Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Familiar but Different
Once in a blue moon there are two different versions of the same movie released so close together. Recently, I reviewed the 2009 Swedish version of the Millenium Series, or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I watched them with English overdubbed, so the voice acting did sound stale, but the movies themselves were surprisingly good. Two years after the Swedish releases, we Americans released our version of the first film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which while it had striking resemblances to the original film, still differed in big ways.
Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a very famous and controversial journalist that has a taste for finding out the truth at all cost…in fact, it’s actually a bit of an unhealthy obsession. Noticing his devotion to writing and researching, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) hires Blomkvist to investigate the presumed murder of his niece, Harriet; an event that happened forty years ago. He is needed for this case because it has been years since the police’s resources have been exhausted. Meanwhile, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) is a genius hacker for hire that has a previous criminal record. Her parole officer decides to control her income and force her to grant him sexual favors in return for the money…well…that doesn’t turn out so well for him…we’ll just say that. Lisbeth comes across Blomkvist’s recent research and decides to help him out, as her curiosity becomes the best of her. She becomes close to him, though not ready to fully open up to him about her troubled and complicated past. – From the Review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) edited to include updated cast.
I copied the plot outline from my original review of the other film because the story is obviously the same thing. It follows the same structure, it hits on all the major points, and it ultimately has the same outcome. In fact, the films are so much alike, they have practically the same runtime, and could be played simultaneously side-by-side, and a viewer would have a good probability of being able to understand what is happening in both films. There’s no question about it, structurally, both films follow the book where it needs to be followed. Unfortunately, I do have qualms about how things were done this time around…likewise I feel they did things more appropriately as well…so it’s a toss-up.
The main difference is that Mikael and Lisbeth don’t work together as MUCH as they do in the Swedish film. This is huge. It introduces their incredible chemistry and Lisbeth’s ever-surprising intellect in matters that Mikael couldn’t figure out alone and interest in the case. Who helps him this time (before Lisbeth comes around)? His daughter that visits for a couple of hours? I don’t think so. His daughter’s entire role feels out of place, and unneeded. I don’t know how the book presents it, granted, but something just felt off. He and his daughter aren’t an investigative team, him and Lisbeth are. Once Lisbeth comes around (around the halfway point), that chemistry does respectfully show up, and it’s decent.
There are minor discrepancies when comparing minor details between the two versions, but they were done in a way that worked for their respected film and story, and done in a way that makes me personally wonder how the book did it. I am, however, inclined to believe the Swedish interpretation more. At the same time, some of these little details don’t really affect the overall story, so in that light..it doesn’t really bother me all that much.
In my original review, you could see how I praised the case that was being worked on. It shined above all of the violence, and it had a meaning and purpose. Again, it was the same case and it was still a great case. It definitely has its moments in the American version, but it honestly just doesn’t feel as thrilling or enthralling as the Swedish version, which is why this time, the same length feels much longer. They are both two and a half hours long, which is already long, but the thrill of the original film made it feel shorter. Sorry to say that doesn’t hold up this time.
As for the roles of Mikael and Lisbeth? It’s complicated. I feel Craig and Mara both fit into the roles better physically speaking. Craig looks more like a confident reporter and Mara looks very intimidating and…weird…but that’s the point. Still though, the performances of Nyqvist and Rapace are unforgettable, and they just pull it off so much better in 2009’s rendition.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was honestly stitched together well enough for the viewer to understand everything a lot better than maybe the 2009 version. The sound editing was also really superb, but for visuals…I prefer the Swedish one. I also prefer the Swedish for its stance on the importance of its messages on moral standings. Those were present once more here, but the apparent importance of the messages this time around…just lacked.
Honestly, as I’ve said before, it’s a toss-up. I rated this 1% worse than the Swedish because I generally prefer the other. On a professional level, I think they both did a good job in different departments.