Movie vs. Movie
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
By Tom Houseman
January 5, 2012
I'm a big fan of the BOP “Book vs. Movie” column, but I've often found that it has one major flaw: it's about books. If you live in America, you probably don't like books. Why would you? You have to read them. I hate reading, which is why I don't read anything. In fact, I've never even read any articles in the BOP “Book vs. Movie” column. So what's the solution? Compare movies to other movies. And considering all Hollywood makes anymore are sequels, remakes, and movies that are blatant ripoffs of older movies (Two Snow White movies are coming out in 2012l that seems a bit much), there are plenty of movies to compare to other movies.
So there's this girl, see? And she has a tattoo, understand? And it's a tattoo of... no, wait, I can remember this...
When the Swedish crime drama The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo became an international megahit (its original Swedish title is Men Who Hate Women, which I think is much more interesting), it was only a matter of minutes before somebody made a movie of it. Not surprisingly, the Swedes were the early birds, taking some time out from their busy schedule of exporting timber (that's a thing that Swedes do; Wikipedia it) to adapt the novel for the big screen. The Americans were right behind them, with Stephen Zaillian writing the script and David Fincher directing. That film is also set in Sweden, but in an alternate universe where Swedish people speak English with accents ranging from almost Swedish to basically just American.
At first I thought about writing this column as a standard comparison, breaking down the various aspects of the two adaptations of Larson's novel to see which did it better. But I decided not to for a couple of reasons. First, people would expect me to compare their faithfulness to the book, and those people would be stupid, because I've already established that I refuse to read under any circumstances. When I watched the Swedish film I turned off the subtitles so that I wouldn't have to read; it made it very difficult to follow what was going on, but I was willing to make that sacrifice.
The second reason I decided to eschew the typical format is that I assume there is only one aspect of either film that anybody cares about: Lisbeth Salander. Probably the most interesting literary character since Jane Eyre (I'm just kidding, Jane Eyre was a whiny loser), Lisbeth is the driving force behind the novel, giving it both its edge and its heart. I'd be willing to bet one million kroner (which I'm pretty sure is like 20 bucks) that you don't care that the Swedish version cut out Mikael Blomkvist's daughter or that the American version changed the ending. you just want to know who is the superior Salandar: Noomi Rapace or Rooney Mara.
In order to make that judgment I decided to compare the two actresses in four critical scenes: