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For years, it has been my strict policy to never read a review until after I’ve seen the movie. Decades of tell-all trailers, disingenuous print plugs, and various other forms of advance hype have left me at a point where the only things I want to know about a film before going in are who directed it and how long it lasts.

In that sense, I’m all for review embargoes and can certainly understand why a director who spent years of his life and millions of his producer's dollars would want to keep the finished product under wraps until the day of its premiere. This doesn’t apply to all films — particularly remakes and those that reveal so much information in the coming attraction that a critic could save time by basing his review on the two-minute preview.

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Rooney Mara rehearsing her part.

Technically innovative films like Hugo or groundbreaking offerings like Avatar are wise to hold back their magic for a paying public. When stars make the talk show rounds promoting these big productions, they usually do so with the same one or two snippets in tow. Why give it all away to Leno and the busybodies on The View? Pictures with a secret (The Crying Game, The Sixth Sense) frequently rely on audience as well as critical complicity to sell tickets. In short, if you don’t want your ribbon shredded prior to opening day, keep your clips close to your vest!

To make sure audiences knew what they were in for, an unheard of, “super extended” 8-minute theatrical trailer for Dragon hit theater screens earlier this fall. It was soon followed by several different (and shorter) preview trailers. It got to the point where audiences began to feel as though they had been given the Readers Digest abridged version of the 158-minute feature.

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Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig.

All hell broke loose when New York Times critic David Denby broke his personal agreement with producer Scott Rudin by running an advance review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Fincher told the Miami Herald's Rene Rodriguez, "If it were up to me, I wouldn't show movies to anybody before they were released. I wouldn't give clips to talk shows. I would do one trailer and three television spots and let the chips fall where they may."

This would apply were Fincher not referring to a film that exists only because a certain sector of the American public refuses to read subtitles. With the exception of a different ending and a few minor changes (the exploitative revenge-rape is softened in exchange for a more cuddle-some relationship between cop Daniel Craig and Mara Rooney, the hot computer hacker who slept face down in a pan of bleach only to awake and fall head first into a tackle box) it’s a basic scene-for-scene Americanization of the Swedish original that was released a scant two years ago!

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Noomi Rapace (L) and Rooney Mara.

It’s not bad, as far as unnecessary remakes go. Completists won't leave hungry: the smooth lateral pans and flat, shiny surfaces brand it the work of David Fincher. But as far as audience surprise and the pedigree of its director go, this is one Girl whose hindquarters are draggin’. The third, and weakest, of David Fincher’s police procedural pictures (Dragon follows Se7en and Zodiac) is anything but surprising and original. The casting is by rote, with actors hired based on their similarity to the stars of the original, as well as any innate acting ability.

Will the film be a hit? It's doubtful. Fans of the novels and the three films they spawned have probably seen enough by now. Those who failed to catch them when they played at Landmark's Hillcrest (the series was wildly successful as far as Swedish serial killer pictures go), probably won't be inclined to check out this American rehash anytime soon.

Reader Rating: Two Stars

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Comments

Mindy Ross Dec. 21, 2011 @ 6:55 p.m.

The pictures look hideous alone. I hated the book. I liked the first scene, but then it veered off into places I didn't understand. I think the writing is too tight, if anything. And I was reading about a guy watching a burglary and the next thing I knew he was coming out of a courthouse. It was late, maybe I was too tired to catch on, but I wouldn't even bother with the movie. Why this story is number one, I can't tell you.

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Scott Marks Dec. 22, 2011 @ 12:12 a.m.

Because they just recently discovered serial killers in Sweden?

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khambher2525 Dec. 22, 2011 @ 9:28 a.m.

The writing is too tight ?? What ?? You like Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" method of writing better ?? The whole "free-flow" of thought and mindless dribble that swing around from one end of the universe to the other better ?? If you can't follow such a simple straight-forward development of a story like this, how do you even read ?? Seriously ??

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Scott Marks Dec. 22, 2011 @ 11:09 a.m.

I agree with Mindy about the first movie. In an attempt to cram every one of Stieg Larsson's precious thoughts into an already unwieldy 2 1/2 plus hour running time, many scenes seem butted together. Indeed, the original version runs 180 minutes while the American release is a scant 152. With almost a half hour trimmed, it's a wonder the thing makes any sense at all.

And I do not buy your argument that one needs read a book in order to fully appreciate a movie. I read "The Bible" and the movie version still sucks. Both art forms should stand on their individual merits.

This is all so 30 years ago. American audiences have been inundated with pictures about serial killers. Sweden must be a pretty safe place to live if they are just now discovering serial killers.

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khambher2525 Dec. 21, 2011 @ 9:34 p.m.

I'm tired of the whole idea that anything Hollywood takes a turn at is "corrupting" some sacred European bastion of cultural property. The fact that an American remake / re-adaptation is usually done to get the film to a broader audience and possibly make money is completely irrelevant, if true. The quality of the film is everything. The fact is, Fincher's version is better-crafted, better edited, better casted, more stylized, more "polished", and hones much better to the original source material - the book. The Swedish version gave us a Halloween costumed bull-dyke in garish Goth apparel and a spiked dog collar that was tacky and "over the top". The freakish-looking character practically screamed “Look at me !!” The whole idea behind Salander’s appearance is that she wants to be left alone – NOT call attention to herself. Noomi Rapace had a forced pit-bull ferocity with no sense of humanity or deeper emotion than brooding anger or just out and out rage. Rooney Mara offers up a truer, waif-like punker who shows some glimpses of vulnerability, a need to be understood, and a desire to be "close" to someone, anyone. I found the new version to be leaps and bounds better than the muddled Swedish version. But as I keep suggesting, go see the new film for yourself and be your own judge. If you read the books, you cannot help but be satisfied with Fincher’s view of the characters.

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Scott Marks Dec. 22, 2011 @ 12:11 a.m.

Did we really need the scene where they cuddle while Craig is checking out his laptop? I don't want romance in this situation. As much as I admire the manner in which Fincher handled the reverse-rape, I have to question why a director of his caliber is wasting time on a pre-sold commodity such as this. And the film isn't being Americanized so it can reach a broader audience, the story is. Fincher is basically there to trace the source material (the film, not the novel) and soften things in order to make it more palatable for American audiences. As for a more polished look, this isn't a table, it's a movie. I'd like to have seen it grittier with a few more rough edges just outside the frame-line. It's too polished and too well-behaved for its own good. This is soft-core torture porn for red-staters who have yet to discover the "Saw" series or internet smut, and are too lazy to read subtitles. There are not enough leaps in originality to get me to want to sit through this again. We do agree that Rooney made a much more credible heroine than her Swedish counterpart. The problem is she comes off as a bit too sympathetic. I'd love to have seen someone like Otto Preminger get his mitts on this material. No one made films about characters they dislike better than Herr Preminger. This version needed to be a bit nastier while at the same time avoiding the misogynistic pitfalls inherent in the original.

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khambher2525 Dec. 22, 2011 @ 9:23 a.m.

While I agree with some of your points, the film is there to make money. The "Saw" series of films aren't fine tech-noir film-making. They're savage, unnecessary, sloppy, grisly "pulp" for teenagers and amateur serial killer "wannabes". Pure trash, IMO. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" was made with adults in mind, but but NOT to satisfy prurient or perverse interests. The editing was fantastic - just enough to keep the story moving at the exact moment it starts to "lag" just a tad. The "sympathy" that Mara brings to the character is a welcome addition to the seething rage. I LIKE this person, in spite of all the violence and her desire to be left alone. And I LIKE that I like her. Otherwise, I wouldn't be interested in her welfare or seeing her in the movie in the first place. An occasional glimpse of vulnerability or passion was great to see.

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Scott Marks Dec. 22, 2011 @ 10:59 a.m.

Forgive me, but I own all of the "Saw" DVDs. I find them funny and very inventive in their ways of subjecting human beings to only the most vile and irredeemable forms of violent abuse.

Gotta' go clean up the torture shack. I'm having company tonight.

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khambher2525 Dec. 22, 2011 @ 2:05 p.m.

Oh, I,'ll agree that they're funny, if you're not taking them too seriously. If that's the appeal, then I have no quibble with you - none at all. It's anyone that takes them as serious "horror" films that I question their taste. They aren't in the class of "Psycho" or "The Exorcist" for me. THAT was my point.

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Colonna Dec. 23, 2011 @ 3:45 p.m.

My wife (a fan of the books) is getting the original Swedish version on DVD for Xmas. Is this a mistake?

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Scott Marks Dec. 24, 2011 @ 2 p.m.

Not for you, JC. Something tells me Flo is about to get frisky.

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agent_00711 Dec. 24, 2011 @ 9:58 a.m.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" belongs in the same group as "The DaVinci Code" and "Peyton Place", books which were incredibly popular, even though they're campy and aren't very good (though clearly they had a gimmick or something that resonated with the general public). I've seen the Swedish movie, and if you love research montages, you'll love "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo". I'm curious to see if Fincher was able to fix some of the things that bothered me in the Swedish version, like the totally lackluster male protagonist.

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Scott Marks Dec. 24, 2011 @ 2:01 p.m.

I took this bullet for you, Age. Go see "Hugo" again, and again, and again...

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