The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Awfully good, but Mr. Fincher should have left well enough alone.

The Girl with the Draton TattooFrom a movie purist’s standpoint, David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a tough cinematic nut to crack. While there is a lot to like about it on multiple levels, it simply falls short of the original film by Niels Arden Opley which was so recently released.

To begin with, if you like exceedingly dark, brooding dramas, this is bound to be your cup of tea. On top of that, the performances of Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgard are spectacular at every turn, adding to the superior overall quality of the film.

But what makes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo click is the creation of one of the great female characters ever to appear on the screen. Lisbeth Salander is a brilliant, tortured and haunted dark goddess, and she dominates everyone and everything whenever she appears.

But what is hard to understand, much less accept, is why Mr. Fincher experienced the need to make the film in the first place. Not only was the original foreign film brilliant in every respect, but it covered the United States within the past two years. As good as Fincher’s film is, it was tough to embrace it from an emotional standpoint when you literally knew where it was proceeding at every turn.

But the biggest shortcoming of the new The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo from a spectator’s standpoint was the performance of Rooney Mara as the classic Ms. Salander. Memorable as Mark Zuckerberg’s early girlfriend in Fincher’s The Social Network, she is again right on top of her game here as the tattooed, studded, twisted heroine who is both remarkably frail yet capable of unspeakable violence.

While it is admittedly unfair to overly criticize the performance of Ms. Mara, it is undeniably cursed when compared to the incredible performance by Ms. Noomi Rapace as the remarkable Ms. Salander in the original. Given the undeniable fact that Ms. Rapace gave one of the most dynamic performances in movie history, Ms. Mara is left playing an unfortunate second banana no matter how distinguished her performance may be characterized.

Having drawn these conclusions, I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from seeing this appealing film, particularly if you did not see the original. It tells a brutal story involving savage violence, and it is destined to leave you in a human pressure cooker from beginning to end.

In the end, imagine that some tremendous films like Avatar, Titanic or Gone With the Wind originally appeared as breakthrough foreign films within the preceding two years of their American re-makes. Would it really make sense on any level to completely recreate them simply so that they now appear in English? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo represents that unfortunate problem, and I will leave it to all of you to sort it out.