It’s inherently irritating that Hollywood insists on remaking commercially successful foreign-language films as it’s due to the fact that the majority of film-goers, in America and UK at least, won’t watch subtitled films. Anyone who has watched a subtitled film knows that after a few minutes they are barely noticeable. Hollywood is only interested in making money and the issue of whether the remake can add something to the original matters little to it. Filmmakers, however, often want to put their stamp upon the new version and it can be interesting to look at differences, many of which will be cultural. Hollywood, of course, can also spend more money on the film which, while not necessarily a good thing, can raise the production values.
However, Hollywood will also spend money for the sake of it. After the ‘indie’ success of Sitting Ducks (US, 1980), director Henry Jaglom was offered an enormous amount of money to make a film. He said that he’d make 10 films for that amount; the offer was withdrawn. Money means stars and, although their importance is in decline, this brings an extra set of baggage to the narrative; though the only ‘big’ name in the remake of Tattoo is Daniel Craig (Stellan Skarsgaard is also well known as a supporting actor).
Having read the book and taught the original film I had a lot of baggage when watching the remake. However I admired Fincher’s early films (I wrote a York Film Notes on Se7en, nla) so was interested in what he could make of the film. Incidentally, apropos the previous post, the Kim Newman in February’s Sight & Sound states ‘that Fincher brings cutting-edge Hollywood narrative skills…’ (18a); I suspect that that was scriptwriter Steve Zallian, Kim.
Did I enjoy the remake? No… what follows is a number of points, in no particular order, outlining my dissatisfaction and contains spoilers:
- the film is well-acted but Daniel Craig is wrong for the role. He’s far too beefy, and carries connotations of action-man Bond, for the role of the non-macho journalist.
- there are a number of points that reduce Salander’s spiky character including the first sex scene where, as in the original she starts on top but, unlike the original, finishes underneath.
- After the sex, in the original, Salander gets out of bed and Blomkvist complains he wants her to stay for a post-coital cuddle; the remake fades to black…
- and fades up with Salander having made breakfast! FFS!
- Salander saves Blomkvist but then asks his permission to kill Vanger; the original’s denouement is far superior as Salander does what she wants which includes failing to save Vanger after the car crash. She is not faced with this choice in the remake.
- There is an absurd shot of Salandar with a gun framed in front of the burning car; we’ve suddenly switched genres to a mainstream action flick.
- Blomkvist’s assent to the death of Vanger removes the moral dilemma from the original in favour ‘let’s kill the bastard’.
So it is an artistically pointless remake with the hard-edges of Salander’s character smoothed off for the patriarchal American audience. The original Swedish title of the book was Men Who Hate Women and while I can understand the publisher changing this to a more commercial title, why not ‘woman’ instead of ‘girl’ – see an excellent post by Anne Helen Petersen.
I did like Trent Reznor’s and Atticus Ross’ score though but found the much-praised title sequence too much like a music video.
UPDATE (11/1/12): Hmm, might have to revise my opinion that title sequence was like a music video… see here.