY such a stumbling block? ((Sigh))
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Like

  7. I agree 100% Pete. I read and loved all of the books in the series. I was then fortunate enough to find a link to download the 3 Scandinavian originals. They were excellent ( not as fully fleshed as the original books (I have the same problem with The Godfather – but that’s another story!) but the female lead character played by Noomi was EXACTLY as I envisaged her from the book – a very rare thing for me.

    I put off seeing the Hollywood version until a lot later…and it was “ok”..If I hadn’t read the original books it was a passable thriller – I am not a massive Daniel Craig fan anyway. But compared to the original films…not up to snuff!!

    So…hey…I’m sure the Hollywood one made a few quid.

    Funny the second one of the books…..still to be made……. I wonder why?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I doubt any books of that calibre can be fully realised on film, John, but The Godfather and The Girl… trilogy were as good as it gets, in my opinion. I also saw Noomi as Salander in my head, even before I knew who she was! πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  8. Sadly, I have not seen this film. Thanks for your review and opinion though, saved a couple hours of life, I would never get back.
    Bond, just doesn’t fit in that role. Sorry, all I could think of was his film/s as Bond.
    The girl? The original just looked totally natural for the part. The newer one, looked like a fishing lure with an attitude. The short clip in the trailer of her in the interview, was frankly, offensive. She wasn’t mysterious, or cool, or even interesting. She was crass and offensive to me, typical Hollywood casting. I wanted to
    (1) Find a Magnet so I could leave a post-it on her face.
    (2) Take hedge shears and lop off that hideous hair-do.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have only seen the orginal movie, my parents saw both versions, and they said the exact same thing about the remake that you did: It was pointless. So I never bothered to watch it. The original movie though was great, dark…but very, very good 😊

    Liked by 2 people

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