Walter Mencken 10:06 a.m., Feb. 6
Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
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.
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.
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!
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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