"I'll More Than Alarm You."

Prepare for battle...
Everyone's thinking it, not so many people are saying it. Let's just go all out, shall we? I call it...BATTLE OF THE REMAKE! In one corner, those crazy Swedish bastards. In the other corner, AMERICA! It should be known that the referee is only literate in the language of Chuck Norris' body hair, so she was unable to read the novel these movies were based on. It should also be known that copious spoilers lay ahead, and honey badger don't give a shit. Let the fighting commence!

Round One:

The thing that really sold the US version of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo for me was the new and improved Mikael. Honestly, I can't tell you what it is about Michael Nyqvist. Maybe I just don't like his face. Whatever the case, Nyqvist bored me to tears. I couldn't get into his character, I couldn't get into him period. But I didn't really have time to care because I was too busy drooling over Noomi Rapace's awesome. Either way, I went into the US version expecting much of the same. Sure, I love Daniel Craig and I've got a lot of faith in him. But Mikael is just...a white rice character. Well. Let's just say I was pleasantly surprised, and I owe 99% of that to one very important character. The cat. I don't know what it is, probably a cat woman dyke thing, but watching 007 play with a kitty cat is incredibly endearing. And so I decided Mikael could have a place in my heart. He likes cats, he's got a good personality, and he's got multiple little faucets of his self for us to touch on--his affair, his ex-wife, his daughter. All of it rounds out to a good, interesting Mikael Blomkvist. In short, Daniel Craig has to work very hard to disappoint me.

And the winner is...Daniel Craig and his pussy.

Round Two:

Ah, what I wouldn't give for this to be a physical cat fight. The thing about Rooney Mara is I liked her. A shit ton more than I thought I would. Let's face it, the woman had big shoes to fill and tiny feet to fill them with. But instead of completely trying to replicate Noomi Rapace's job well done, she took the character down a La Femme Nikita road. Lisbeth became much more pure animal instinct, and for that, I have to give the little ball of energy Rooney Mara mad props. But with her almost too-intense eyes peering out of her doll face, she felt less like Lisbeth Salander and more like something Tim Burton might concoct. Noomi Rapace is a gritty, badass punk who still carries with her a sharp edge of humanity underneath the smoldering flames of the violence that lives inside of her. Or I just want to get in her pants. Either or. 

And the winner is...Noomi Rapace (be still my beating heart).

Round Three:

If anyone remembers my previous review of the Swedish version (The Girl With The Occasional Hangnail), you'll know that I bitched at length about Mikael and Lisbeth's relationship. There was just something about it that simply didn't sit right with me. Then I saw Craig and Rooney Mara. I do get the feeling I might have been subliminally forced into liking it since there were so many attractive promotional images of the two together. Nonetheless, Mara and Craig had great on screen chemistry. They worked brilliantly off each other, and despite their clear differences, somehow seemed to fit. I think what it all comes down to is the fact that Fincher took the time to include trivial, yet touching intimate moments. Something as simple as Lisbeth demanding Mikael to keep his hands on her while she worked somehow added that much more to their relationship, making it feel natural and flow easily through the movie instead of forcing a connection.

And the winner is...Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

Round Four:

Also known as, "and then another incestuous Swede walks into a bar...". One of the main problems with the first movie was that I just couldn't follow along. Maybe it was the subtitles. It's entirely possible I'm just that much of a stupid American. Whatever the case, everyone just felt like another Swedish Nazi having sex with his sister. In the American version, Fincher seemed to breath a little more life into the important family members and then shrugged off the rest of the snippy old bitches like dried up snake skin. Sure, I'm sure important plot points were lost thanks to America's "time is money" philosophy. But who really wants to listen to Aunt Helga whine and cough up cat fur?

And the winner is...David Fincher.

Round Five:

Alright. So I'll be blunt. With tag lines like "the feel bad movie of the year", I was expecting to feel a little more brutalized. Yes, the rape was brutal as all hell. Yes, the post-rape shower made me physically uncomfortable. Good job. But skip ahead a little bit to Lisbeth's revenge. Yes, she goes through the exact same motions. But what's that? While she was tying her rapist up, she had time to do her makeup? So you're telling me she just decided, in the middle of this emotionally and physically violent scene, to play a little dress up? Alllllrighty then. Skip ahead a little more. When Mikael is squirming between the jaws of Vanger Jr. Martin Vanger has Nazi blood, a childhood fraught with violence, and he's a pathological sadist who gets off on brutally raping and killing random women. Got it. Now look at Craig. He looks...vaguely uncomfortable? He's got a neck brace on. Now, I'm pretty sure anyone who's ever had to wear a neck brace will tell you how extraordinary uncomfortable they are. Because, you know. They chafe and stuff. Right. Now let's skip to Nyqvist, who has a hangman's cheap noose wrapped around his throat. Call me old fashioned, but there's something about Nyqvist's torture that hits a more visceral note, despite Craig's good acting and the excellent help of our friend the plastic bag.

What I'm trying to get at here is between the heavily made up raccoon eyes Rooney Mara sports while she sodomizes her rapist and the odd little neck brace, I get the feeling Fincher got a little caught up in the theatrics when he really just needed to zero in on the genuine, visceral, bloody heart of the moment. The more visually appealing brutality is, the less it hurts. I know what you're thinking. M., lay off. It just looks cool. You're right. You're totally right. I mean, it's not like people are going to entirely miss the point of the movie and make a clothing line based off a mildly psychopathic rape victim, right?...Guys? Right?

And the winner is...Noomi Rapace and her terrifying tattoo skills.

Round Six:

All's well that ends well. Or, you know. Drags out to the point of nibbling on popcorn kernels. Here's the thing. We kind of...don't give that many shits about Mikael's case. It was just a plot device used to get us to this super interesting missing woman case, and now that the case is solved, mission completed, job well done, we're ready to pack up and go home. Alright, so I get that this one isn't that easy to wrap up, we have to explain how Mikael gets off, we have to give Lisbeth a last moment of badassitry, we have to see our hero ride into the sunset with...well...a girl. But did it really need to last as long as it did? I was having LOTRs deja vu watching the multiple endings drag out in front of me. Yeah, so the Swedish version dragged on just as long. But somehow I expected it to drag, since the whole movie had been a lot slower, a lot quieter. Fincher's version was much more fast paced and action packed, so when he dragged his feet through the end, I felt it. 

And the winner is...Zer Svedish.

And The Winner Is...

Er...that's a bit of a tough answer. Especially considering the fact that they've officially tied and I've got no tie-breaker. Look, what it comes down to is, they were both excellent movies in their own right. Usually I feel strongly about one version, but this time I could swing either way. Really, if we could just do this movie one more time mixing and matching the best bits from each movie, I'd be happy. As it is, I'll be content to watch both versions multiple times to satisfy my masochistic love for this brilliant, dark movie.


  1. Still haven't seen Fincher's remake, but I was blown away by the original and Noomi Rapace in particulara. Mara has to work very very hard to top Rapace's darkly mesmerizing performance.
    Fantastic post!

  2. Thanks! That was my thought exactly! And the thing is, Mara surprised me. She does a GOOD job. It's an excellent interpretation of Lisbeth, and it's a lot of fun in her own right. So I commend her. But Rapace will always be Lisbeth to me, and that's nothing about Mara's acting, it's just because I like her version better.

  3. My reaction has always been: the original foreign film did the job just fine, so there's absolutely no need for a remake - but it was genius to get Fincher as the new director. It seems like my approach has held up with every reviewer I trust, which includes you.

    I guess maybe my 2nd-biggest problem is that I can't respect the idea of replacing Rapace, a woman I found genuinely unattractive and yet appealing in her role, with Mara. Rooney is obviously attractive and has just been made up to look all "edgy," which feels really cheap.

    So I respect the fact that the remake is probably fine, while having no desire to actually watch it. If I'm out with some friends, unsober, and everyone wants to check this out, then I'm there. Otherwise, I'm glad that Fincher keeps up his high-quality streak.

    I'd like to note in closing that this whole story, almost like a first Bond or Indiana Jones film, was clearly made more to introduce our lead character than anything else.

    It's obviously more Lisbeth than Mikael, in the case of this series, but the point is that we come into the world of this existentialist woman, with her plays-by-her-own-code-which-is-harsh-but-not-evil-or-abusive mentality. She's the ubermensh, really - or uberfraulein, whatever; and that's the real appeal here.

    While it's still annoying, it makes more sense, then, for marketing purposes, that the novels focus on the dragon tattoo instead of the actual novelist's theme - she's the Sherlock Holmes of all this, and that male reporter is just Watson.

  4. I'm kind of with you there--I honestly don't understand why we can't just release more foreign films here. We have access to them no matter what, thanks to the good ol' internet, it's not like everyone's in the dark that these other great foreign films exist. But...I was willing to put elitism aside when I saw the badassitry that was the trailer.

    I agree that Noomi Rapace was cast perfectly in the role, and it's really impossible to top her. Especially, as you said, with made-up, "grungy-chic" Rooney Mara. And I came to the theater ready to hold a grudge against Mara for that. But you know what? Acting-wise, she was great. She put her own spin on the character, giving her a more wild, animal side to her, and I really appreciated that. Granted, they did give her raccoon eyes and kept her pretty most of the time, but...it is what it is. Hollywood. I was just happy to be pleasantly surprised by her performance.

    And it's an interesting point you made about Lisbeth vs. Mikael--she is definitely the start of the series, no question about it. I mean, the woman's a force of nature. I'm almost curious how that's going to play out if Fincher takes on the rest of the series...would they really be comfortable with giving "big shot" Daniel Craig a passenger seat role? I mean, man's got his own things going on, I think it'd be fine, but I definitely connected a lot more with Mikael over the course of this movie and I'd have a hard time seeing them pushing him entirely to the sidelines.

    Then again, this all comes from someone who, admittedly, has not seen the rest of the Swedish movies. So I'm going to get my ass into gear with that, then come back and finish this conversation when I actually know what the fuck I'm talking about.

  5. I'm gonna write up the pair eventually. I actually saw both at the angelika or the sunshine (can't recall), and the 2nd one was good, while the 3rd had some massive, gaping flaws.

    All in all, a decent trilogy, but it still feels like the first was the best. I was also bothered by the fact that the awful rape in the first story keeps playing out; the same footage keeps popping up in all 3 pictures, and i didn't like having it come up again and again.

    PS, was lmao as your kind comment today came while I was still changing my review around! Thx for thinking of me on Xmas eve, happy holidays to you and yours!

  6. The Angelika and the Sunshine are great, so I approve of both! The first in any trilogy is usually the best--occasionally a few greats break that stereotype, but that's when you first meet and fall in love with the characters. The marriage and honeymoon are great, but will (usually) never quite compare to that initial moment of awesome.

    And...yeah. Replaying the rape scene? The beauty of it (if you can use the word "beauty") was that it was so powerful in the moment and so hard to watch. Any more than that is just...awkward. I'll consider myself warned.

    And it's totally cool! I'm apparently an impatient reader. Happy holidays to you too, bro!

  7. Have not seen either film, but this was an epic smackdown. Like the Rock vs. John Cena.

  8. I think you out-testosteroned even me in that comment. Well played, sir, well played...

    Thanks for praise! You should see it, as a pseudo-feminist, I think you would definitely enjoy it. Do not be fooled by the "men who hate women" title.

  9. The thing with Nyqvist is that he was a real minger! Now don't get me wrong, I don't fancy Daniel Craig, but in the books Mikael is a real ladies man, and Nyqvist most certainly wasn't!

    I also was surprised by Mara, though she was clearly just made up to look rough; her face is too round and "pretty", Rapace is definitely the real Lisbeth.

    My main problem was that Bjurman reminded me of Jack Black! Though I did like the sickly music that played whenever he was on screen, very creepy and uncomfortable; put me in mind of the music from Salad Fingers.

    Great Face Off by the way. I probably also agree that there is not much between the two versions, but then if a remake isn't going to offer much more than the original, then why make it?

  10. What a fucking great smackdown - you covered all the bases, and I'm fairly certain that I'm with you on all of your verdicts. Craig, Rapace (though I really wanna watch the original again to solidify my thoughts on those two - I know Rapace had the look down closer to what I was imagining when reading, but I just might like Mara's portrayal more...), the brutality, even the ending, though the ending of Fincher's plays out nearly identical to the book (and sets up the next story), so I can't fault it too much for being faithful.

    Craig was the big surprise for me. Not a huge fan of his as I always call him "charisma-free," but perhaps that's what works best for this character.

    On a more shallow note, was it just me, or was just about every non-Lisbeth character played by a more attractive actor this time around? Specifically Craig and Penn, but it goes beyond them as well.

    "Noomi Rapace is a gritty, badass punk who still carries with her a sharp edge of humanity underneath the smoldering flames of the violence that lives inside of her. Or I just want to get in her pants. Either or."

    Ha! This is why I love your writing.

  11. @ Russ--Minger! That is a great word that has just made a home in my vocabulary. I can't think of a better way to describe the man. He had a nice face...kind of. You wouldn't mind if he was like...your strange uncle or something. Definitely not action movie love interest material, though.

    I didn't actually realize how "pretty" Rooney Mara was until I watched Social Network for the first time last night. I get why David Fincher likes her...the girl's gorgeous. Just...you know. Not quite "Lisbeth".

    And I can't believe you just put Bjurman and Salad Fingers in the same sentence. That is the stuff nightmares are made of, man. Nightmares!

    Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. I quasi-agree with you there...I enjoyed the remake in its own right. But I also would've been satisfied with the original and left it at that.

  12. @ Dylan--I'm glad you enjoyed it! I had to let these two movies duke it out. I think with Lisbeth...it depends on what you want from the character. I thought Noomi was more relatable, more human, her hard exterior more of a defense mechanism than anything, which Mara was more volatile, more animal, more...Nikita. Really, all I could think of was La Femme Nikita. It's those guttural, animal reactions.

    I also haven't read the book, but I'll trust you and give the movie props for faithfulness. Still, doesn't mean that the ending didn't drag a bit.

    Charisma-free Craig! I think he's good when the script works for him. It's all in the cat. I'm telling you. If Craig is cold to his fellow human beings, he had a lot of love for that cat.

    And everyone was certainly more attractive in this version. But I think that's just Hollywood. Americans don't put ugly people in their movies, because who wants to see that? Even our "ugly nerds" are always played by attractive actors. Because clearly ugliness is...er. Metaphorical. Or something. Use your imagination. Now here's some 3D for those of you who can't understand depth on a flat surface. (End rant)

    Ahahaha! I'm glad you enjoyed that! What can I say, the woman inspires me. Thanks for the comment, homie!

  13. To be fair, I didn't mean the "everyone looks better" comment to be an indictment against American cinema. Your point is true in general, but I don't necessarily think that was the case here - it's not like they put Jessica Simpson in for Salander and Jolie for Berger, it was just enough of an upgrade to notice. Moreover, I was kind of distracted by Nyqvist's and (whoever player Berger in the original's) plainness before. Which I guess is an indictment of me, though I swear it's all in the book that they're attractive. Seems most writers only have excellent-looking characters...

  14. I have to agree with ALL OF THIS. I LOVED Daniel Craig as Mikael, but Noomi as Lisbeth was PERFECT. She just brought something to the character Rooney Mara just couldn't. Too bad they couldn't get Noomi in the American remake. :0/

  15. @ Dylan--extraordinarily late comment, but word to that, my friend, word to that!

    @ starcasherxoxo--Yes! I'm glad you agree! Noomi was just enough lethal and just enough human. I'm with you there! If Noomi and Craig were in the same movie...well. It just might've been too much badassitry for the theatres to handle.

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