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The UnPopular Opinion: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

10.09.2014

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

There is such a thing as being too faithful to your source material. In the past, this was never an issue for David Fincher as he managed to bring Chuck Palahniuk's FIGHT CLUB to vivid life and adapted the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON into a spectacular movie. Even the non-fiction book that inspired THE SOCIAL NETWORK became a fantastic narrative film. But, like the recently released GONE GIRL, sometimes you can stick too closely to the work you are adapting. Part of that lies with the screenwriter, but Fincher does not seem to be the type of director who lets projects get away from him. And yet, both GONE GIRL and his prior film, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, both suffer from being visual adaptations of a popular book and not much more.

I am a huge David Fincher fan and even a mediocre movie from him is better than most of what is released each year, but THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO seems to be proof positive that even Fincher can make a movie just as a payday. Despite overall critical consensus, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO simply feels like Fincher by the numbers rather than something unique, special, or inviting. Despite some great visuals, the movie nonetheless feels like a remake made too soon after the original.

Their discussion of how to create a D&D character came to an impasse.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was remade by Fincher and screenwriter Steve Zaillian a mere two years after the Swedish trilogy of films rocketed star Noomi Rapace into Hollywood celebrity. With the novels a worldwide sensation and fans already clamoring for the three foreign-produced films, the inevitable Hollywood remake was born. Starting with a taboo marketing campaign featuring an infamous poster as well as a powerful teaser trailer that still ranks as one of the best ever made, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was poised to knock everyone's socks off. Instead, we get a cold and isolated film that never truly draws you into the madness of the mystery.

All of Fincher's movies carry a darkness to them, even the bright BENJAMIN BUTTON, but they also have a wicked sense of humor. SEVEN worked because of the chemistry between the leading actors, as did FIGHT CLUB and THE SOCIAL NETWORK. But what really makes all of those movies click is the dark undercurrent of humor. Even ZODIAC and THE GAME, potentially Fincher's darkest movies, are both incredibly funny in their examination of the horrors that men do. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is humorless, bleak, and unrelatable. While you likely would not want to be close to the types of people who can do what happens in Stieg Larsson's mystery, it is no worse than in any other Fincher movie and yet every other film he has made deserves repeated viewings. This one most certainly does not.

This is not a still image.  Rooney Mara just never blinks.

Well made films visually do not compensate for the shortcomings of the project as a whole.  I could speak at length about how much I love the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross score.  I could write volumes about Fincher's visual prowess and the editing job done on THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.  But, none of that will make up for the incredibly boring performances from Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.  Everyone here feels disconnected from the world, which could be a function of the apathy at work in the fictional setting of the film.  But, for all of the praise heaped on Mara, all I can say is she was better than Noomi Rapace in the same role.  Mara fully inhabited Lisbeth Salander and made her a broken and realistic character with a distinct visual flair.  Aside from that, she somehow manages to make the hero (or anti-hero) of the film so completely ice cold and unlikeable you truly don't care what happens to her.

I fully understand that THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is not meant to be likeable.  This is a despicable movie full of broken characters, all of whom do bad things.  But, if there is nothing to make them worth watching, then why watch it?  For that matter, why even remake it?  The Swedish language originals are exactly the same, just spoken in a different language.  When the remake was announced, I expected the setting to be transplanted to America.  When they kept the European setting, it baffled me to the purpose in remaking it at all.  Having English speakers make a movie where they all speak with Swedish accents makes absolutely no sense (not that Daniel Craig even tried).  Why bother to tell the exact same movie but through a different director?  Did nobody learn from Gus Van Sant that people will crucify you for things like that?

There is nothing sexy about this movie.

I do not expect this to be a popular opinion, hell that is the name of the column, but in the filmography of David Fincher, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO remains his safest film.  In each of his previous movies, Fincher challenged audiences either via taboo subject matter or technological achievement.  He showed audiences that he is able to tackle films regardless of genre and with a slew of screenwriting partners and varied acting talent.  Even his critical failures like ALIEN 3 show a director challenging his industry.  But, for as much as Fincher lamented his foray into the ALIEN franchise, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO may forever remain his biggest failure and a sell-out moment in his career.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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