Okay, so I’ll admit I’m a little late to the Millennium Trilogy party. Still, I wanted to do something special for Friday the 13th and a post about one of the most original and compelling thrillers of the last twenty years seems like as good of an idea as any. Plus, the film was distributed in the U.S. by Chicago’s own Music Box Films, meaning this post is long overdue.
More importantly though, David Fincher has started pre-production on his American version of Stieg Larsson’s now-famous novel and someone has to make sure he make sure he doesn’t make us look bad. Therefore, here are two important lessons that Fincher needs to take away from the 2009 version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Don’t rush the plot
One of the reasons I’ve always loved the stories of Detective Philip Marlowe, penned by the great Raymond Chandler, is that you can find yourself knee-deep in the mystery before finishing the second chapter. Perhaps that’s why I only made it through 11 chapters (just less than one half of the novel) of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo before deciding that the story of some guy living in the middle of nowhere in Sweden wasn’t exciting enough for me. Little did I know, I had stopped at precisely the moment before things really get interesting.
The story of soon-to-be-imprisoned journalist Mikael Blomkvist assisting aging millionaire Henrik Vanger in the search for his missing niece slowly builds momentum. However, similar to any Erik Larson novel (no relation to Stieg), there is a second story intertwined with that of Mikael that concerns the intense and often disturbing adventures of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (best name ever). However, it’s not until their two separate stories merge into one that the pace of the film speeds up and the tone becomes more intense.
Anyway, my point is that many American adaptations of foreign films represent just faster or more amplified mockeries of the original. While I certainly don’t want to see this happen with Dragon Tattoo, I’m not too afraid given David Fincher’s knack for drawing things out well beyond what is reasonable. Though I can’t speak for all three Millennium stories, I can say that Dragon Tattoo at least is a story worth drawing out. The deeper we’re able to get into the details surrounding the mysterious Vanger family, the more rewarding the conclusion to this part of the story will be.
Make sure Lisbeth still seems creepy, awkward and strange
So far, no one has been officially cast as Lisbeth Salandar in Fincher’s adaptation, though some names have been tossed around as having screen tested alongside Daniel Craig (who stars as Blomkvist). One of the Moviefone writers accurately sums up the dilemma surrounding the casting of Lisbeth:
“David Fincher will direct, and if his previous projects (‘Se7en,’ ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Zodiac’) are any indication, he won’t shy away from the cold and dark nature of the book. The blogosphere has been abuzz, with fans of the late Larsson’s so-called Millennium Trilogy of ‘Girl’ books worried that the Hollywood version will dumb down or Americanize these complex characters. But so far, the choice to cast Daniel Craig as the disgraced and charming journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, is spot-on.”
Let’s just go ahead and say that the Swedish version of the film must have just narrowly gotten by with an R rating; to suggest the film features graphic content would be quite an understatement. A huge part of that is Lisbeth’s side of the story, which is usually nothing short of a living nightmare.
If Hollywood decides to play that down in the interest of appealing to a larger audience (not such a far fetched idea), the success of the film amongst the large population who Americans who have already seen the Swedish version will be at stake. Oh, and I’d like to go ahead and nominate a late ’80s Jodie Foster for the part of Lisbeth.
Lastly, I want to say that Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is one of the most engaging films I’ve seen in years and it really has me excited to go back and finish reading the books, as well as to see the other films. I’m sure I echo the sentiments of the other 60 thousand bloggers who’ve already written about this film when I say it’s really a shame Mr. Larsson never lived to see the fame his stories have gone on to achieve.
Tags: chicago, daniel craig, david fincher, erik larson, girl who played with fire, girl with the dragon tattoo, lisbeth salandar, literary adaptation, michael nyqvist, mikael blomkvist, millennium trilogy, music box films, music box theatre, niels arden oplev, noomi rapace, philip marlowe, raymond chandler, stieg larsson