Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'The Girl Who Played with Fire: The Movie'

It has been quite some time since my last movie review, which was actually the review for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This is a few days late, given that I saw the movie on Friday (and again on Monday, entirely without planning), but I've had a busy week!

Some of my opinions and thoughts about the remake have changed from last time as I have become more informed about who has come forward for the casting process and who hasn't. I'll detail those later on, but for now, my review. (For a plot summary and my review of the book, click here.)

In some ways, this installment was even better than the first, and in others it didn't measure up. Basically, the issues I had with the book were transferred to the movie adaptation, mostly because of the amount of characters, although the subplots were trimmed, which was nice. Overall, while the film itself was better than I had expected, having heard some negative reviews of it compared to the first one, I still found it sub-par to the original.

To start with, the film did improve on some things I found fault with in the original. We see much more of Millennium and its staffers than we did the first time around--Christer and Malin are both given things to do, and while they're not substantial things, we get a glimpse of Christer and Mikael as friends, as well as Malin contributing to the investigation into Lisbeth's past. I was especially pleased by the inclusion of Erika into the story, given that we barely saw her at all in the version of the first film released over here, and that her affair with Mikael was cut out. Here, we see Mikael and Erika having lunch and in bed together, and a few passing references were made to their relationship, including one very funny moment with some of Mikael's sister's in-laws. Some people who only saw the movies might have been confused by the sudden progression of their relationship, but it was good to see it wasn't neglected entirely. What is left out is Erika receiving the job offer at Aftonbladet and her relationship with her husband. It could just as easily be left for the third movie, however, if that subplot isn't cut out over here, and it was trivial enough that I didn't notice its absence until after the movie was over. Lena Endre (Erika) turns in a nice performance in her screentime; her concern for Mikael and the tenderness she shows him feels genuine, and they make a good pair.

Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyquist both turn in performances just as good as their first ones. Nyquist's Blomkvist is suitably hell-bent on proving Lisbeth's innocence, though I did notice that some of his more coarse language was toned down in the subtitles. (The Swedish trailer translates one of his lines to Bublanski as "... I will write an article that will f*** you and your colleagues," whereas the subtitles read "... I will write an article that will make you and the police damn uncomfortable." Different? Yes!) I really enjoy what he brings to the character of Blomkvist: he's not that type of attractive that you notice right away, and he's got the charm that makes women fall for him and the aggression that makes sources give up their information. In the book and in the film, I particularly enjoy the scene where he, casually as could be, confronts Bjorck about his involvement in the sex-trafficking ring by pretending to be doing marketing research. Nyquist carried that off with a great combination of icy information-seeking and comic timing. A friend I got into the books accompanied me, and when we emerged from the theater, she wanted to know if Nyquist spoke English so that he could be cast in the remake!

Rapace, as Lisbeth, is the one who has the film on her shoulders, and it really shows. She gets a lot of physical work to do, and she maintains the sullen, mysterious demeanor she had in the previous film. She is still Lisbeth personified, and after seeing the interview with her that is an extra on the DVD of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I'm as impressed as ever with her acting abilities. She is a normal woman who has somehow managed to get inside Lisbeth's head so well, and it is just as great to see her kicking butt and taking names this time around as it was the first. The film does a better job of blending the separate storylines than the book does; Lisbeth's and Blomkvist's stories are interspersed rather than entirely separate, as they were in the book. Sadly, there isn't as much online communication between them as there was in the book, but their relationship is still preserved well enough and it was almost interesting to see them functioning separately rather than together.

I did like how the movie cut down some of the more unwieldy aspects of the book. Integrating the separate storylines of Mikael and Lisbeth made it easier to follow. The three investigations are reduced to two--we see only the one by the police and the one by Millennium; the one by Milton Security is omitted entirely. The subplot about the investigation by the police being tampered with by Ekstrom and Faste is omitted entirely. Some things could have been done better or expanded upon; I wanted to see more of Dag before his murder, and poor Mia gets shafted, as we see her in barely two scenes before she is killed. Still, for the two hours the movie had to work with, it did very well and I was pleased with the result. I liked the performances by the minor characters, such as the actors who played Miriam Wu, Niedermann, and Zalachenko, and the cameo by Paolo Roberto as himself (just as in the book). I don't think it quite matched the first movie in terms of faithfulness or overall dramatic pull, but given that I felt the same way about the book itself, I can't complain. My parents and many people in the theater felt it was even better than the first movie, so it's a matter of subjectivity.

Now, on the subject of the American remake: I still don't think it should be done, but I'm generally intrigued by the casting rumors. Daniel Craig is considered the current frontrunner for Blomkvist, which I am very happy about; I think he is a better fit than Brad Pitt and has the same qualities as Nyquist. Carey Mulligan is also considered a strong frontrunner for Lisbeth, and out of all the names being bandied about (Kristen Stewart, Natalie Portman, and Scarlett Johansson are other alleged choices), I think she's the most capable actress, though perhaps not tough enough. Though the screenwriter said he hasn't seen the original film (a mistake, in my opinion), the production team claims the violence won't be toned down and that the story will still be set in Sweden. I suppose I will have to wait with the rest of the world to see the finished product.

It also isn't necessary to have seen the first film in order to see this one, as long as you've read the books. The friend I took with me had and loved it just the same, and she's now even more eager to see the first one. In closing, I still strongly recommend the trilogy and the Swedish films (the first of which is now available on DVD). I wouldn't recommend them to anyone younger than 16 or so, given the brutal content, but so far everyone I have recommended them to has loved them. If you get a chance to see the films and you already love the books, see them by all means, before Hollywood comes along!

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