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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - A Review

A tale of two movies...

Today I went to watch the new American version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and was shocked at the movie.

The movie is rated 'R' and it deserves that rating for its graphic portrayal of rape and torture. Several people even walked out of the movie theater during one of the more brutal scenes. So, did that make it a good movie? Was the director trying to tell the audience something?

To answer that I re-watched the original Swedish version of the same movie (also rated 'R'), which debuted a couple of years ago. I remembered enjoying that earlier movie very much and although I remembered there was some nudity in it (not a lot), I didn't remember as many graphic scenes that shocked me. I was correct. Two very different movies based on exactly the same book. So what were the main differences? (And no plot spoilers, so don't worry).

The original Swedish movie portrayed Lisbeth as a deeply troubled yet very intelligent woman, who also happened to be a dropout from society. In this version you never knew quite where you stood with the character and you certainly never came to feel emotionally tied to her. There was always a certain intrigue about her and you wondered just what made her the way she was. Towards the end of the movie that question was mostly answered. The newly released American movie portrayed Lisbeth as someone that the audience should feel sympathy for from the beginning and as the story progressed you wanted her to get together with Mikael, the main protagonist. As for Mikael, the Swedish movie portrayed him as an independent and resourceful person (even though he had some trouble driving a car), yet the American movie had Lisbeth being the really smart one, working out nearly everything on her own.

Several elements of the plot were changed between the two movies as well. Some elements were so changed that I had to question which movie was closer to the book? Alas, I haven't read the book yet (I'm going to have to now), and so I cannot comment on that directly. I did read, however, that the director of the American movie (or the screenwriter) changed several things to make a more aesthetically pleasing movie (and ending). Therefore I am guessing that the Swedish version is a little more similar to the book.

And overall? How did I rate the two movies? They were both over two hours in length (that's a good thing). They were both very dark (also good). They were both very well acted and moved along at a good pace. Both movies had the main climax about thirty minutes before the actual end and then spent the rest of the movie explaining various elements of the plot (different in each movie). If I had only seen one movie (and not the other) I would certainly have enjoyed either one. The American movie shocked me more (as I said) and certainly appeared more geared to a mainstream US audience than the Swedish movie. Generally I like European movies (they usually are very different than American movies) and this one proved no exception. The Swedish version kept me guessing more than the American one; it had more suspense and was creepier in ways that weren't as graphic. So, although I know the American movie will be a big hit, my casting vote comes down on the side of the original Swedish one.

But either way - go watch the movie. You're in for a wonderful ride...


  1. I liked the Swedish version better as well. I felt the American version was too on the nose, giving more information directly to the audience than the Swedish version.