At the heart of all of this The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo discussion (amongst the film community) is David Fincher. As Brandon noted, we're seeing a ton of reviews stating the film itself is very similar to the Swedish version, but is more technically sound thanks to Fincher. Honestly, I walked away from the theater thinking along the same lines. With regard to my overall feelings on the film, I fall somewhere between Brandon and Jeff. Like both of them, though, I'm a huge Fincher fan, and this film exhibits a lot of the qualities that make him one of the best directors working today. Story and director are a perfect match here.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo doesn't disappoint; I assume I'm right in saying that Jeff wasn't disappointed by it. If he was, I don't necessarily understand why. I don't know how someone who hasn't read the book could be surprised to find that the film adaptations are similar in terms of the script/story. I have not the read the books, but did watch all three Swedish films. I found them to be okay, but never felt any sort of connection to the script or the characters (Noomi Rapace was great, though). Fincher's version is not only technically better, but I was able to obtain that connection with his film. I was able to understand things more clearly...despite missing out on the first ten minutes of the film (completely bummed about this and I'm trying to devise a plan to sneak into a theater to catch the beginning; I really want to see those opening credits).
Anyway, we can say a lot of things about the book: "good trash,"an airport novel," etc. Brandon's right to want to shift the focus away from that. Although, if you've read the books, I imagine it's pretty tough to do so. As we read something, we sort of direct the film adaptation in our own minds. Readers of the books are often the harshest critics, so it's interesting to hear Brandon's positive reaction. For me, the story (now focusing on the film again) doesn't really seem trashy at all. Sure, it is nowhere near as compelling as The Seventh Seal or even Walter White's story on Breaking Bad, but it isn't without its merits. Sometimes we need these seedy underbelly stories to remind us that all some people have ever known in their lives is evil, and that much of the evil in our world consists of sexual violence against women. This is a story with an important message; the stakes are high.
John does make a great point about Breaking Bad, though, and I mostly agree. And there is no argument here (great last words when dealing with John) because you said that you prefer Walter's story to Lisbeth's. So this is just to say that while I mostly prefer a story like Walter's, I do have room in my heart for Lisbeth's.
Mikael Blomkvist tells Lisbeth that he wants her to help him "catch a killer of women." Her willingness to help him stems from this fact alone, and not because she thinks Blomkvist seems like a nice guy. Her worldview has been shaped by the evil she has experienced from her childhood to adulthood, and through this case, she sees an opportunity to rid the world of one less scumbag. (At the end of Breaking Bad, we're going to need someone like Lisbeth to take out Walter. Someone get me Vince Gilligan's phone number quick, I need to make an important phone call!)
The teaser for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo gave us the loveable line: "The feel bad movie of Christmas." I've seen plenty of "feel bad" movies in the past, but haven't really seen any this year. So, I can't speak too much about what separates this film from something like We Need To Talk About Kevin (even if I did, I'd probably contradict myself), but like Brandon, I don't see this film as something that only makes you feel like complete shit. And I was able to find the good in what Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig brought to their characters.
As good as Rapace is as Lisbeth in the Swedish films, I loved Rooney Mara's performance so much more. After seeing her brief scenes in The Social Network, I was intrigued as to what she would bring to the character and had a good feeling that she would be excellent. She plays a range of emotions and portrays them flawlessly - be it some tough-as-nails chick who wears a "Fuck you you fucking fuck" t-shirt to a girl who has her heart broken at the end.
I also enjoyed the Mara/Daniel Craig pairing. Daniel Craig is someone I've always been indifferent about, but here I am a fan. Lisbeth has been treated like shit by men her entire life, so maybe it would seem like a stretch for her relationship with Blomkvist to progress so quickly, but for me it worked. Based on their personalities, they seem compatible together. There's that great moment where they both admit that they like working together.
But this is definitely a movie that plants something awful in your stomach. I love to talk about audiences in my reviews because it slightly interests me to see who shows up for these films. We had a few old people in our theater and under the assumption that they weren't familiar with the books, I can't imagine what was going through their minds during some of the scenes. We have Fincher and we have a book about rape; this is going to be a picture with extremely dark scenes. I read a review saying that the rape scene in the Swedish version is more brutal (albeit, shorter), but honestly I can't remember that scene at all (thank you, mind, for forgetting it).
With Fincher's film, I want to forget it, but I can't (as is Fincher's goal, so as weird as it is to say, the scene is effective/successful). It's one of the most uncomfortable scenes you'll ever sit through if you're like me and don't go near films like Irreversible or shit movies like Human Centipede. This film is brutal, so if you haven't seen it, know that that's what you're getting yourself into.
Jeff, Brandon, and I enjoy revenge flicks. I watched 13 Assassins last week and loved it. Lisbeth gets some revenge in this, and of course the neo-nazi serial killer gets his in the end. I also enjoy mysteries, and was mostly satisfied with that aspect of the story, especially since it relied on old photographs and memories to solve the case. Having said all that, I do prefer Zodiac so much more than this film.
Like this blog post, the ending of the film does drag a bit too long. It kinda feels like a movie that doesn't know how to end. I can understand Jeff's want to walk out of the theater pumped up and in love, in the way that we came away from the theater feeling about Drive.
My apologies for seeming like a mediator in the Jeff/Brandon debate. I agree with both of you cats on different points.