2011 - David Fincher
In the middle of typing this, I learned that Roger Ebert died. As an inspiration to me as a movie reviewer and film enthusiast, I dedicate this review to him. Another post to follow, but for now. BackLOG Episode 2:
There’s something to be said for a movie that spends too much time trying to tell too many stories, realizes “oh wait, this has to end soon doesn’t it?” and still manages to be a good watch and wrap things up nicely. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo…almost does this; I could definitely tell it was trying, but I assume the writers just got too wrapped up in the idea that “fans are going to say the original is better anyway so why waste the effort?”
Now, I haven’t seen the original or read the books, but I can absolutely understand why this became the phenomenon it did…or I’m completely wrong and am making up shit. I’m going to go with “because the story and depth of Lisbeth is one of the best I’ve seen in a really long time.” That will make sense in a sec.
Dragon Tattoo has an over-arching story about a journalist who’s charged with the task of searching for a woman who went missing 40 years ago, as well as a few side plots that really seem like they could be good enough to make a whole ‘nother movie (maybe they did, I don’t know the series). It’s a standard, relatively pale detective story that follows the same formula that most stories do when the client is some notoriously rich family, so naturally there’s betrayal, deep dark secrets, and the standard sexual abuse story. You’d think with their kind of money they could just hire out but…rich families are complete assholes.
Really, that plot line more serves as a plate for the character development to rest on like popcorn is just something that holds my meal of butter and salt. Mikael (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth (Rooney Mara) serve as the dynamic duo in this film, each trying to deal with the shit show that life has thrown their way. Mikael takes on this assignment as it serves for a shot at redemption/vengeance against a man he just lost a libel case to (apparently there’s some evidence he missed! Oooooooh!). Lisbeth takes on the assignment because it’s her job and she doesn’t get much of a choice, but I’m ok with that because she’s pretty much who carries this movie.
Lisbeth Salander (get it? It’s like “slander”…in a movie with a libel case…ah, I found it funny) is the girl with the dragon tattoo. We say this because nobody seems to care about her name, or really anything else around her for that matter. Trapped under the care of a sexually abusive legal guardian, Lisbeth is a textbook case for anti-depressants, but you can immediately tell her wonder drug is being better at her job than you are. She’s a computer hacker and acquires incredible knowledge which she keeps in her brain and proceeds to rub in your face on an “as needed” basis over the course of the movie like M. Night Shyamalan, but with intelligence and logic. Her character is good to watch and there’s an amazing sense of empowerment as you see Lisbeth get used and abused over and over again, but bounce back, using her personality quirks and fury to deal with situations in ways that you can’t help but kick back gleefully and say “well, that works too…” She’s a character I want to root for, trying to break free from the jungle of shit she’s been stuck in for years, but tangled in one last root that won’t let go.
Even though I had so much pleasure watching Lisbeth progress, everything else was just a bit stale. I mean, it was good…just not great. Nothing pissed me off about this movie and unlike some of my harsher reviews, there weren’t any elements that I stopped and said “are you fucking serious? You thought this would work?” it was a good watch, but one that was on auto-pilot and if there were other pieces of this that turned this series into a worldwide sensation, the American version did not represent them correctly. The mystery is very “meh” and Dragon Tattoo tries to fix that by getting you wrapped up in the secrets of the family, the libel case, and Mikael and Lisbeth’s journey, but fails to realize that really none of those are helping the plot that brought this all together. It’s very well-assembled camouflage printed on expensive cloth so you want to believe it all blends together nicely. Really, it doesn’t.
I can’t give a shit review to a movie that wasn’t really shit at all. There’s plenty of intelligence and wit in it, but something about it just couldn’t get me to that “whoa, this is amazing” level. If you watch it, which I recommend you do, you’ll probably notice that too. Like a tattoo without color, it makes a big impression and you know there’s something missing and has a lot more potential, but you still can’t stop staring. Perhaps the future movies will change my mind, but for now, this one’s getting 7 dustbusters out of 10, or in other words, one thumb up.