The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: did you see it? And by "see it" I mean, "Did you really spend two and a half hours of your life experiencing Steig Larsson’s crime thriller in all its bleak, pedantic, and simultaneously boring and horrific glory?" If not, you might not want to read ahead as this piece contains some major spoilers. Then again, you’ve probably already read the books.
While there are many reasons to like this film (the opening sequence alone might be worth the ticket price), there is no justification for having the movie stretch out so long. Was there not enough room in the budget for a film editor? Was it just a terrible adaptation, in that the film couldn’t figure out what sequences to leave in (anything involving Lisbeth, up until the extended denouement) and what to cut out (90% of the scenes in the library or in which characters looked through filing boxes)?
I could have read the whole book in the time it took to watch the movie. This is only a slight exaggeration. If you just spread the time out over a matter of days, a speed reader would be able to digest this pulpy crime novel in less than two and a half hours total. Not the same could be said for David Fincher’s movie, which – like an angry, sadistic guardian — sits your ass down and makes sure you watch every second of the less-than-riveting expository scenes. When you get right down to it, the major clues to figuring out the Vanger family mystery involved finding a photograph of someone else taking a photograph. And even then our hero Mikael Blomkvist needed the ending spelled out for him. You’d think with Lisbeth’s help they would have been able to cut some of these scenes down to a more slimming total.
Here’s a suggestion: why not group all the horrific rape scenes together? It would have been nice not to have a heart attack right in the middle of would have been a gentle, snow-filled slumber right before jolting out of our seat as the movie drastically cut back and forth between Mikael’s sleuthing and Lisbeth’s attacks. It was somewhat important to juxtapose our two heroes’ journeys on parallel tracks before they meet, but when Daniel Craig is just sifting through boxes and Rooney Mara is getting *explicative* up the *explicative* with an *explicative*, it just adds extra time to your film, when you could just as easily group all the boring stuff and all the horrifying bits into different parts of the movie and sell it as a double feature, Kill Bill-style.
And honestly, what American movie-goer wouldn’t be able to figure out the killer’s identity as soon as he’s introduced on screen? Stellan Skarsgård is like the Chekov’s gun of movie villains. It’s a well-known rule that if you put the Good Will Hunting actor in your movie and the bad guy hasn’t been revealed by the second act, you can expect his Swedish ass to reveal a secret death chamber blasting Enya and knockout gas in the third. (Even his son, Alexander, has a hard time playing the good guy. See: True Blood and Straw Dogs.) Even those of us who haven’t already read the books can pretty much deduce Martin Vanger as the true culprit responsible for Harriet’s disappearance the moment he appears on screen with that creepy Nordic smile.
Mr. Fincher and writer Steven Zaillian must have also forgotten that we as an audience don’t give a crap about Wennerström, the evil magnate who has Blomkvist convicted on libel charges in the beginning of the film. Roughly half an hour is tacked onto the end of this movie in a haphazard fashion so we can see Wennerström get his due long after the Vanger mystery has been solved and the killer has been, well, killed. And in this half-hour there is more action and plot development than in the first two hours of film, so right when you are ready to leave the theater, you are crammed with all this extra information about a character you forgot about twenty minutes in. Sure, it might have been in the books, but we didn’t need it.
One part of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that they actually could have explained more thoroughly? How our hero kept mysteriously losing his accent. Perhaps a greater mystery than how a family of Nazis was allowed to live on a death island without the Swedish government’s interference is how, as Mikael Blomkvist, Daniel Craig couldn’t find twenty minutes to try to locate where his diction went. Oh there it is! No wait, he lost it again.
Then again, maybe they’ll just address that in the sequel: The Man Who Confused Squinting with Acting.