Movie Review: ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’

The TV Guide

Last night David and I were invited to an early screening of the much-anticipated David Fincher film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and to day I was excited to see the film would be an understatement. I fell in love with the Dragon Tattoo story and characters last year after I watched the original Swedish films and have been very much looking forward to Fincher‘s English language version. I have to tell you right up front, I LOVED Fincher‘s Dragon Tattoo immensely. And, surprisingly, I liked it even more than I liked the original film. This version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is unequivocally one of the best films of 2011.


Because I just finished the Dragon Tattoo novel, written by Steig Larsson, last week I am in the enviable position of having the original story fresh in my mind. As I read the book, I was surprised by a lot of details that were not presented in the Swedish film. Fincher‘s version is as close to the novel as you can get without it being word-for-word exact. David Fincher is a master at telling dark stories. Yes there is violence and mayhem but he manages to package those kinds of stories in a very palatable way. Rooney Mara is a revelation. No disrespect meant to the orignal star of Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace, but Mara IS Lisbeth Salander. Mara‘s version of the character, for me, was the character in the book come to life … flesh and blood. There are some actresses, like Meryl Streep, that are able to utterly and completely transform themselves for a role — Rooney Mara is one of those actresses. She so completely became Lisbeth Salander that Rooney was just … gone. Daniel Craig, as Mikael Blomkvist, is just perfect … and yet, as fantastic as he is in this film … all you can see or want to see is Rooney Mara as Lisbeth. I hate to keep talking in comparisons but I am dead serious when I say that Fincher‘s film is more like the book than the original Swedish film is. The electricity, the detail, the power of the book is harnessed in this new film. Yes there are some omissions (every film just omit something from the books they are based on) but none that take away from the meat of the novel. Even the changed ending is handled in such a way that fans of the book will love this new film, I promise.

I had hoped that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would meet my high expectations … but I did not expect the film to exceed those expectations. Never have I enjoyed a 3ish hour movie before in my life. I’m already anxious to see the movie again … no kidding. I have a few new films that I must see but I will be making time to see Dragon Tattoo again and again and again. Author Steig Larsson struck a collective never with his tale of heroine Lisbeth Salander and David Fincher managed to find a way to take the words that Larsson committed to paper and make them come to life on the big screen. It’s hard for me to decide who is the bigger talent … Fincher or Mara. Thankfully, in this instance, I don’t have to make that determination … because the pair of them work together in concert in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to bring us one of if not THE best film of 2011.

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  1. Cecilia

    As a swede I’m both happy and sad that you think that the american version is better. I think it’s awesome that more people will get to know the story know, but still… why can’t you just leave some things alone and not make your own version of every single thing? I dunno… It’s just weird. I haven’t seen it yet, it opens on christmas day in sweden, but I will definitely see it.

    I’m not mad at you or anything, you are entitled to your opinion and I respect that, but can you see my point?

    • @Cecilia — Trust me, I completely understand your feelings on this matter. But in all honesty, great stories should be told over and over again. Characters like Batman, Sherlock Holmes, anything from Shakespeare will be reinvented for all time. Steig Larsson, IMHO, has created a character — a strong female character — that is far too incredible to be relegated to just one book or one movie. Now that there is an English version of her tale, millions more people will be able to appreciate Steig Larsson’s work. Think about it this way … Larsson’s original book is titled ‘Män som hatar Kvinnor’ which translates to ‘Men who hate Women’. The original Swedish text was translated into English and renamed ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. People don’t seem to get upset when novels are translated into different languages, in fact, they are usually proud that their work is so good that it needs to be made available to people who speak other languages. I hope you do see this new English language version of ‘Dragon Tattoo’ and will come back to let me know what you think. I have a feeling that you’ll like it … even if you like the Swedish version better, I think you’ll appreciate what Fincher and Rooney Mara have done with Larsson’s excellent character.

    • leseva85542

      Trent, I cannot wait to see this movie now more than ever, thank you for review! To be truthfully honest, I tried reading the book and couldn’t get into it and then I felt like there was missing from the movie. Like there was so much more and I think thats what happens with translations. I come from a people that has their own language and I hear the elders constantly say that it’s not the same when you translate into English! LOL! But making this into an English version will explain so much more. I also cannot say it enough, but I enjoy your blog and I think you do a superb job :)

    • @leseva85542 — thank you so much :) xoxoxox

  2. I want I want I want to see this!
    Now you have me even more excited for it!!!

  3. CHASE

    I’m going to see it tonight and I’m sure I’ll love it! The Swedish movies RUINED the books completely; they rushed the storyline and didn’t even add all the important pieces. The Swedish films are hardcore flops tbqh and I never understood why everyone praised Naomi’s portrayal as Lisbeth because nothing about her screamed Lisbeth. At all.

  4. Alyssa

    I’m so excited to hear it is so good! I love Fincher’s work but was worried when I heard major details had been changed. I’m really excited to see how it turns out. I read the books over the summer so the story is still fresh in my mind. So excited!!!

  5. laina

    Read all 3 books and saw all 3 Swedish films. The books were a little slow moving but I enjoyed them. Liked the films, thought Noomi Repace(? on spelling) did a good job. Looking forward to this film.

  6. Severine

    Oh Em Gee!!! Im SO glad you liked it!! I have been waiting on a review for this movie for a long time. When I first stated reading the 1st book, I almost put it down about 10 times. A lot of people had told me not to, and to just push through it. I figured, theres got to be a reason why this book in a best seller…..why does it suck so bad?! Im not gonna lie, out of the 644pgs, it probably picked up around pg 500. After that, I couldnt put it down. I have been told that the Sweedish version of the movie wasnt too bad. I have yet to read book 2 & 3 (I figured I would take a break, lol) I was told the worst book is def #1 & that the other two are very good. Thanks so much for this review! Now Im totally excited to see it!

    • Lindsay

      Trust me, keep up with the books. I had a hard time getting into the first one, especially with all the financial/legal backgound, but the second and third book are GREAT. The second is my favorite! It wasn’t as slow as the first one.

    • kas

      I am so glad to hear that somebody else had trouble with this book. I read every single day so when I bought this for my kindle I thought I would whip right though it. Got about 40 pages in and gave up. I’m going to give it another try now.

  7. Megan

    @Trent I think I know the answer to this but what did yo think of Trent Reznor’s composition?

  8. CHASE

    I just finished seeing it! I loved it and thought the accents were good, however I was annoyed at times because it was really hard to make out what the characters were saying; everyone talked really low and muffled. It happened quite frequently, but yeah. The forest scene could have been better because it’s one of the most action-packed scenes in the book and I thought they did a really sloppy job with the __________________; it could have been WAY more dramatic … Come on! Anyways, it was very good and Rooney Mara DESTROYED Naomi. Not even an argument about it.

    (Edited)

  9. Rebecca

    Trent, could you edit the comment above? I’ve read the books, seen the films but that last comment could ruin the story for someone who has been living under a rock for the last couple of years :)
    I loved the Swedish films, but the last film wasn’t the best. I understand cecilia’s point as I also feel sometimes films are made in English just because there’s a large proportion of the English speaking world that are too lazy to deal with subtitles (and what a shame there are some beautiful foreign films out there) but I also agree with you Trent, good stories will repeatedly get told. And what a story – I loved this and I’m looking forward to this new film

  10. nat

    How is the changed ending going to affect the transition to the second book?I haven’t really kept up with Fincher’s intentions regarding the trilogy-is he making 3 movies?To get a complete picture of
    Lisbeth you kinda have to read all 3 books.

    • @nat — The changed ending has no bearing on the follow-up sequels. You’ll see, the change doesn’t affect the overall story.

    • nat

      Now I’m intrigued–I’ll try to go and see it with an open mind.If it makes ya think then it is already worth watching.

  11. Lindsay

    I am SO excited to see this ASAP. I read the first book a couple years ago, and loved the series (Girl Who Played with Fire is my favorite). I didn’t enjoy the Swedish movies as much as I had hoped, but that is often the case when I see books I love made into movies. Its never going to be as good as the books or how I envisioned it in my mind. But every time I see something related to this version of the film, be is teasers or trailers or clips, I get so excited. It just looks so good, I can’t wait to see another person’s vison of the books.

  12. Meghan

    Glad you loved it, Trent! I’m going to see it tonight and I am so excited. Love Noomi’s interpretation, but Rooney’s more closely fits the description in the books.

    • @Meghan — “Love Noomi’s interpretation, but Rooney’s more closely fits the description in the books.” Yes, so agree. I LOVED Noomi’s performance and I really do not want to take away from her fantastic work in the original film … but Rooney gets the role SO RIGHT. I need to see it again … soon.

    • Meghan

      Noomi didn’t look as frail and alien as Lisbeth is described. She was prettier and seemed quite strong. Can’t wait to see Rooney in this role. I was on the fence about this remake initially, but I think it will be great.

  13. dragongirl

    How much does TGWTDT need to make for the studio to green light a sequel?

    Just saw it, definitely want a 2nd viewing. It’s a long movie but to be honest I totally lost track of time as I became emerged in the story.

    As a virgin to the story (no previous exposure to the book or the Swed films) I walked away with that weird feeling of did I like it, still figuring the details and twists. With the ending I was left wanting more, is that the end of their relationship, after all that work she did with taking the money and he has no idea what she did and she throws the jacket away after seeing him with his old flame. I didn’t think she would give up so easily.

    • @dragongirl — Yes, the ending is meant to leave you wanting more (the book ends the same way). Trust me, the next two films (which WILL be made, no worry there) will reveal more of the big picture story :D

      And as a point of clarification, it’s not so much that she “gave up”, it’s that she was horribly disappointed and heartbroken by the first person she opened up her heart to. she is angry and sad. the next book/film picks the story up and continues from there.

  14. Alex

    I saw it today. People are giving rooney more credit than she deserves (in my opinion). I really enjoyed the Swedish film and as a fan of David Fincher movies, I hoped to like the American version just as much. I thought Noomi Rapace was more convincing as Lisbeth. Rooney Mara gave me hope in the beginning of the movie, but then her performance started to become stale and fake with the accent girl attitude. Good film but by no means did rooney mara give an award-worthy performance. What do I know though. Everyone is a critic I guess.

  15. Ella

    I think this movie was absolutely amazing. I agree with your review completely Trent. Rooney Mara killed it.

  16. Krissy

    Trent, I am not reading your review because I tend to shy away from reading them for films I am going to see (I will read it after I see it). I wanted to share this with you, though!

    Today’s Variety says that in Sweden the US version “has scored rave reviews from local critics. Sweden’s largest evening newspaper, Aftonbladet, described Tattoo as “a hell of a ride–crazy, nasty, sexier than the Swedish original”, while Swedish Television called the remake “a much better, much tighter thriller. Hollywood wins.”

    • @Krissy — Wow, those are incredible compliments from the Swedish press. I totally understand not reading reviews before seeing movies, I tend to do the same. Be sure to let us know what you think afterward, tho :) xo

    • Krissy

      Will do! Happy holidays to you!

  17. Krissy

    I LOVED this film! First of all, the first 3 minutes of it is a complete feast for the eyes and ears. It is a great way to get you into the feeling of the story.

    I thought Rooney Mara was amazing, and much more like book IMO. I thought she was age appropriate, and I think above all, you really get the idea that she isn’t out to cause violence, but she will resort to violence when she is backed into a corner. The NPR/Wall Street review said that she didn’t burn with the white hot anger that Noomi did, and in my opinion, that is a good thing. To me Lisbeth isn’t a bad ass out looking for a face to beat.

    I got more of the feeling of the girl that inspired Steig, because she just seemed so young and fragile under it all (when he was a teen he saw a 15 year old girl get gang…and didn’t do asupposedly anything about it. He felt guilty, and Lisbeth is about her finding justice).

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