So the big question is, why do a remake of a film that came out just last year? The answer? Money. The facts are stark. While the Swedish original collected over $94 million worldwide, it only collected a little over $10 million in the United States (translating to less than 1 million viewers). The money guys looked at this and started counting up the money they could make with an American remake out of Stieg Larsson’s wildly successful books. Lots of Americans are put off by over two and a half hours of reading subtitles.
While David Fincher ably directs this thriller, it is clearly not up to the Swedish original, even though Rooney Mara admirably channels Noomi Rapace (the protagonist in the Swedish film), and Daniel Craig gives his best performance yet, abetted by award-quality background music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that sets the tone throughout.
Good as Mara is, she’s no Rapace. And there was really no reason not to allow Noomi to reprise her role in the American version, since she speaks perfect English, as evidenced by her role in the abysmal Sherlock Holmes film that was just released. For some reason, Mara doesn’t capture the sympathy that Rapace created for her character. Even so, Mara’s interpretation is adequate to create the tension in what is basically a whodunit.
Adding to the quality of the film are the outstanding performances by Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgård. Because all four principals give such wonderful performances, and there is rarely a scene when one isn’t onscreen, this is a long film that never lags.
As for the plot, Plummer hires Craig to find his long lost niece, who disappeared one day in 1966. Craig hires Mara, a hotshot internet researcher, to help him as he delves deeper and deeper into the convoluted history of Plummer’s dysfunctional family.
The opening titles constitute the worst part of the film. They are, in a word, nonsensical. They are off-putting and have nothing to do with the film that follows. What were they thinking? Why start a movie with something that might lose the audience immediately?
The other weakness of the film is the first hour where Mara doesn’t establish much of a sympathetic reaction to her bizarre character, probably because Fincher leaves a lot of her background out of the story, background that is explained more explicitly in both the book and the Swedish version. When she finally links up with Craig after about an hour, the film picks up considerably.
Since very few Americans actually saw the Swedish film (which should remain as the authentic film interpretation of the books by those who read them and see both film versions), this version can stand on its own. Without knowledge of the prior version with which to compare this, most audiences should find this satisfying. Even though I’ve seen all three films and read two of the books, including the first upon which this is based, I still found Fincher’s film interesting and tense, despite the fact that the sex and violence are considerably toned down from the Swedish originals.
I didn’t like Robert Downey, Jr.’s first iteration of Sherlock Holmes (2009) and I don’t like this one, either, also directed by Guy Ritchie. If possible, I liked this less than the first. As an aside that I did find amusing, the IMDB lists the writers as Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney “and one more credit.” When you click on that one more credit, it turns out to be Arthur Conan Doyle. If Sir Arthur had lived to see what they’ve done to his detective, ma, I doubt if he’d want to be mentioned, even in passing like this.
I don’t like the innumerable fights so idiotic they can’t even be choreographed, so they are shown with cuts so quick and fast you can’t tell what’s happening or who’s doing what to whom. I don’t like all the innuendos implying that Sherlock has a sexual lust for Dr. Watson (Jude Law again), and that his brother, Mycroft (Stephen Fry), now likes to parade around in the nude. I don’t like the non-existent plot, which is limited to the animosity and rivalry between Holmes and Prof. Moriarty (Jared Harris, in a good performance). I don’t like the silly stunts that are so physically impossible they defy any credibility whatsoever. I don’t like the pseudo-intellectual approach to fighting in which Holmes plots each move in his mind (which we see) before the fight. Then we have to see the fight yet again. It’s bad enough to watch these ludicrous machinations once, much less twice. I don’t like the elegant, intellectual Holmes of Basil Rathbone being reduced to Downey’s dirty, disheveled, unshaven bum. I don’t like the clever, intricate plotting devised by Sir Arthur for Holmes to deduce being changed into a James Bondian super-adventure that requires no deduction or clever thinking whatsoever. I don’t like the unfunny attempts at repartee between Holmes and Watson, where they unsuccessfully strain to be clever.
I did like seeing Rachel McAdams for five minutes. And I really liked seeing Noomi Rapace, the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, looking beautiful and speaking perfect English. She’s what kept me in the theater (that, and my knowledge that I would be able to write this critique).
Since I missed the media screening, there were maybe 12 people in the theater for my 5 p.m. screening on opening night. 11 of them applauded when the film ended. I thought maybe they were applauding that it was finally over, but my friend disabused me of that unkind thought.