Blu-ray Review: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011), Different Language, Same Noise

Contributor; Seattle, Washington
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Blu-ray Review: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011), Different Language, Same Noise
After The Girl Who Played With Fire, I'd decided that I was effectively done with super hacker/kickboxer/possible autistic Lisbeth Salander. There was no going back: the character felt too much like a cartoon, a multi-purpose tool to plug into a pulp thriller, born of and motivated by the abuses afflicted upon her in a world where only a lone, non-traditionally hunky reporter was not culpable in the many murder-rape-murder goings on throughout. That movie was terrible and made me hate the first move retroactively.

Let's chalk this up to my inability to pass up anything from David Fincher, along with my admiration for just about everyone assembled here for a return to the increasingly implausible world conjured up by the late Stieg Larsson. But enough complaining and explaining: how is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo 2011? Well, somehow, Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zallian (Moneyball, Gangs of New York) somehow find a way to fatten up an already bloated narrative while still serving none of them especially well.

The whole mess centers on financially ruined journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) attempting to solve the 40-year-old disappearance of young Harriet Vagner from her family estate. Her uncle Henrik (Christopher Plummer), seemingly the only sane member of the decaying Swedish clan, believes that she's been murdered, and we wants Blomkvist to find out who did it. Meanwhile, on another track entirely, hacker/investigator Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) is contending with a sexually abusive state social worker, wandering finally into the main plot somewhere around the one-third mark in this nearly two and a half hour long movie. And I can't forget the subplot about the billionaire businessman who ruined Blomqvist's career which has a whole extra 20-30 minute act of its own.

It's not that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has too many plots and subplots, its that there's a noticeable break as the movie has to wind and turn to get around to each of them. And the main story about the missing Vagner girl is, on paper, pretty compelling. But here as in the original, the solution involves a lot of research in archives and analyses of photos, meaning you'll spend your time watching characters onscreen spending their time staring at monitors. Plus, barring a full rewrite, the villain is still ridiculous and his motivations throughout the film don't make any sense beyond "he's crazy, also stupid."

It's not so terrible, just made of the same flimsy stuff of the source material. The performances are strong across the board, and I'll admit to being unable to take my eyes off of Rooney Mara any time she was on screen. Christopher Plummer could play an old man with a lifetime of terrible knowledge and secrets in his sleep and that doesn't make his relatively small part here any less interesting to watch. Craig is the only member of the cast who chooses not to affect a Swedish accent for the role, but I suspect that's some kind of thing that happens to Bond actors. As Blomkvist's lover, the always fantastic Robin Wright Penn injects rich dose of personality into a small-ish role.

And because it's Fincher, you know it'll look great. Seemingly motivated by the frigid surroundings, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has an icy look about it, its use of black dark, foreboding, and communicating a sense of absence (consider any of the night scenes in the woods) while even daylight scenes feel equally inhospitable, the light hitting the characters and the sets just so.

It's glossy and it's not out and out bad in any way, just a victim of the same

Presentation, Audio, and Video

The three disc Blu-ray edition comes in a gorgeous glossy box featuring the art up above. The first disc includes the movie on Blu with Fincher's commentary as the only feature. A second disc has the bulk of the features at something like a total of four hours of interviews, casting, and making of materials. If you know how much detail Fincher's movies can get with behind the scenes content, then you have an idea what you're in store for here. Finally, the third disc contains the movie on DVD, which theoretically has randomized art to make it look like a burned DVD-R.

I've talked about the movie's look above, and the Blu-ray disc serves the visuals well, the dark levels coming across as especially rich and lush.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Blu-ray and DVD is available now.

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MattMarch 29, 2012 4:07 PM

It seems to me that if you have already decided you don't like the source material or the characters that maybe you shouldn't be reviewing the new one? The only people your review is going to be good for are people who, like you, don't care for the other words those who would probably pass on the new one regardless. I'm not trying to dispute your opinion, I do disagree but that's not really the point. But it would be like Roger Ebert reviewing a video game...why bother?

Charles WebbMarch 29, 2012 4:50 PM

That's a completely fair point (and thanks for reading). At the same time, I did attempt to approach this as a new movie (for instance, LET ME IN vs. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN). Both work from the same source material and ultimately go in different directions (the latter film, to my mind, outstripping the other in terms of quality).

Unfortunately, save for Fincher's eye for a good shot, both this and the '09 release are nearly identical in execution.