David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Have you heard the news? David Fincher’s jumping on the remake train. And why not? All the cool kids are doing it.

Ask any film fan how they feel about remakes and you’re probably going to get a pretty vehement reaction, from myself included. They’re entirely needless and at the moment, they’re oversaturating a box office that’s in desperate need of original material. Actually, it’s more accurate to say it’s in desperate need of good material. Honestly, the remakes wouldn’t even be an issue if most of them were any good. Instead, we get the same old folly, filmmakers remaking great movies that can’t possibly be bettered. Therefore, most remakes suck.

But when they’re good, we don’t really care too much. Some of the best movies ever made have been remakes. Without remakes we wouldn’t have The Fly, The Thing, The Magnificent Seven, A Fistful of Dollars, The Departed. That’s just a short list but there are a few films on it that I just couldn’t live without. This is proof that our issues with remakes are a knee-jerk reaction based on our experience with so many bad ones.

All of this, just so I can tell you that I’m really excited about David Fincher remaking The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (TGWTDT). The original is a good murder mystery, sufficiently plotted, with a great character and performance from lead actress, Noomi Rapace. It’s totally worth your time if you haven’t seen it. Going by the new rating system here at Macguffin, I’d give it a solid B. The only problem is, the film is based on a book that’s easily an A. And this is where David Fincher comes in.

I wouldn’t hesitate to argue that David Fincher is one of the best directors working today, not just in the US but in the world. He’s got the gift of a true, cinematic eye. But the best part is, his strongest efforts as a filmmaker parallel very nicely with TGWTDT. To give you a summary of the book, it’s basically a well tuned, surprisingly disturbing, murder mystery with much better than average characters. In fact, the success of all three of the books in the trilogy come down to the characters. They’re the reason you keep reading and if the whole books had just been about these characters eating lunch and paying their bills I would have been happy. Thankfully, the murders themselves are pretty intriguing.

Interestingly enough, if I were to give you a summary of Se7en, it would probably read much the same. In a film filled with such grotesque imagery, Fincher masterfully balances the human elements of the story, and fleshes out the two detectives in a way that puts most films in the genre to shame. Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t want to watch the detectives eat lunch and pay their bills, but I’d catch a baseball game with them. On top of his expert ability with the characters, Fincher has also proven remarkably adept at the procedural elements of his films, such as with Se7en and Zodiac. The tedious, procedural aspects of investigation are something that the author of TGWTDT explores realistically and extensively. It’s almost as if TGWTDT was written just for Fincher’s particular strengths.

While TGWTDT movie was a good adaptation, after having read the books I can say without a doubt that there is potential for improvement. The script is solid and the lead performance, as I mentioned earlier, is perfect. But there are still some frustrating choices made in terms of how certain details and moments are consolidated, and as great as the Lisbeth Salander character is, the other character of the piece, Mykael Blomkvist, is not nearly as interesting as he is in the book. His character might be the greatest opportunity for improvement in the American remake. Also, I hate to say it, but the direction of TGWTDT is nothing to write home about. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe that other Swedish import, Let The Right One In, with it’s brilliant direction and pacing, was too prominent in my mind. The direction for this film is serviceable but I’d equate it more to a T.V. movie of the week. In comparison, Fincher should knock this one out of the park.

So, I have to admit, I’m really looking forward to this American remake of a popular foreign film. This might be an unpopular sentiment among my fellow film geeks but if you have any doubts, I implore you, read the book. And right after you put it down (trust me, it won’t take you long to get through it) sit down and watch Se7en. And then Zodiac. And then daydream about all the wonderful things Fincher has in store for us. If anybody could pull this one off, it’s him.