Monday, January 3, 2011

The Queue Continuum: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

As promised last time, here is the first entrant into what should be a fruitful, if often shorter, additional section to the blog.  One in which we (perhaps only royally speaking) look at movies that are available on Netflix Instant Queue and therefore instantly accessible to many of you readers.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the Swedish adaptation of the absurdly (and arguably unjustly) popular Swedish crime novel by Stieg Larsson.  Having just finished the book, I decided to throw this on in the midst of a Netflix-athon with Munch My Benson co-contributor, softitems.  Given the freshness of the material, I oddly found myself feeling obligated to explain things, and this was not because of any shortcomings on her part.

Honestly, the film seemed to be a bit of a mess to me.  Since the book shared a similar shortcoming, I suppose it only makes sense in the end, but it just felt like there were plot holes.  This is largely because the book is an unwieldy material to have to adapt.  There are essentially 150 pages before the disappearance of Harriet Vanger is touched on and another 100 after that aspect of the story is resolved.  These 250 pages deal largely with the mostly disposable Wennerstrom Affair, but there is also crucial character development of the male protagonist that occurs therein.  As this section is largely omitted from the movie, the development of Mikael Blomkvist is sorely lacking.  Without this, the fact that Lisbeth (the female protagonist) is drawn to Mikael kind of comes out of the blue.

Given that they are screenwriters Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg were tasked to adapt a 600 page book, they probably did about as well as could be expected.  There is a lot of fat in the novel, and for the most part they trimmed it well.  A few characters were combined and the mystery was streamlined a bit.  I don't know that I would say the film wasn't worth watching, but I honestly have to say, given its shortcomings, that I am actually curious to see the impending American remake, and you couldn't have said that about most of the American takes on the Scandinavian oeuvre. Given that Steven Zaillian is adapting the screenplay, and David Fincher is directing, I can't imagine it won't be an improvement.

The other thing that struck me while watching the film was, "Wait, I don't remember the Scandinavian peoples as being particularly homely..."  Yet, here, frankly, not an attractive cast.  Pretty much across the board. Call me shallow, but it made me feel like I was watching a mid-90s BBC production.

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I just did not get why the book and now the movie are all the rage.  They're both all right.  The book is readable.  The movie is watchable.  They are both entertaining enough, but they both seem flawed, and the thing that redeemed the book for me--the interesting relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth--is kind of handled poorly in the Niels Arden Oplev film version.

But it is out there for you to watch.  Did anyone out there feel strongly differently?

(Man, some of that subtitle spelling is bad...)

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