Thursday, October 10, 2013

(Back 2 Back) THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO: Oplev's or Fincher's?

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.
          (2009) Directed by:  Niels Arden Oplev                              (2011) Directed by:  David Fincher
        Starring:  Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace                        Starring:  Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara
                  Running Time: 152 mins.                                                         Running Time:  158 mins.

It's rare to find a movie adaptation that is as good as the book, or better. What's even rarer? A Hollywood remake that is as good as the original film, or better. I'm actually already partial to the film adaptations even before seeing them since I was mildly disappointed with Larsson's novel (or the translated one). While its plot was intriguing and the context & themes explored provocative, somehow the manner it was written was at times off-putting. Here's my book review, if anyone's interested.

Now let's talk about the movies! 

Michael Nyqvist vs. Daniel Craig:  Who's the real Millenium's Don Juan?  

I prefer Daniel Craig first and foremost for all the shallow reasons. He's cooler and better-looking, like seeing James Bond getting it on with a skinny goth girl while solving a forty-year old murder mystery. Craig is just more believable as a playboy. 1 point Craig. On the other hand, Nyqvist gave off a performance that's more realistic.. or human. There's a threatened air hanging around him. Like he's uncomfortable where he is which is true, if you're basing it from the novel. Craig was so slick I half-imagined M showing up in his cabin giving him the lecture of his life. Craig's Blomkvist is typically a Hollywood product, Nyqvist's Blomkvist is more of a real person. 1-1. But wait, there's more! You already know who the winner is in my book, so I'll give you one last reason why Daniel Craig is the better Mikael Blomkvist, albeit I never imagined him to be Kalle Blomkvist while reading the book. He added some x-factor to an otherwise boring character and he worked well with his co-star Rooney Mara. Their chemistry is undeniable. 2-1 pow! Now, onto the girl with the dragon tattoo...

Noomi Rapace vs. Rooney Mara:  Who wears the nose rings better? 

In the book, I was utterly bored by Blomkvist. The saving grace was the female protagonist, and seeing both films and the actresses' awesome portrayals, comparing Rapace & Mara is hard for me to do. Having watched Oplev's film first, I thought no one could outperform Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander. To put it simply, she kicked serious ass. She owned the film and she's the reason why I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Oplev's work. The only thing that I have noticed is that she portrayed her character as somewhat too confident at times that if you haven't read the book, you wouldn't realize that Salander is, quoting Wiki, "highly introverted, asocial and has difficulty connecting to people and making friends" and not just an anti-social delinquent.  Rooney Mara, on the other hand, from her first appearance in the movie up to the last scene convinced me she is socially awkward. And insane. lol. In the book, Salander was described as a fragile-looking woman that looks younger than her age - and Mara delivered exactly that. Rapace looks older. Like Salander's big sis. Let's do a quick "who did it better":

Who rocked the goth image better? Rapace - I loved her hair. (Though, Mara's closer to the "book Salander" in my opinion)

Who has the better dragon tattoo? I haven't really noticed Rapace's (I may have to re-watch). Mara's tat is more eye-catching for me.
Who did the rape scene better? Rapace no doubt.
Who did the post-rape revenge better? Oh, Mara wears the crown in this one. She is iiinnnsaane! "Lie still, I haven't done this before, and there will be blood."
Who did the sex scenes better? Rapace looked boyishly skinny while Mara, considering that awful hair and eyebrow-less face, somehow still looked hot. But as Salander, Rapace did it better. She maintained that awkwardness, aloofness, and desire to stay in control (in bed); while Mara (probably as directed) portrayed the sex scenes that may be favorable to the male audience - that is, feminine and can I say gyrating? lol. 
Which Salander did I relate to the most? Rapace. But that only makes Mara's character better because Salander is supposed to be unrelatable or misunderstood by people.  Which leads me to my conclusion...

Even as I'm typing this now I can't still decide which Salander I prefer, but basing from the overall performances, while Noomi Rapace's was more kick-ass and interesting, Rooney Mara gave a more convincing socially awkward (autistic?) Salander brimming with silent but raging fury. Even during quiet scenes, her eyes show something else. You can almost see what's going on inside her crazy head.  So yes, Hollywood wins again. But seriously, Rapace did a great job. They both gave their own unique performances and I love them both. 

Finally, the big question.  Which movie adaptation is better, Oplev's or Fincher's? Again, let's do the "Who did it better" game.

Which has a more authentic setting (close to the novel)? Since Oplev's film is Swedish based from a Swedish novel, guess who wins this round?

Which has a better cast? Considering the two leads, plus Christopher Plummer (who is an awesome Henrik in my opinion) and Stellan Skarsgard, Fincher wins this one. Although, there's something more sinister to the 2009 Vanger family especially Isabella Vanger & Harald. The 2011 version of those two looked like some loony old people who can't harm a fly - that to me fails Larsson's description.
Which screenplay stayed close to the book?  Both, while doing some revisions of their own, at least didn't massacre the novel. I'm not a purist. I don't expect a film to not change anything from the book, as long as they retain the essence and make me feel what I felt while reading the novel, then I won't complain. Arcel & Heisterberg's screenplay (2009) while still maintaining the thrill of uncovering the mystery, changed too many things, even excluding certain characters or angles which to me was important to the novel. And I didn't like the ending. Meanwhile, Steven Zaillian's (2011) is a tighter, close-to-the-book screenplay. A book with so many subplots and pages, he managed to trim it down without losing key plots. And I really appreciate Zaillian for sticking to the book's ending, although I was expecting that Elvis Presley memorabilia. lol.
Which is more thrilling? Oplev's. 
Which is more appealing?  Fincher's.

Both are really good adaptations. If you haven't seen them, I suggest you see the original first. Oplev's version is grittier; while Fincher is slicker, more polished - a typical Hollywood eyecandy of a movie. Does that make Fincher's a better one? No. I think Oplev's has more depth & heart. It's more gruesome. But the cast generally looked a bit tired which makes them unappealing (at least to me). So while I admit that I'm being superficial, I prefer seeing Fincher's cast as they had more chemistry and appeal on screen. This is a movie after all. I watch movies to escape reality, at times, I lean more to something visually appealing. Also, Fincher's direction is cleaner, tighter, well-executed (with the help of a good screenplay). One thing that caught me off-guard is its opening credits which looked like a music video - it's eye-catching, if I have to say something about it.  I just didn't expect it. haha.

In conclusion, Oplev delivered a great adaptation. But Fincher, while doing a remake more than an adaptation of his own (I have seen several scenes which reminded me of Oplev's version) is in his comfort zone, I mean he does "insane" like a boss! (need I remind you of Se7en, Fight Club, or Zodiac?)

My Rating:

Oplev's:  4/5
Fincher's:  4.5/5

Both are deserving to be watched and enjoyed.

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  1. Great post all in all. I have to say I enjoyed the Swedish version more then the American one. Mainly because I felt that one was more gritter then Fincher's version. Not to say his version was bad or anything. I just felt like he held back during certain scenes so he wouldn't offend anyone. I agree with you I am kind of torn between both Salanders and thought both ladies did a great job. But at the end I choose Rapace. Although I have enjoyed Mara in the roles she has done since rather then Rapace

    1. Thank you Jason! :)

      I can't remember everything about the movie, I'm curious about those scenes that were mellowed down? Might have missed some stuff..

      Mara is a great actress. I've also enjoyed her in Side Effects, very subdued acting. Rapace, I've only seen her in Prometheus, I think..



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