The Movie Scab Reviews: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Swedish and American versions.
"The scab you're picking at is called execution."
--American film producer Scott Rudin.
Ack! Ack! Ack!
Monkey Boy rated the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo three Acks! out of five.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Sweden has brought us many things like, for example, creamed salmon paste, herring tidbits, canned fishballs, black lumpfish caviar, Marabou Mjölkchoklad, Absolut vodka, IKEA, neutrality, democratic socialism, concessions to the Nazis during World War II, and the late and pretty great socialist activist, journalist, and novelist Stieg Larsson (who I bet loved eating canned fishballs), author of the Millennium Series (all three books published after his death) and the inspiration for three Swedish movies based on his books (The Girl with the Dragon tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest).
David Fincher has brought us The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac, Fight Club, et al, and now the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This means that most of the characters in Fincher's movie speak English with a Swedish accent. In the Swedish movies the characters speak Swedish with a Swedish accent subtitled in English.
The Swedish version of Tattoo is pretty good for a movie that I had to read. (It impressed Monkey Boy so much he gave it four Acks! out of five.)
Me? Well, my movie rating system involves booze, i.e., because most movies are worthless steaming piles of crap, I always ask the question, how much booze will I have to drink while I watch this worthless steaming pile of crap? The more worthless and steaming and crappier the movie is, the more I'll encourage you to get totally blottoed before seeing it so that you won't have to remember it like me.
On the very rare occasion, Monkey Boy will rate a movie five Acks! out of five, and if that's the case I'd probably recommend seeing the movie sober because (lo and behold!) it might actually be worthwhile--but I should point out that seeing a movie sober is an extremely rare movie-going experience for me because most of the movies I see are worthless steaming piles of crap that are so god-awful they require an inordinate amount of booze just to get through.
As to the Swedish and American versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:
The Swedish version of Tattoo stars Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander and Michael Nyqvist as disgraced investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist.
Noomi and Michael are Swedish actors that speak Swedish subtitled in English, and even though they speak Swedish subtitled in English and I had to read what they were saying, the actors possess a remarkable skill and chemistry that transcends language and language barriers so that by the end of the movie I had nothing but respect and empathy for Noomi's Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo, and I liked Mikael even though I wasn't entirely sure if the guy was trustworthy.
Tattoo's plot isn't anything new, but it is a lot of fun in a Hardy Boys mystery kind of way if the Hardy Boys were bisexual punk-goth-computer nerd-chicks who were officially crazy, unafraid to teach rapists life-altering lessons with massive dildos, and could outthink you and kick your ass in two seconds flat. You could sum the plot up like this: a super smart punk-goth-computer nerd-crazy chick who is often naked and covered in tattoos and body piercings and a disgraced journalist old enough to be her great-grandfather become lovers while investigating a 40 year old murder of a girl from a wealthy Swedish family, uncovering a congenial Swedish serial killer whose father was also a serial killer, a Nazi, an anti-Semite, and (I bet) loved Swedish canned fishballs.
The Swedish version is well made, well acted, and well told, but here's the most important point: as I've said before, for a story to work you've got to like the characters, even if they're repugnant, scary, good, evil--you've got to make your audience care about them. (Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs is a great example of a repugnant and evil character that the audience liked--no, that's incorrect--that the audience loved even though he was repugnant and evil.) The storytellers behind the Swedish version of Tattoo accomplish that--no easy task when you consider the subject matter, and that's how the Swedish movie got four Monkey Boy Acks! out of five (The sequels did not fare so well.)
And now Monkey Boy and I have seen the American version of Tattoo starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig, English speaking actors that speak English (subtitled in Swedish in Sweden) with a Swedish accent. (But not Craig. He doesn't put a fake Swedish accent over his real English accent, so he ends up sounding like an English Swede. I guess he's a Swedish guy whose English is so good there's no Sweden in it.)
The first thing I want to point out is that Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara are both chicks with weird names--and, no, I don't think it's a coincidence! Now, I don't know if "Noomi" is considered a weird name in good, old Sweden, but over here in the good, old United States it's a weird name, but what's even more interesting is that "Rooney" is a weird name here and I bet you all the Swedish porn hidden under my bed that "Rooney" is considered a weird name in Sweden too!
Synchronicity, my movie friends, synchronicity.
The second thing I want to point out is that the movies are identical in almost every way except for the ending--the American version is more ambiguous and much, much bleaker, but like its Swedish predecessor, it's well made, well acted, and well told (and in America it doesn't come with Swedish subtitles).
Rooney Mara's performance as Lisbeth Salander is, I think, as remarkable and powerful as Noomi's (and closer in appearance to the book's physical description of Salander), and at the end of Fincher's movie I had nothing but respect and empathy for Lisbeth--and again, that's quite something when you consider the subject matter. (Kristin Wiig, co-writer and star of Bridesmaids, could learn something from both the Swedish and American versions of Tattoo when it comes to having a central character that you like and empathize with.)
Fincher's movie comes across as colder and more antiseptic than the Swedish original, which is odd, really, since you'd think the Swedes would have cold and antiseptic nailed down, and the music by Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) is eerie, sad, and really great and inspiring stuff, but again, at the end of the day, David Fincher's version of Tattoo is as much a Hardy-Boys-detective-story-fun-ride as the Swedish version, well made, well acted, well told.
Since that's the case, well, I think the best way to see them is side by side so that you can read the English subtitles in the Swedish version and then look at the American version to make sure you fully understand what's going on.
I'd like to point out that there are American critics who have actually said the director of the American version (David Fincher) is an idiot because he didn't put the American version in America, but that's like saying you're going to make an American version of "Lord of the Rings" and put it in Colorado instead of Middle Earth. Tattoo's story takes place in Sweden. That's where it has to take place. Once again, American critics reveal, like the movies they review, just how idiotic and useless they have become.
Lastly, I'd like to point out that there's a buttload of pretend sex in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's graphic, pierced, tattooed, leaving little to the imagination, and other than making me want to take a cold shower afterward (Noomi and Rooney naked does what it's supposed to do and that's get me hot enough to have to take a cold shower after seeing the movie), but I'm not entirely certain the graphic sex did anything else other than sell tickets (and make people like me hot, which sells tickets). Hm… this makes me think of Black Swan and Natalie Portman's pretend-lesbian-sex-munching-muffin scene.
I'll have to tackle Tattoo's graphic sex and sex in the movies in general next time.
My rating for the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: a quarter of a bottle of Absolut vodka shared with a friend with the kind of drinking-charisma that won't let you stop until the bottle is empty.
My rating for the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: half a bottle of Absolut vodka shared with a friend with the kind of drinking-charisma that won't let you stop until the bottle is empty and then offers you a bar of Cadbury Milk Chocolate to sober you up.