There was a question I asked myself many times while watching David Fincher’s English-language adaptation of the novel by Stieg Larsson: If I didn’t previously see (and enjoy) the original Swedish adaptation, would I have liked this film better? The answer I came up with was: probably not.
I thought that Fincher’s version of the story was horrendously paced and I most definitely noticed the film’s 258 minute running time, which is actually eight minutes longer than the (already long) original film.
Comparing the two film versions is almost like cooking two different meals from the same recipe: one is well done and quite appetizing and the other is overcooked and leaves you with indigestion. Both films have quite different executions, even though they have the same basic ingredients.
Having not read the book, I have no idea which film version has the more accurate telling of the story. However, I really liked the pacing of the Swedish film and how it progressed the story in a very natural way. I found that Fincher took longer to advance the plot and included many scenes that were not in the previous version (I don’t know if they were in the book). The end of the film was expanded greatly from the previous version and included what I can best describe as a “post climax espionage plot.” While this section of the film was definitely interesting, my patience was starting to wear thin and I was frequently checking my watch to see if the film was over yet.
Fincher also seemed really concerned at emphasizing the relationship between Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander to the point that he keeps them together longer than in the previous film version. It’s almost ironic that the film also seems to wait longer before initially bringing them together.
Speaking of the characters, they were one aspect of the film that I liked. Daniel Craig was a pretty competent Blomkvist and Rooney Mara’s performance as Salander grew on me over the course of the film – though I could have still done without the faux Swedish accent. I also thought that Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgård were pretty decent in their supporting roles.
Following their Oscar winning score for Fincher’s The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross return to score this film, which was much more subdued than their previous score. In fact, probably the most upbeat track in the film is the cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” that plays during the opening credits. I also have the mention the darkly humourous inclusion of the song “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)” by Enya during one of the pivotal scenes of the film.
As you can tell by now, I prefer the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. However, I also concluded that because of Fincher’s much slower pacing, even if I didn’t see the previous film, I might have still left somewhat underwhelmed. It’s not bad adaptation of the story, it just wasn’t really that enthralling.