The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Although I’ve more than once on this site screamed that “this will be the last spoiler warning I ever give” because I generally just don’t give a damn, since this film has not yet been released, I feel obliged to at least warn folk this time around. I’m not going to say that I’ll never give you a heads up again, but I think it’s unlikely that I’ll care as much to do so in the future. Any how…

So, there’s a book. It’s called “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” It’s been out for a few years and it’s garnered a lot of attention. Ever hear of it? Yeah, I’m sure you probably have. We all knew this movie was coming. Well, anyone that vaguely heard of it the book at any rate, so I’m not going to go into any details about the plot. But I will say this right off the bat:

WHAT THE HELL IS SONY DOING WITH THE OPENING?

Ok, let me back up a bit, and explain a few things. I saw the movie tonight, Monday December 19, legally and for free with a number of friends. It was a preview showing they were doing in Birmingham, Michigan, and the head of my program at Oakland University alerted the department students that this preview was happening. So, a few of us independently got ourselves passes and guests and made our way to the theater to watch this film. After nearly getting killed on the escalator due to bad planning with regards to admittance to the theater, we all surrendered our cellphones and all other recording devices prior to entry into the exhibition room. (By bad planning, I mean they allowed the line of people passing through security to grow long enough to block the top of the escalator where people were basically being thrown into the line by virtue of no place else to go and the irresistible force of the heavy machinery deciding you can’t stand still…) Surviving the chaos, we turned off our phones, had a metal detector run over us, and handed over the phones. Fine whatever.

Then we got a verbal warning as a collected audience about the slim chance that we might have managed to sneak a recording device into the theater. If there had been time and room for a strip search, I’m sure it would’ve been conducted as well. At the height of our boredom and wandering minds (mostly wondering what time it was since we all had to surrender our phones), the theater darkened and the movie began.

And I began to wonder how bad this film was going to be.

I didn’t jump on the Millennium Series bandwagon until kinda late. In fact, I didn’t read Dragon Tattoo until early this year, and I haven’t read the other two books yet, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of this film. I generally avoided the previews and trailers, because I wasn’t sure I was going to watch this film. My expectations were really, really low that they could pull it off. And the opening computer generated animation with the techno music reinforced my fear that this was going to be a shitty film enjoyed with friends. As speechless as I was with the opening, I was just as speechless with the abrupt end of it and the shift to the much slower pace that I expected of the film. If I had to describe this transition, I’d have to say it’s like using one of the openings to a James Bond movie — perhaps “Casino Royale” with Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” blaring — and then suddenly finding yourself in “The Da Vinci Code.” That’s the God’s honest truth: the opening is so out of place with the rest of the film that I honestly think it was bolted on by some Sony exec that thought it would liven the film up.

In reality, the film doesn’t need it. I think Sony would be better off dropping that opening, and use something more at home with the film’s actual pace, utilizing bits of footage that they undoubtedly shot but didn’t use in the film… Perhaps some news coverage of the Blomkvist trial… Really anything connected to the film rather than some abstract music video. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting to watch, but ultimately it’s a horrible way to open the film.

Once you get past that opening, the movie is overall very good. There are a number of *REALLY* uncomfortable moments in the film, however. Maybe the film is taking a European ethic with regards to sex scenes, maybe it was just in an effort to be faithful to the book, but there are a couple of key sex scenes in the film that you wouldn’t normally see in a Hollywood film. In both cases, my “trained” American film sensibilities screamed that the sex acts would be cut at a certain moment, and we’d be on to the next scene or at least jump a few minutes or hours in time to the aftermath. That’s how Hollywood has trained us for decades; we don’t see people having sex, typically, for longer than a few seconds except on very rare occasion. THIS is one of those rare occasions, and it’s very uncomfortable, even for someone that was expecting them like I was. They were [mostly] faithful to the book, but they made even me uncomfortable.

That said, all in all, this is one of the more accurate film adaptations of a novel that I’ve seen. There were differences, naturally, some of which my dear friend E. and I predicted before the film as a way of “dumbing” down the story, others we suspect were done to eliminate possible confusion. As I seem to have guessed a few things incorrectly in the book that were apparently told correctly in the film after all (despite my proclamations otherwise to E. on the way home), I won’t go too far into them, but fans of the book: you will notice the differences, but you probably won’t be too upset with them. The quality of the film and the story outshine the sometimes significant discrepancies, and in the end, no harm is done to the story.

Rating… I think I used a 10 point scale previously, so I think I’ll stick with that here… I’d give it a 9.5 our of 10; I have to knock half a point off for that opening, but otherwise Stieg Larsson’s work is too good to be muddied by the differences between novel and film.