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This is not a remake of an original adaptation
on December 22, 2011
When American filmmakers decided to put forth a second adaptation of the Swedish vampire/drama/horror film, "Let the Right One In", a mere two years after the first one had been released in Sweden, I was pretty angry. Like many other geeks who'd seen the original adaptation of the Swedish novel, I thought that not enough time had passed(2 years)since the release of the first film, and that there was certainly no justification for the second adaptation. Additionally, the Swedish "Let the Right One In" adaptation was an unbelievably well made film(a classic in my opinion)and I believed that an attempt at an American adaptation so soon after the advent of the original film was somewhat disrespectful. "At least allow the original film to occupy its place in the horror pantheon for at least a few years before some hack director is given permission to besmirch the legacy of the first film with his/her adaptation," is what I'd said to myself after becoming privy to the announcement of the new film.
After initially vowing never to see the American adaptation of "Let the Right One In", the relentless positive buzz that preceded the film's release date led to a change of heart. Immediately after watching the American adaptation I thought "Wow. I am so glad that I decided to watch this movie." The American adaptation was different from the Swedish adaptation in many ways. In fact, the American film had some good qualities that did not exist in the Swedish version. That said, I enjoyed both movies immensely. Each movie appealed to a distinct part of my whole personality, thereby engendering a richer experience for me. Most of the professional critics would probably agree.
Fast forward to December 21, 2011, and the movie going public is faced with a similar phenomenon. In 2009, a Swedish adaptation of the Stieg Larson novel, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", was released to critical and box office acclaim in Sweden. It was then transferred to the United States for limited release. The film became a critical and popular hit in the United States, made a star out of actress Noomi Rapace(who did a great job as the lead) and eventually made an American idol out of the novel's heroine, Lisbeth Salander. Again, a mere two years passes between the release of both films, and thankfully, the film's director is no Bret Ratner. He is David Fincher, the brilliant auteur who has directed seminal films such as "Seven", "Fight Club", and the "Social Network". With Fincher's name attached to the American Adaptation, it gains instant credibility. However, lovers of the first film are still skeptical. They are afraid that the new version will not live up to the standards of the original adaptation. Well, I'm here to say that the hand wringers can rest easy. David Fincher's version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is just as good, if not better, than the Swedish original.
Many of you who are reading this review are familiar with Stieg Larson's novel. It features a character named Lisbeth Salander, a 24 year old genius computer hacker whose life has been made very difficult because of the psychological/sexual/physical abuse that has been put upon her by male authority figures. Because of this abuse, Lisbeth comes to despise men. That is until she comes into contact with disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, with whom she teams up with to solve the 40 year old "murder" of Harriet Vagner, a relative of wealthy businessman, Henrik Vagner. As they investigate the disappearance of Harriet, Lisbeth and Mikael become involved in a sexual relationship, where upon Lisbeth develops feelings for the rakish reporter. They are able to solve the case together even as the relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth becomes complicated.
All of the actors do well for themselves in this movie adaptation, especially actress Rooney Mara, who really gives her all as Lisbeth. Noomi Rapace was great as Lisbeth in the Swedish version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo". However, Rooney Mara's physical and psychological interpretation of the damaged Lisbeth really grabs you. Anyone who has read the book will tell you that Rooney Mara's Lisbeth fits more with their idealized image of Lisbeth; an emaciated, pale, sexy, and sometimes androgynous girl/woman with a really nasty streak if provoked. Rooney has already been nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance, and is predicted to get more attention during the upcoming awards season. Daniel Graig is solid as Mikael Blomkvist, and Stellen Skarsgard gives a scary, creepy performance as Martin Vanger. Oh, and special kudos to Yorick Van Waginengen, whose performance as Bjurman(Lisbeth's abusive social worker) really makes you despise his character. You will rejoice when he receives his comeuppance in a brutal scene.
David Fincher's version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" moves much quicker than the Swedish version, even though the film runs almost 3 hours. Everything about Fincher's film is leaner/edgier than the previous version: the lead characters are younger and nastier, the editing is quicker, and the dialog is sharper. Much more of Stieg Larson's story is told in David Fincher's movie than in the previous version; and this allows the director to really develop the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael. I also like the tone of this movie. It's a dark, cold and gray movie. I don't think that the sun ever shines in one scene, and given the subject matter of the film(female rape and murder)it would be wrong for the movie to be filmed in any other way besides the dark and gray.
So go watch this movie. You'll be sufficiently transfixed by it. And if you haven't seen the Swedish version of the film, watch that too. They are both wonderful movies, and the positive critical reception is nearly identical for both movies as well. A warning though. If you have not seen the first movie or read the books, prepare yourself for some disturbing content.